More than a dozen newly graduated Johnson County high schoolers are headed into the first steps of military service.
Making it official: In a celebratory sendoff event hosted by U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids Wednesday, 15 local students received certificates for their appointments to a U.S. Service Academy or preparatory programs across the country.
The process: Rep. Davids nominated 28 students for appointments and 15 met the final criteria from a reviewing panel and their respective academies.
- “Service academies are literally some of the top institutions in our country in terms of academics and also leadership development,” Davids said. “I think sometimes that’s not recognized enough, how much how much leadership development the folks who go through these sort of service academies. That in and of itself is worth it, in addition to the service to your country.”
A ‘big break’: Lieutenant Colonel Mike Souder has led the Academy Panelist Board for two years and said his biggest advice to appointees was not to take themselves too seriously and to focus on what’s right in front of them.
- “Getting my appointment was what I consider my big break in life,” Souder said. “I’m really keenly interested that we pick young people that are ready to go and want to go.”
In their own words: Sam Nissen, a Rockhurst High School graduate from Leawood, said he was excited to find out he was appointed to the United States Air Force Academy after the rigorous process of applying.
- “It’s definitely a waiting game and it kind of can be a little tough and a little disheartening because there’s so much radio silence and stuff in between,” he said. “For anyone who is wanting to go through this process, when you look at the chances of getting in and how difficult the process can be, don’t be disheartened by it.”
What else was said: Julia Breidenthal, a Blue Valley Northwest alumni and current student at the United States Coast Guard Academy, was there Wednesday to give advice to the new appointees and said the hard work has paid off for her to be able to serve her country and to develop as a leader.
- “I would do this all again in a heartbeat if I knew that this is where I’d be two years later,” Breidenthal said. “It’s just incredible to see like how much I’ve progressed. So I think that leadership experience and opportunities to have the people I’ve met have all made this worth it.”
The appointments from the Blue Valley area include:
United States Air Force Academy
- James “Brody” Casson – Overland Park, Olathe South High School
- Sam Nissen – Leawood, Rockhurst High School
- John Peterson – Overland Park, Homeschooled
- Rocco Deppe – Overland Park, Rockhurst High School
United States Naval Academy
- Jack F Anderson – Overland Park, Blue Valley West High School
- Kaelin E Hill – Olathe, Blue Valley West High School
- Michael Chong – Leawood, Blue Valley North High School
United States Military Academy at West Point
- Alexander Helmer – Overland Park, Lutheran High School of Kansas City and Johnson County Community College
- Alexander Siomades – Leawood, Blue Valley North High School
United States Merchant Marines Academy at Kings Point, NY
- Charles Cahalan – Overland Park, Bishop Miege High School