Posted March 6, 2017
Plymouth High School senior Kalei Hering has accepted an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy, joining a high number of former Panthers attending the nation’s very selective military academies.
“This number of appointees is a true testament to the dedication of the Plymouth School District in building an environment where students can learn and grow into the future leaders of the United States military and workforce,” said U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman, who nominated Kalei.
Military academy appointments are highly selective. Out of the 14,480 applicants to the U.S. Military Academy in West Point for the 2020 class, only 1,302 appointments were offered – a little less than 9 percent – according to data compiled by Rep. Grothman’s office. The U.S. Naval Academy offered appointments to 1,355 (about 8 percent) of its 17,043 applicants, and the U.S. Air Force Academy offered 1,478 appointments (about 15 percent) to 9,706 applicants.
Why so many from a school the size of PHS, which has about 200 students per grade? Principal Jennifer Rauscher thinks it may be a combination of things.
First, PHS embodies the district mission of helping each student become his or her best. “As lifelong learners themselves, staff model this mindset, and – as a result – students learn that they can set, work towards, and accomplish big goals,” Dr. Rauscher said.
She also credited a supportive community. “Our businesses, organizations, families, and individuals support both our schools and our students; and that helps us offer and achieve great things,” she said. “We care about each other, about service, and about giving back to our community,” she added, citing the annual Veteran's Day observance that is a student-run community assembly honoring and involving local veterans.
Perhaps most important of all is the comprehensive nature of PHS. “We offer many academic and extracurricular offerings that help students discover their passions, and we respect and honor all of the different paths students may choose after high school,” she said.
As a student at PHS, Kalei especially enjoyed her CAPP Biology class. “I'm intrigued to by the scientific understanding of the human body and how factors can benefit or adversely affect health,” she said.
Her favorite extracurricular was basketball, and she also enjoyed running cross country. “I just love to compete, and I couldn't imagine my high school career without athletics,” she said.
Kalei had known for a while that she wanted to attend a service academy, but was undecided as to which one until she visited West Point. “It is undoubtedly an impressive place in itself, but what drew me most was the feeling I had when I was there – I can't describe it, and though it definitely sounds cliché I knew this was the place I needed to be. West Point creates the nation's leaders, and I am looking forward to some of the toughest but most rewarding years of my life.”
The process of applying to a service academy is much more involved than that of most colleges, Kalei said. She began work on the application the summer after her junior year, and did not officially submit it until early winter. In addition to informational paperwork, such as transcripts and test scores, she also needed to complete a medical examination by a Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board, a personal interview with a West Point representative, and a Candidate Fitness Assessment administered by certified personnel.
“Since I was proactive with my application, it was able to be reviewed by the board and I received a letter of assurance in September,” she said. “A letter of assurance essentially offers me a spot, contingent on my receipt of a nomination, which is an entirely separate application process.”
A nomination can come only from the president or vice president, or a congressman or senator from the applicant’s home state. The nominees are selected by an interview process, so Kalei first had to apply for an interview spot. She then had three interviews in front of a panels for Sen. Ron Johnson, Rep. Tammy Baldwin and Rep. Glenn Grothmann. “I ultimately received my nomination from Congressmen Grothmann, and shortly after I was offered an official appointment to West Point,” she said. The nomination was to the U.S. Air Force Academy, U.S. Naval Academy, as well as to West Point, and then she had to choose between those appoiments.
Kalei will attend basic training, and then will launch into a full academic schedule, along with sport and military obligations. “My years at the Academy will definitely be challenging; they will push me physically and mentally,” she said. After graduation, she would like to attend medical school.
“I want people to know that attending an Academy is so much more than simply choosing a career in the military,” she said. “It's about choosing to live an honorable albeit difficult life, not just in service to your country but in service to yourself and most importantly the people around you.”