Lincoln-Way student earns recognition at United States Naval Academy
Monday, July 9, 2018

Although she has yet to determine her post-high school plans, Lincoln-Way East student Sydney Nekola has already made an impression on one prospective option. On June 7, 2018, Nekola received the Outstanding Candidate Award after attending Summer Seminar at the United States Naval Academy (USNA).

Acceptance to Summer Seminar is the first step in applying to USNA. The five-day long program allows students to experience what life is like at the United States Naval Academy. Thousands of high school juniors nationwide apply for the chance to attend, but only 5 percent are selected (or 850 students per session). Applicants are chosen based upon GPA, class rank, ACT/SAT scores, course selection, school and community involvement, along with a written personal statement. Of the 850 attending, Nekola was just one of five to receive the Outstanding Candidate Award during the closing ceremony.

“When I heard about the Academy, I was more excited than nervous,” says Nekola. “My grandfather was a World War II Navy Veteran and I’ve always had a strong passion to follow in his footsteps. He was always my hero and taught me military values: loyalty, respect, honor, integrity, courage and selflessness.”

While attending Summer Seminar, Nekola’s selflessness kicked into gear when she noticed a struggling cadet on her squad falling behind during the E-Course (an obstacle course). “Instinctively, I left the front of the line to offer support through the exercise, so our entire squad could finish strong together,” she says. Noticing her action, Nekola’s Sergeant informed her that he would be nominating her for the Outstanding Candidate Award, an award given to five students based upon leadership, performance and teamwork.

“I was excited about my nomination for the award, but it was not until the final celebration ceremony that I learned I had received it,” says Nekola. “Receiving the award is an honor I do not take lightly. As [Lincoln-Way East] Class President, I hope to continue to bring those same values of leadership, performance and teamwork to help our senior class finish strong.”

In addition to being Class President for all four years of high school, Nekola has been involved in volleyball, basketball, soccer, Student Council Executive Board, Peer Helpers, Be the Change, Griffin Crew, Black and Blue Crew and Peer Mentors. Despite her many extracurricular activities, her busy schedule has not prevented her from staying focused in the classroom. She has also been a part of Mu Alpha Theta, National Honors Society and Science NHS.

Although she is not yet set on a specific college, Nekola is narrowing down her choices and hopes to receive an appointment from USNA. Other schools that interest her include Michigan State University and University of Tennessee.

“Because USNA is an overall excellent school with many possibilities for my future, the sense of family found in the USNA culture is my favorite part,” says Nekola. “You are with the same people every day and you count on their support and encouragement. After staying a week over the summer, I became very close with people from many different states…I’m not sure where I will be in a year; I really look forward to getting my life started and figuring out a career path that fits me,” she says.