A Passion for Public Service

As seniors across the country are working hard on college applications, we are showcasing college application essays by iMentor students. 

Joshua graduated from Phoenix Military Academy in Chicago, Ill. in 2019 and is now a first-year student at Western Illinois University. In his college application essay, he shares how watching President Barack Obama’s inauguration inspired him.


At the age of eight, I watched the first Black president being sworn into office. The campaign race for president was watched by many because it was between the now former President Obama and the late Senator John McCain. After the inauguration followed the parade from the United States Capitol to the White House.

I watched with excitement with my mother and I asked, “Who are the men walking next to the presidential limousine?” She explained they were the president’s bodyguards, also known as the Secret Service.

I was astonished to see the agents protecting the most powerful man in the world. As I continued to watch the parade, President Obama had reached the White House and entered the viewing stand with his family and colleagues for the next four years. The military men marched in formation giving respect to the president by saluting. This led to a sea of more questions that my mom had to answer.

A wave of curiosity took over and I dove my nose into books and websites to learn more. With each wave of information I pored over, I grew more and more convinced that I wanted to be a “military man, a politician, or a law enforcement officer.” I saw history being made at the age of eight and it was a pivotal moment that shaped who I am today.

Seeing someone who “looked like me” being so influential in American politics also spurred my interest and desire to involve myself in public service and drove me to enroll at Phoenix Military Academy. Enrolling at Phoenix changed everything about me, from the way I walked to the way I think. Going to an academy of this nature is more than keeping a high academic standard; you have to follow the military uniform regulation, arrive to drill and formation at 6 a.m. every day, and address every adult with manners and a proper greeting. I didn’t learn how to meet these standards overnight; I took the time to observe upperclassmen, I adjusted my lifestyle to wake up at 4:30 a.m. to make it to school by 6, and I purposely stepped out of my comfort zone to expose myself to experiences that would teach me how to lead.

I distinctly recall my experience as a Color Guard Commander freshmen year where I developed as a leader. I learned to not be afraid, to command respect and grab the attention of the room. These transferable skills will help me on a military base, in the senate, or house chambers.

This is not just a personal statement – this is an action plan. I’m working towards a goal to make it to politics in Washington, DC. To live up to President Obama’s legacy or become one of the men that protect great politicians like President Obama. He gave the lower and middle class a voice, he fought for legislation that the American people have been asking for for years, and he delivered.

I am going to study political science and law enforcement to make sure I achieve my goals. I’m glad that I witnessed President Obama on TV at the age of eight, otherwise the impact would not have been the same if it was another white man running for office. I will continue working towards my title as Agent Joshua Smith US Secret Service, as well as US Senator or Congressman.