May 01, 2019

Jacob Thacke Takes a Patriotic Path to Success

By Lori Draz and Jake Thacke

Jake Jacob Thacke Colts neck ROTC

Welcome to Teen Scene. Each month our young authors write, in their own voice, stories that will educate and inform fellow students and parents. If you are a teen who would like to write your story, contact The Journal. We’ll help you polish it up, so don’t worry, let’s just get to sharing.

This month’s author is 17-year-old Jacob “Jake” Thacke, a senior in the Colts Neck High School ROTC program. During a time when college entry scams are being exposed, Thacke has chosen a different path. He has enlisted in the U.S. Navy with hopes of becoming an armorer or a special warfare EOD technician. He will be entering as an E-3 because of his four years in NJROTC. This brave, young patriot didn’t let any obstacle stop him from pursuing his dreams of service to our country. Thacke is scheduled to ship out Aug. 27 but is hoping for an even earlier date. He is a remarkable member of our community, and we send him prayers and gratitude for his service. Here is Thacke’s story:

Everyone makes choices in life. Good, great, bad or ugly, we must live with them. I believe high school is where we make some of the dumbest, yet some of the most foundational, choices. I don’t have much experience outside of being a kid, but I have learned some things along the way. As an eighth grader, I wanted to be a fighter pilot for the world’s greatest military. To reach that goal, I decided to join a military program that just might give me the edge in college. Working not even close to my hardest to get average grades freshman year set me back more than I am proud to admit. As an upcoming sophomore, I struggled. Barely staying afloat academically and doing minimal effort in everything I did put me in the disadvantaged position nobody wants. I was ranked near the bottom of my class and had no idea if colleges would accept me.

In high school, standardized tests occur more often than fire drills, and we are slammed with knowledge we will never use again. The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) isn’t one of those tests. It tests every form of knowledge from basic math skills to nuclear science and is given as an option to students of Colts Neck High School. I took this test because I was writing an English essay in class that day and I needed a good reason to put off yet another item on my year-long to-do list. Taking this test did help me, it showed me that I wasn’t using anywhere near my full potential. Our teacher was handing out 50s and 60s to half the class, with the occasional 70 and rare 80.

I could feel the disappointment on his face when he looked at my score. My teacher looked at me, laughed and slapped it on my desk. “Didn’t know they gave scores that high.” I had scored a 92. The test seemed easy to me, but no way was it that easy. Nobody with my GPA gets above a 60.

Throughout the upcoming weeks, my senior naval science instructor USMC Ret. Maj. Penczak invited me to an academic practice. The grin on his face could have touched both coastlines. “It may take some time, but we always find the smart ones.” Until this point in my life, I never believed someone when they called me smart. I had a whole new demeanor. I did my work – not always on time – but it got done. I was studying my butt off because I didn’t want to let my teammates down. I went full nerd for a little while, and though I still don’t think being smart is my greatest trait, it sure has gotten me pretty far. I now compete year-round nationally in multiple academic competitions, and I’m honored to be the captain of our unit’s academic team. I have traveled as far west as Tucson, Arizona, and as far south as Pensacola, Florida.

The choices I made in my high school career shaped me to be the man I am today. I was always patriotic, always a little daring, never smart, never hardworking and never confident. Thanks to the work I put into my years here, I have learned how to think like an intelligent adult, with ideas that aren’t always mainstream but are – more times than not – morally right. I have learned the value of hard work and that your actions will always be truer than your words.

Intelligence isn’t something to hide but something to use in every aspect or your life. I am, by no means, the smartest guy around, and I don’t try to be. What I try to do is work hard, think harder and be confident in whatever I pursue. My choices still haven’t gotten me into college and haven’t even gotten me into the top 50 percent of my graduating class. What they have done is opened a new door – one where college isn’t necessary right away. Instead of applying for college as a junior, I enlisted in the world’s greatest military, where I qualified to fix tanks, fly planes and even work on nuclear reactors. So instead of attending a four-year college like most of my peers, I will be enlisted in the U.S. Navy with plans to get my college degree and become the most fearless, confident and forward thinking officer I can be.