Reception salutes military academy nominees


22 area students talk about plans

Republican Rep. Brian Bilbray encouraged 22 area high school students nominated for admission to the nation’s military academies to consider not only what they can get out of an academy but how they can contribute.

Many of the students talked about how they will do that at a Feb. 3 reception at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, where they were joined by their families and the base commander.

Harvey Smith, a Solana Beach resident who attends Canyon Crest Academy, said he hopes to attend West Point because he wants to be an Army Ranger.

“I don’t want to sit behind a desk when I’m finished with college,” said Smith.

When asked what he plans to do through the Air Force Academy, Alex Arcidiacono, a student at La Jolla High School, immediately said, “Dream job would be a pilot.”

Of what? “F-22 Raptor,” said Arcidiacono, referring to the Air Force’s newest fighter aircraft.

Erik Skyhar, a Torrey Pines High School student from Rancho Santa Fe, has similar goals. He has had his sights set on flying jets ever since his parents brought him to Miramar to watch them as a child.

However, as proud as she is of her son’s nomination, Lynne Skyhar admitted some nervousness about the idea of Erik streaking through the air in a fighter plane.

“I get nervous when he drives a car,” she joked.

Alexandria Jaksha on the other hand, a Cathedral Catholic High School student who has already been accepted at the U.S. Naval Academy, has more grounded but just as grand ambitions. A Carmel Valley resident and the only female nominee at the reception, she plans on becoming a medical doctor.

To have a chance at admission to the Naval Academy in Maryland, the Air Force Academy in Colorado or the Military Academy in West Point, New York, a student must be nominated by a member of Congress or the Vice President.

These youngsters had to demonstrate high-level achievements academically and physically, as well as in leadership positions, in order to earn nomination by Congressman Bilbray. He selected the students with the help of an Academy Nomination Advisory Board made up of mostly retired high-ranking military officials.

While actual admittance to an academy is determined by the individual institutions, if the students do gain entrance they will receive a top-notch education paid for in full by the government.

These 22 nominees have chosen a distinctly different route from their peers attending civilian universities. They will be making certain sacrifices-but honorable ones, according to Congressman Bilbray.

“It’s not things that matter-things you can buy,” said Bilbray.

“It’s the ability to serve that matters.”