Jack Begin stands recently at the Taylor Harmon Track at Cony High School in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

AUGUSTA — Serving the community and giving back are important to Jack Begin.

They are also part of why he will attend the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, where he plans to study engineering and perhaps run with the cross-country or track team.

A senior at Cony High School in Augusta, Begin is the school’s recipient of the Maine Principals’ Association Principal’s Award. The award is given to high school seniors across the state for their academic success and good citizenship.

Begin helped the school’s Key Club grow from four members to about 30 in his time at Cony. He has been president of the club, which focuses on community service, for two years.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the club was unable to do many of its activities during the 2020-21 school year, so Begin has had to improvise.

“It stated out this year. We were really excited. We were like, ‘There are so many things we can do,'” he said. “But then we had to start canceling, and soon had to throw out the calendar for the year. But we learned how to adapt.”

Begin had the idea to volunteer at Viles Arboretum in Augusta, where he and the Key Club repaired trails. The club also helped elderly residents in the area shovel snow from their driveways and made holiday cards for every person at the Maine Veterans’ Home in Augusta.

They also raised money through fundraisers to buy holiday toys for families needing help.

“We talk about it now as we were really disappointed in what occurred,” Begin said, “but we looked at the opportunities and what we have been able to do and who we were able to help in the circumstance. It’s a pretty cool thing to look at, and was a nice spin on the situation.”

Begin said he hoped efforts the club made this year will carry into next year.

Along with the Key Club, Begin is part of the school newspaper, Spanish Club, National Honor Society and student council. He also used to be on the Quiz Team, which would compete in a “Jeopardy!”-style game show on Maine Public Broadcasting Network.

At the end of June, Begin is scheduled to ship off to basic training as he begins his time at the U.S. Naval Academy. He said he has wanted to attend the academy since going to summer camp there when younger.

“I knew this was where I wanted to be,” he said of the school. “The level of community with the people there and that aspect was really great.”

Begin comes from a family of military veterans: His father was in the National Guard, and his grandfather in the Navy, along with his aunt, who helped Begin decide the attend the academy. His sister is now at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. She encouraged him to “pursue the opportunity.”

At Cony, Begin was a three-sport athlete. In a normal year, he would play football, but switched this year to flag football and running cross-country because there was no football season due to the coronavirus pandemic. He also runs track and swims.

He also likes to hike.

A lesser-known fact about Begin: He hiked for 22 consecutive days along the Maine section of the Appalachian Trail.

“A lot of my friends already know that, though, because I talk about it all the time,” he said, laughing.

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