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Ready to serve: Driven Northeastern & Central Pa. students gear up for military academies

Jayna McIntyre of Scranton is one of a few local students attending United States military academies. She stands outside the Merchant Marine Museum with her appointment letter.
Submitted Photo
Jayna McIntyre of Scranton is one of a few local students attending United States military academies. She stands outside the Merchant Marine Museum with her appointment letter.

Jack Gibson grew up around two uncles who served in the military, but it was his experience as a volunteer firefighter that influenced his decision to attend a United States Military Service Academy the most.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, (but) I knew I wanted to serve in some way,” he said.

As summer progresses, Gibson and many other recently-graduated high school seniors are committing to their choice of higher education.

For a select few in Pennsylvania, their next steps are the U.S. military academies. The process to be accepted into an academy is extensive and highly competitive. Potential recruits must secure a congressional nomination and are then selected to their chosen academy from a pool of other nominees.

If accepted, or “appointed,” the students receive a fully paid-for college experience with the requirement that they serve in the military for five years after graduation.

Gibson, who graduated from Danville Area High School, will attend the Merchant Marine Academy. He was one of 21 academy appointees nominated by U.S. Sen. Bob Casey. His firefighting experience helped him stand out in a competitive group of applicants.

Gibson began volunteering around his freshman year of high school. As a firefighter, he recovered a family photo album from a structure fire. He was also part of a four-man water rescue that saved a woman’s life. These moments, he said, solidified his intention to attend a military academy.

“There have been a lot of great opportunities and experiences for me that I feel like have really gotten me ready for this moment… it’s just a great feeling to be able to help out the people around you,” he said.

Jack Gibson, a senior from Montour County, was one of U.S. Sen. Bob Casey's 21 nominees to be appointed to a military academy. He will attend the Merchant Marine Academy in the Fall.
Submitted Photo
Jack Gibson, a senior from Montour County, was one of U.S. Sen. Bob Casey's 21 nominees to be appointed to a military academy. He will attend the Merchant Marine Academy in the Fall.

REMARKABLE GRADUATES

In addition to nominations from senators like Casey, each congressional district also has its own nominees.

U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright announced earlier this month that nine students from Pennsylvania's eighth district were selected to attend U.S. Military Service Academies. The congressman expressed his admiration for the young men and women who will serve their country.

“They are outstanding young people – people from across Northeastern Pennsylvania… they’ve shown all the incredible ways young people are involved in our communities… I hope to see them go on to become exceptional military leaders and lead very productive lives,” he said.

ACADEMY ATHLETE

Jayna McIntyre, a senior from Scranton Preparatory School, was one of Cartwright’s appointees. She is attending the Merchant Marine Academy to play both basketball and lacrosse.

For McIntyre, managing her time between academics and athletics is not new to her.

“It’s really gonna be a matter of compartmentalizing and discipline… basketball isn’t going to be the most important thing while I’m there and nor is lacrosse, and those are earned by how well I do with my grades… I don’t get to play basketball or lacrosse if I don’t do well. I don’t have a choice — I either do what I need to do, or I don’t do it at all,” McIntyre said.

“I’ve always wanted to be a part of something greater,” Jayna McIntyre said. “I want to be part of something for the betterment of everyone in the United States and the world – I just want to be a part of something that is going to do good for people.”

McIntyre had two grandparents serve in the military — one in the Navy and one in the Army.

Seeing how they carried themselves influenced her decision to go to military school. She originally planned to attend Norwich University — a military academy in Vermont. However, after being recruited by the Merchant Marines’ lacrosse head coach, her decision was made.

McIntyre said that playing sports has taught her a lot about leadership and has helped prepare her for the next four years.

“Learning how to be gritty and how to persevere and be resilient with situations that might not always have the best outcomes or the happiest outcome,” was one of the biggest lessons learned during high school, McIntyre said.

DOUBLE THE DEDICATION

Cartwright also appointed twins, James and Gineva Reese. They will attend the U.S. Naval Academy. The pair graduated from Abington Heights High School.

After their graduation, the twins spent a year at Georgia Military College as part of the Naval Academy Foundation Scholarship Program. Gineva said that experience prepared her for Annapolis.

“I feel a lot more prepared going into (the Naval Academy) now. My running was awful going into senior year, so it’s been another year of getting my run time better and getting more comfortable with it,” she said.

James and Gineva’s parents both served as Naval officers. James admitted that being in a military family influenced his decision to attend an academy now.

“Growing up, the Navy was just something that I was always around… I would say that the Navy worked just as hard to raise me as they did, and it wouldn’t feel right to live my life without giving back to the organization that gave me so much,” he said.

Twins Gineva, left, and James Reese will both attend the U.S. Naval Academy.
Submitted Photo
Twins Gineva, left, and James Reese will both attend the U.S. Naval Academy.

PART OF SOMETHING GREATER

For Jack Gibson, Jayna McIntyre, James and Gineva Reese, and dozens of other students across the state, they are led by a strong desire to serve.

“I’ve always wanted to be a part of something greater,” McIntyre said. “I want to be part of something for the betterment of everyone in the United States and the world – I just want to be a part of something that is going to do good for people.”

Senator Bob Casey’s 21 military academy appointees are listed below.
US Military Academy, West Point, New York
Cecelia Crowley, Butler County
Heera Kalidindi, Bucks County
Samuel Harvey, Warren County
Hubert Dixon, Luzerne County (also nominated by Congressman Matt Cartwright)
Nicholas Jones, Allegheny County

U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland
Dylan Nauhaus, Allegheny County
Gineva Reese, Lackawanna County (also nominated by Congressman Matt Cartwright)
Eric Clark, Centre County
James Dougherty, Perry County
Mary Matyasovsky, Lawrence County
Samuel Magallanes, Lehigh County
Sienna McMenamin, Montgomery County

U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Audrey Hart, Somerset County
Elisha Rhoades, Erie County Katelyn Butsavage, Lehigh County
Michael Ulery, Allegheny County
Reva Kalbhor, Butler County

U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, New York
Jack Gibson, Montour County
Julian Lopez, Lancaster County
Lauren Enterline, Dauphin County
Jayna McIntyre, Lackawanna County (Also nominated by Congressman Matt Cartwright)

Congressman Matt Cartwright’s nine military academy appointees are also listed.
U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York
Benjamin Mulvey, Lackawanna County
Hubert Dixon, Luzerne County (also nominated by Senator Bob Casey)
U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland
Gineva Reese, Lackawanna County (also nominated by Senator Bob Casey)
James Reese, Lackawanna County
Margaret Kozich, Luzerne County
Joseph Ewing, Monroe County
Emma Miller, Lackawanna County

U.S Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Mary Kate Banford, Luzerne County 

U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, New York
Jayna McIntyre, Lackawanna County (also nominated by Senator Bob Casey)

WVIA reached out to U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser for his military academy appointees, but has not heard from his office.