southtownstar
SLIDING 
Weather Updates

Southland students earn service academy nominations

Michael Triner (from left) U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski D-3rd Alex Villafuerte visit Jan. 18 during military academies nominaticeremony Oak Lawn.

Michael Triner (from left), U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-3rd, and Alex Villafuerte visit Jan. 18 during the military academies nomination ceremony in Oak Lawn. | Alison Nicol~For Sun-Times Media

storyidforme: 60769983
tmspicid: 22046873
fileheaderid: 10445479

Several local students were publicly recognized earlier this month after having been nominated to attend a U.S. service academy.

U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-3rd, held his second annual U.S. Military Nomination Ceremony on Jan. 18 at Johnson-Phelps VFW Post 5220, at 9514 S. 52nd Ave., Oak Lawn.

Lipinski nominated 14 high school and college students from his district for 2014 admission to the U.S. Air Force Academy, U.S. Naval Academy and West Point Military Academy.

In the past, nominees were notified by Lipinski’s office by mail. But for the past two years, a recognition ceremony has been held at Johnson-Phelps to honor the students’ achievements with their friends and families in attendance.

All of the nominees received a nomination certificate from Lipinski, and each nominee and his or her family posed for photos with the congressman.

Students vying for entry into a U.S. service academy first must seek a nomination through their congressman or senator or through the office of the vice president of the United States.

That is but the first hurdle in a rigorous process in which students also must meet stringent academic requirements. Character, extracurricular activities and service to the community also are taken into account.

A congressman’s nomination ensures that a student will receive an interview with the admissions department, but the individual service academy makes the final decision on acceptance.

Oak Lawn resident and Richards High School senior Alex Villafuerte said it was his love of the ROTC program at Richards and his father’s encouragement that prompted him to apply to the U.S. Naval Academy.

“My dad encouraged me to join ROTC to help me stay in shape for baseball, and I just grew to love the program,” said Villafuerte, the company commander for his ROTC unit.

Naval Academy nominee and St. Rita High School student Nicholas Bilotta said, “I’m really excited. I’ve always wanted to serve my country, but I also wanted to go to college. If I graduate from the Naval Academy, I can get an education, and when I come out, I will be a commissioned officer.”

Lipinski told the nominees, “Your willingness to serve and give so much to others ... well, everyone here with our nominees should be so proud.”

The other nominees (and the high school each attends) were Zachary Pakula, Brother Rice; Elaine Smith, Lyons Township; Rudolph Garza, St. Rita; Peter Strawbridge, Lyons Township; Michael Triner, St. Laurence; Jack McHugh, Marist; Michael Kelly, Fenwick; Jordan Tyler, Morgan Park Academy; Daniel Calero, Marist; Andrew Jacobs, Mount Carmel; David Garza, Texas Military Institute; and Paolo Jimenez, Stagg.



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.