Lance Meekins and Evan Janiak look forward to military leadership training
Kearney, Mo., December 15, 2023: Representative Sam Graves of Missouri’s Sixth Congressional District has nominated two Kearney High School seniors for acceptance into U.S. Military Service Academies.
Lance Meekins was selected for the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.; he plans to prepare for a career in military intelligence. Evan Janiak was chosen to attend the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., where he intends to study naval architecture for a career in surface warfare.
Rep. Graves called both Bulldogs during their morning classes last week to inform them personally of the nominations. It was a surprise, according to Mr. Janiak.
“I figured if I was getting called down, it was for an important reason, but I didn’t expect it to be a nomination to the academy,” Janiak said. “It’s a pretty big deal and I’m very excited.”
Each year, members of Congress are tasked with selecting qualified students from their respective districts to attend one of America’s prestigious military academies. Rep. Graves announced his nominations in a Dec. 12 press release.
The nomination system is a very competitive process. Various military academies hold extremely selective admission standards. Acceptance is the equivalent of getting a full-ride scholarship to an Ivy League college or university. Janiak and Mr. Meekins described years of focus and hard work to even warrant serious consideration.
“I’m honestly just looking forward to getting there,” Meekins said. “This is something I’ve been working towards since middle school. These last six months have been a grind.”
The students shared similar stories about setting out by the time they were in sixth grade to attend a military academy. For Meekins, that path was paved by being raised in a U.S. Army family.
“It was definitely a big influence on my decision,” he said. “Me being raised in a military family, I was already exposed to that life. I’ve always been around that military culture and am very comfortable with it. Now I want to pursue that as a career and see where it takes me.”
Janiak started charting his way to this point as a second grader after seeing the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels aerobatics squadron in action. His focus gained even more wind when he later visited the academy.
“In sixth grade, I visited the Naval Academy and got to interview two graduates,” Janiak said. “They talked about the experience there and I knew then that that was exactly what I wanted to do.”
According to Meekins, attending a U.S. Military Academy is a unique opportunity to benefit from the world’s best academic, leadership and military training. Janiak concurred.
“It’s a very rigorous, respected academic program,” Janiak said. “I’m excited to go through leadership training and go into the Navy as an officer who gets to lead people. I’m excited to live a military lifestyle for four years. I tend to gravitate towards a structured environment. A military lifestyle while going to college is going to benefit me.”
Meekins and Janiak are the first students to be nominated for U.S. Military Service Academies while Andy Gustafson has been principal at KHS. He expressed gratitude to Rep. Graves for selecting his students.
“Lance and Evan have worked very hard for a long time to get here and have earned this honor,” Dr. Gustafson said. “I know that everyone in Kearney School District who has played a part in their education is proud of them and excited to see what they accomplish.”
Evan Janiak’s father, Jerry Janiak, and his wife Kristi were thrilled to learn their son was being given this opportunity. He credited KSD for helping Evan grow and succeed.
“He has been working for this since he was 10,” Jerry Janiak said. “We are crazy proud and can’t thank the KSD team enough for all their help and support!”
To help in the nomination process, Rep. Graves created an Academy Nominations Review Board. The board, comprised of service academy graduates, veterans and citizens of the Sixth District, interviewed and reviewed all applicants before making final recommendations to Rep. Graves.
“It is my honor to nominate these incredible young men and women to attend our nation’s military academies,” Rep. Graves said in the press release. “All have gone above and beyond to demonstrate their leadership abilities in their schools and communities. I know each and every one will go on to make North Missouri proud.”