The following was written by Bryan Mulcahy, M.L.S., Reference Librarian at the Ft. Myers – Lee County Public Library, and used with his permission:
Periodically we receive queries from patrons seeking information and records from military college preparatory schools or academies. For those not familiar with these institutions, conducting a basic Internet search using the term “Military College Prep Schools” will bring up a host of websites and specific school links containing information on the history of the school, current status, alumni, etc. This is applicable even if the school has been closed, as is the case with the one I attended briefly in the 1960s, Miami Military Academy.
Military schools of this nature began to appear in the aftermath of the Civil War and were established throughout the country. Each academy had its own history in terms of development, but they were especially prominent from the early 1920s through the late 1960s. The fallout from Vietnam caused many to close permanently in the 1970s, but a significant number are still in operation.
Until the 1970s, admission to most academies or schools was limited to boys between the ages of 11-17 or grades 6-12. The intent was to provide an environment where they would develop leadership skills, patriotism, independence, intellectualism, and the desire to pursue a military career. Academies developed their curriculum through the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corp. (JROTC) whose mission was to instill in students values of citizenship, service to the United States, personal responsibility and a sense of accomplishment. The goal was to help groom a higher intellectual level of potential servicemen and officers for the nation’s military and/or to serve in civilian government.
Options for locating records and other information depend on the institution and its guidelines for access. If the institution is still in operation, contact the Office of the Registrar. If the institution has closed, locating information can be challenging but not impossible. The following options have proven to be successful:
- Virtually all academies/schools no longer operating, such as Miami Military Academy, have well-established alumni associations that have a proven track record for being very helpful.
- Since most of these schools were under the jurisdiction of the United States military, the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) has some surviving records and information.
- The State Department of Education set standards and licensed the schools to operate.
- Most schools were accredited and affiliated with other educational organizations that may have potentially useful information or research advice. Examples would include the Florida Council of Independent Schools; Southern Association of Independent Schools; National Association of Independent Schools; and Association of Military Colleges and Schools.
- Clues also may be found in old family records, letters, souvenirs, obituaries, tombstone inscriptions, and local histories.
Editor’s note: There are currently 23 military boarding schools located throughout the United States and Canada. Click on this link to learn more about them.