It wasn’t the largest crowd, by Charles Schillings had their undivided attention.
Schillings is a junior at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He is from Wichita and was explaining to five students and a few adults at Dodge City High School why the university was different.
"It is still a college experience," Schillings said. "The campus is filled with 18- to 22-year-olds. There’s always something going on, but the students are leaders and have committed to 5 years of service."
Among the five students listening to the pitch was Dawson Williams, a senior who was nominated for a spot at the US Naval Academy by Sen. Pat Roberts.
"Coach (Dave) Foster suggested last year I look at the Air Force Academy," Williams said after listening to Schillings. "I also started looking at the Naval Academy and I’m excited and proud to be nominated."
Williams was one of 37 Kansans nominated by Roberts on Monday, one of 18 for the Naval Academy. He is the only area resident to receive a nomination.
"I am proud to nominate this outstanding group of young men and women to our nation’s service academies," Roberts said in a release. "This is a very impressive and highly competitive group of nominees who are outstanding representatives of Kansas in every way. It is great to see so many young Kansans seeking to serve in our nation’s military, and I wish all of our applicants the best."
Once nominated, applicants then must meet the individual admission requirements of each academy. The academies will make the final decision on who will receive an appointment of admission. Due to the limited number of openings at each academy, not every nominee will receive an appointment. The academies this spring will announce appointments for the class entering in July 2018.
Schillings said the conversation was part of Operation Information, a program which sends Midshipmen to their home state to provide prospective students information about the Naval Academy.
"I did two of these last year and this is the first this year," he said. "It’s a way to make sure the students who want to be considered for the academies get the information needed."
Schillings noted the US Navy looks for leadership qualifies in several ways.
"They look for captains of sports teams or students who work as high school students," he said. "I have no idea what the criteria is — I’m still surprised sometimes that I was chosen — but there are different ways to consider leadership and they look at several."
For Williams, he will try to continue to play sports if chosen for the Naval Academy.
"I’m going to try and walk on to the football team," said Williams, who played quarterback, free safety and wide receiver for the Red Demons. "I definitely want to keep playing."
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