Rhodes Scholar is Holland Park resident, Coronado grad

       As a teen-ager, Michael April was something to see in a squirt gun fight. The usual battle method, based on unwritten rules, is that when you splash somebody good they back off or run away. Not April. He would just march straight ahead, oblivious to the “hits” he was taking, firing away until he had overcome his assailant. Michael April
       If, as the saying goes, the child is father to the man, the continuing success of the 21-year-old Holland Park resident should come as no surprise. Heart problems as a youngster? Fought them off. Public school education? Didn't stop him from being accepted into West Point. Competitive environment there? He's a Rhodes Scholar selection.
       “If you want it, the opportunities are out there,” said April, who graduated from Coronado High School in 2001. Particularly praising CHS chemistry teacher Bruce Hall as the one who “drove me to be a great student,” April said that the local public schools “let you achieve anything you want.” He then added - in a quote that won't appear anytime soon in ads for private schools - that he's met any number of cadets whose preppy backgrounds left them less ready than he was for West Point's academic rigors.
       While many his age are uncertain about their futures, April's is carefully planned for a decade and beyond. After graduating from West Point this spring as a second lieutenant with a degree in chemistry, he said he will spend two years in Oxford, England (starting next October), as a Rhodes Scholar studying medical anthropology. Then he will return to the United States and go to medical school for four years - graduating as a captain - followed by four years in medical residency. Michael April (in front) leads his battalion on the grounds of West Point this fall.
Westside Pioneer photo
       The Oxford experience will be more than just a high honor - only 32 from the United States are selected for the prestigious scholarship each year - and a chance for quality studies. It will actually be a key phase in his long-range medical goal. April has no wish to be, as he phrased it, a “stateside clinician.” His goal is “to deploy to areas involved in the war on terrorism,” where he would seek to improve American medical response to citizens of war-torn countries, in ways that are sensitive to their cultures.
       “Medical anthropology illustrates how culture affects the process of medicine,” he said. “I hope it will empower me to take the skills I've learned and employ them.”
       Elaborating on what led him to decide on this goal, he referenced a CIA report, titled “Imperial Hubris,” that was critical of American efforts to “win the hearts and minds” of the people in Iraq.
       One problem, he said, is that “we don't have the (medical) manpower. We try to help, but sometimes there are so many (people) and we have to turn them away.” But it's not just numbers. “It's also necessary to show line officers how this ties in to victories on the battlefield. Their first reaction is going to be: 'You're supposed to be helping my guys.'”
       April ranks third in his senior class of 951 students. The officers who serve as West Point's administrators honored him last semester as fourth regiment battalion commander, meaning he had leadership responsibilities for 300 of the academy's cadets.
       In the coming semester, he will be in charge of a nine-member team in the physically demanding Sandhurst competition. This is an event that includes running with a gas mask, throwing grenades and rappelling off a cliff.
       Someday, he fully expects, he will find himself in harm's way, having to use such skills while trying to carry out his medical goal. He said he is ready for the challenge. He recalled a line from the movie, “Braveheart,” to the effect that “if you make every decision in life based on consequences, you'd probably never leave the house.”
       His parents (David and Roanna) admire his idealism, but did not really nurture his military inclinations. In fact, “they've both been pretty discouraging,” April chuckled. “They didn't want to see their son get shot.”
       Mrs. April admitted that she “couldn't believe it” when he chose West Point. “He had a full scholarship to Colorado College. I always thought he would go there. But he said no, he felt like West Point was where he could best achieve the things he wanted to do. It turns out he was right. He can pursue things in a more global way at West Point than at CC.”
       She is not surprised by his accomplishments. “He was a kid who would be up until 2 or 3 a.m. studying for an exam in high school, and I would wake up, realize he was still up, and I would go down and say, 'You need to get to bed.' And he would sit there bleary-eyed, saying 'I'm not done yet.' He wouldn't accept anything less than what he's capable of. He's incredibly self- disciplined, an amazing son, and I'm very, very thrilled for him.”
       The Rhodes Scholar-ships were created in 1902 by the will of Cecil Rhodes, British philanthropist and colonial pioneer. Rhodes Scholars are chosen in a three-stage process. First, candidates must be endorsed by their college or university. Committees of Selection in each of the fifty states then nominate candidates who are interviewed by District Selection Committees in eight regions of the United States. According to the Rhodes Scholarship website, final selection criteria consist of high academic achievement, integrity of character, a spirit of unselfishness, respect for others, potential for leadership, and physical vigor. The intent is to find scholars who will make an effective and positive contribution in the world.
       It is not stated what strategies Cecil Rhodes used in squirt gun battles.

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