Riverbank High School senior Eli Vernon was notified this past week of his nomination to the U.S. military academies by Congressman Jeff Denham’s office in Modesto. Vernon is one of 16 nominees from throughout Denham’s 10th Congressional District, which includes primarily Stanislaus County and part of San Joaquin County.
The Republican representative from Turlock said the students were nominated to the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. and the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y.
Most students on the list were nominated to a single academy, several to two institutions, but Vernon was the only one on the list to be nominated for acceptance at all four academies. Denham’s nominees come from Modesto, Tracy, Ripon, Manteca, Oakdale and Riverbank schools.
Denham said students seeking attendance at one of the military academies must be nominated by a U.S. Representative, U.S. Senator or the Vice President. Nominees are selected through a rigorous application and interview process and are chosen based on factors including academic achievement, leadership ability, physical aptitude, participation in extra-curricular activities and demonstration of character. Students may seek acceptance to more than one academy. The U.S. Coast Guard Academy does not require a nomination to attend.
Vernon said he was most hopeful of being accepted by the Naval Academy. He said his brother, Calvin, graduated from Annapolis in 2007, and he always thought the Navy would be a good choice for service.
Vernon is most interested in studying mechanical engineering, primarily robotics. He said he’s been working on personal projects with animatronics and bomb disposal robots, “so the things I’m going to be working on are either for entertainment or safety purposes.”
He said his senior project is centered around engineering, with the programming language and the hardware to accomplish the tasks.
Other school activities he’s been participating in include varsity basketball, where he plays center. He’s also a percussionist in the RHS band, playing nine instruments, including tympani drums, marimba, the vibraphone, xylophone, tambourine, sleigh bells, and cymbals.
He’s acted in six different plays during his high school career, most recently as the Narrator in the drama department’s production of ‘Our Town.’
He’s a member of the California Scholarship Federation (CSF) and the Debate Club.
Also a member of Boys Scout Troop 40, sponsored by the Riverbank Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Vernon has qualified to receive his Eagle badge. He is expecting to have his Eagle Court of Honor some time in February.
He’s competed in Speech Competitions sponsored by the Riverbank Rotary Club, where he was ranked in the top ten in the state. He also attended Rotary Leadership Camp last summer. Vernon works in a variety of spots for the Riverbank Recreation and Parks Department as well.
If selected for an academy, Vernon will be committed to serving in the military for a minimum of five years active duty upon graduation. If accepted, he’s expecting to hear by April 2016.
If selected to attend Annapolis, he’ll be reporting as a plebe next summer, prior to school starting in the fall.
Always with a back up plan, in addition to his applications at the service academies, Vernon has applied to the mechanical engineering departments of six other schools, including M.I.T., Stanford, BYU Idaho, University of California at Los Angeles, UC Irvine, and UC Berkeley.
Also, if none of the service academies pan out, Vernon said he’s considering serving a two-year full-time mission for his church before attending college.