Each year, students across the United States pursue a chance to study and to serve their country.
But before applying to a military service academy, most students must seek a Congressperson’s official nomination, and Jonathan Arnold is the only Indian River School District student to be recommended this year by U.S. Sen. Tom Carper.
The Sussex Central High School senior has long planned to apply to the U.S. Naval Academy.
“It’s been something I wanted to do for a long time — since I was a young kid,” said Arnold.
According to a Carper aide, 31 Delaware students received a total of 50 nominations this year for the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Naval Academy in Annapolis, Military Academy at West Point and Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point.
Each Congressperson can recommend 10 constituents for each academy, but only five total may be enrolled at any time. Generally, that means one student per state is accepted each year per institution.
Students must send the Congressman a letter of interest before beginning the application process. They will also provide academic transcripts, SAT or ACT scores, letters of recommendation and an essay that allows them to discuss themselves and their desire to attend a U.S. service academy.
Arnold was inspired partly by his family. Both of his grandfathers served in the Navy, and a number of his other relatives have served in the military. Arnold himself is a member of the Sussex Central Junior ROTC, currently serving as executive officer after three years as a member.
In selecting nominees each autumn, “We do look at the whole person,” said the Carper aide, not just grades or athletics. A well-rounded student might be involved in extracurricular activities, community service and other forms of leadership.
As a member of the SCHS wrestling team, a National Honor Society inductee and a church youth group leader, Arnold embodied the spirit that Carper’s office sought.
Arnold has not been accepted to Annapolis yet, but securing a Congressional nomination completes a major milestone in the process. He’ll still have to pass a regular academic application, plus medical and physical tests.
“It’s still an accomplishment,” Arnold said of the nomination, “and I still have a long way to go.”
Arnold credited his father for pushing him to try his best in the application process. The Annapolis-hopeful intends to study political science or military science — wherever he enrolls next year.
“If I don’t get in, it’s not going to mess up my plans at all,” Arnold said optimistically. “I’m still going to try to succeed.”