Palmetto High School senior James (Hutch) Cunningham has more than 500 hours in community service. He accumulated those hours by volunteering at the Deering Estate Summer Camp for a full summer, and he also worked at another camp for a couple of weeks.
“It’s a summer camp for little kids,” he says. “They get educational tours of the property and they do camp activities. We would go canoeing and hiking, and we would take the kids fishing.”
Once a week they would take the kids to the pool at Westminster just for fun. At other times, they would play Catch the Flag, Dodgeball and Kickball.
“I had a ball. That’s why I worked there the next summer,” Cunningham says.
While he was having as much fun as the kids, he did learn a great deal from his volunteer job.
“I learned that I was a good leader,” he says. “I was able to lead the group through the activities.”
Learning to take on a leadership role is important to him because his goal is to attend either the Naval Academy or the Air Force Academy.
“I really want to become an officer,” Cunningham says. “My passions are engineering and aviation. I really hope to become a pilot one day and the academies offer the best chance for that.”
In order to gain an appointment to one of the military academies, he needs a recommendation from a Congressional representative. Earlier this fall, he met with Sen. George Lemieux in his quest for a recommendation.
Cunningham has always been interested in aviation, even as a child. But as he grew older, his interest became stronger and he realized that it is his passion.
“Whenever I see a plane, I’m fascinated,” he says.
Both engineering and aviation require strong math and science skills, which coincide with his love for math and science.
This past summer, he spent a week each at both academies taking introductory classes.
“We took classes there,” he says. “My favorite classes had to do with aviation. They taught us the basic principles of flight propulsion.”
While the teens spent most of the time in the classroom, when they were at the Air Force Academy they did get to visit the airport and check out the planes.
Through the years, Cunningham has worked diligently on his academics in order to qualify for one of the academies. His classes this year include Advanced Placement Physics C, Multivariable Calculus, AP English, AP Statistics and Math Mentors, as well as the required government and economics.
Cunningham is a member of the National Honor Society and Science National Honor Society.
Additionally, he’s the lab service coordinator for the Science Honor Society. That position has him coordinating the volunteers who help set up the labs for the teachers. For a while, he was on the science team, but realized he could not continue because it conflicted with his baseball schedule. He has baseball practice almost every day and games are played a couple of times a week almost all year round.
Cunningham has been on the varsity baseball team for two years and thinks that the team has a lot of potential.
“We have a really good pitching staff,” he says. “Our team is still young, but talented, and we have some pretty good senior players. We have a pretty good shot this year.”
Last year, the Panthers had a good season, but lost early in the playoffs. Cunningham hopes they repeat the good season, but make it much further in the playoffs, maybe even to the state finals.