Some of the area’s best and brightest were honored by Congressman U.S. John Shimkus in Effingham Sunday during a reception for military academy nominees.
Shimkus, a former West Point graduate, informed the nominees of the opportunities they will receive if they are chosen by the academies for admission. Sharing his own experience of being one of seven children with a stay-at-home mother and a blue collar father, Shimkus was extremely pleased with the “quality of education” and “opportunity to travel the world” that West Point offered him.
“These are some of the best we have in the country,” he said of the nominees.
In the 15th Congressional District, which Shimkus serves, 22 were chosen for consideration. Area nominees include Joshua Campbell of Dieterich, Noah Dart of Newton, James Davis of Dieterich, Landon Ghast of Newton, Matthew Sefton of Brownstown and Matthew White of Shelbyville.
Shelbyville High School Senior Matthew White said he is drawn to the competitive nature he sees in the Marine Corps.
“I like a challenge,” he said, adding he plays football, wrestles and enjoys the outdoors.
If accepted to the Naval Academy — the Marines are a cadre of the academy — he plans to make the most of the experience and continue in a career with the Marines.
“The academy is an undistracted environment,” said White. “Everyone there is on the same page, and I realize how helpful that is.”
White says he is leaning toward a history degree and looks forward to spending the summers on aircraft carriers and backpack trips if chosen. After four years with the Naval Academy, he would be commissioned into the Marines as an officer.
“I have a lot of respect for that institution, and I hope I get my chance to prove myself,” he said.
White’s father, Dave, said the whole process has left he and his wife more than just excited for their son.
“I’d be lying to say we weren’t a little nervous,” said Dave White. “But we are very proud of him. This is something he has always wanted to do.”
According to Military Academy Liaison Dora Rohan, who works with Shimkus, recruits must show more than physical requirements for the military.
“The average ACT score in this group is 30,” said Rohan, noting that an ACT score of 25 is the minimum to be considered for nomination.
Of the 22 that are nominated, four or five are traditionally chosen to attend the military academies. Shimkus believes the academies make young people appreciate “God and country.”
“West Point teaches you how to be a leader,” he said. “It prepared me for choosing the hard right over the easier wrong.”
Sunday’s event was held for the first time in Effingham, which has become the central point of Shimkus’ 15th District following the 2012 election. That made it the logical choice for a districtwide event, said Shimkus.
White plans to join the military even if he isn’t chosen for the Naval Academy, but would relish the opportunity to attend the prestigious academy.
“Appreciation would be an understatement if I get picked,” he said.