Gillett prepares for the Army at Norwich University


Provided by Parker Gillett

Senior Parker Gillett to attend Norwich University in preparation for the Army.

Srivas Arun, Co-News Editor

Standing in front of a massive audience and singing one’s heart out is a daunting feat most students could not even think of accomplishing, but for senior Parker Gillett, few risks are not worth taking in order to follow his passions. Alongside his interest in theater, Gillett has also been passionate about military history for many years. Joining the military is another daunting task that many students do not consider when thinking about their lives after high school, much less the work and education it may take to be prepared to enlist. Gillett, however, has been interested in the field and the history behind it long before entering high school.

For this reason, Gillett will attend Norwich University in Vermont this fall for its War and Peace program and Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program. Gillett chose these programs in preparation for his time in the service and to earn a commission, or the opportunity to begin from a higher rank when he joins the Army as an officer after college.

“Ever since I was five or six years old, I have had an interest in military history, and the studies in war and peace major will allow me to pursue both my interest in military history as well as international studies and political science,” Gillett said.

Norwich has the oldest ROTC program in the country. It is considered one of the top senior military colleges in the country for developing leadership skills within students. Senior military colleges are known for their similarities with traditional higher education programs in comparison to that of a federal military academy.

“The ROTC program at Norwich is the big reason why I’m going to Norwich. It provides probably, outside of the federal academies, the best possible preparation for a military career,” Gillett said.

The college’s War and Peace program was a clear choice of major for Gillett as it consists of studies on the U.S.’s relations with foreign countries, histories of battles, and many more different courses on topics such as language, philosophy, economics, and English. Norwich also has the benefit of being the only undergraduate program in the country offering the program.

The histories of civilizations and societies have been interests of Gillett for many years and were fostered by Latin, a subject which had an impact on Gillett throughout his high school experience.

“Latin [was my most impactful class], though I couldn’t choose a particular year,” Gillett said. “Latin allowed me to really study who we are as people; the way we change, not only how people change throughout their life as we studied famous figures but also just how society and civilization changes and develops.”

A major difficulty for Gillett and most other seniors was a significant part of their time at WA being impaired by COVID-19. The pandemic began in the second semester of Gillett’s freshman year and continued to affect his experiences at WA partly into his junior year.

“My time and experience at WA have been challenging to say the least, due to the pandemic,” Gillett said. “Senior year was probably the most ‘normal’ year of my high school experience as well as being by far and away the most enjoyable. I feel as though my time at WA was unfortunately not really what it should have been.”

Nevertheless, Gillett gained a significant amount of knowledge and crucial life skills through his high school career in large part due to his involvement in Westford Academy Theater Arts (WATA). Gillett participated in WATA during all four years of high school. The head of the theater arts department, Michael Towers, was an especially significant figure during his journey in WATA.

“My favorite teacher, apart from my Latin teachers, of course, would probably be Mr. Towers,” Gillett said. “All the life lessons he gave me were so numerous I probably don’t remember half of them and I could probably only really talk in depth about half the ones I remember – but needless to say, he’s been a guiding light.”

Towers has known Gillett for more than five years and has been a teacher of Gillett’s for all four of his years at WA.

“Parker is a very willing and committed student. And he’s excitable, he feels comfortable in this classroom, which is why he had success in this space because he is somebody who knows that he thrives here,” Towers said. “Most high school students would go through a phase that lasts for months, if not years, of self doubt, and fear of judgment […] so when I think about Parker’s most successful moments, it would most certainly be the first time I saw him get to a point where he trusted himself enough to take the risk to reveal his true self and his ability to an audience.”

One remarkable moment of Gillett’s was when he was able to overcome these struggles by singing in front of an audience during WA’s production of Legally Blonde. Singing in front of an audience requires the performer to be vulnerable and take a risk. Gillett was able to achieve success because he was willing to take those risks and open up to the audience.

“[Parker’s performance was] not only a wonderful moment in the theater arts space, [but also] was a wonderful moment on a human level,” Towers said. “[It shows he was thinking] ‘I trust myself enough. I know myself enough to allow an audience to see who I really am.’ So that was a pretty remarkable moment.”

Overall, a major reason Gillett chose Norwich was due to its many extracurriculars which he hopes to continue participating in while in college.

“Aside from the studies and the ROTC, honestly there are so many extracurriculars,” Gillett said. “I think I’m going to have my plate full and there will still be things that I would want to do, that unfortunately I just won’t be able to because there’s so much that they offer.”