By Dennis Minich
It will be a short summer vacation for recent Harrisonville High School graduate Briana Chiodini, as on June 27 she will report to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Upon arrival, she will take on the title of Midshipman and begin six weeks of pre-college training known at Plebe Summer.
Plebes, first-year Midshipmen, go through a rigorous training period those first six weeks, similar to a boot camp for other enlistees.
Chiodini’s acceptance to the Naval Academy marks the first time a female graduate of HHS has been accepted to the academy, a fact she underplays.
“I feel like it is cool. I appreciate it, but it doesn’t really seem that special, I am just going to be doing what I am going to be doing. If I thought I was special, I feel like I’d be putting myself up on a pedestal or something, and I don’t think I am special. On the other hand, if it helps girls know they can do whatever they try, then I think that’s ok, too,” Chiodini said.
She said she had thought about a service academy before, but got serious following her sophomore year in high school.
“I think I had always thought about it. My dad went to West Point, until he injured his knee. But I think after my sophomore year, I thought more about it. It’s a college education that is completely paid for, it’s a great education, and it’s a chance to serve my country,” she said.
Chiodini’s high school resume is impressive: a cumulative grade-point average of 3.905, ranking her fourth in her class out of 202. Among her activities were swimming, marching and concert band, show choir, theater, drama and soccer. She was in National Honor Society in grades 11 and 12, served on the Students Against Destructive Decisions in grades 11 and 12, and was a peer helper.
She said the hardest part of high school was keeping up her grades with the outside activities.
“When you are interested (in a service academy), they look at a lot of things besides your grades, so I was involved in a lot of activities. I think that made it harder for me academically, so I really had to focus,” she said.
Last summer, she attended the Naval Academy Summer Seminar, and the West Point Summer Leaders Experience, which are one-week versions of Plebe Summer. She said she came out of that knowing the Naval Academy was her choice.
“I don’t want to speak bad about the Army, but those summer camps are supposed to make you interested in going to their school; but the cadets from West Point just seemed like they really weren’t interested and that made it kind of hard to be interested in going there,” Chiodini said. “Plus, I really think the Naval Academy offers a better variety of majors, so I really wanted to go there anyway.”
The process of getting an appointment is strenuous.
“You go online and fill out the application for the service academies, and it is huge and very difficult. They want to know everything about you, everything you have done in high school,” she said. “Then you get notified if someone is nominating you.
“Vicky Hartzler nominated me, but before she did, I had to go interview with a panel in Columbia. It was pretty intense”
Looking forward, Chiodini said she is excited about the future, and said her plan is to make the Navy a career. But first, she needs to get through Plebe Summer.
“I think the one thing I am not looking forward to is Plebe Summer, but it is something everyone has to go through. I am looking forward to when classes start, I am really excited about getting to meet people,” she said.
Since her acceptance, she has received a lot of attention, something she said she wasn’t really ready for.
“I am not used to being in the spotlight, so I don’t really know how to handle it. But it does make me feel good, because I know I have so many people who are supporting me,” she said.