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Congressman nominates students for military academies

By Aisha I. Jefferson

A single tear settled in the corner of Susan Soto's left eye as she listened to her daughter, Nicole, discuss receiving a Congressional nomination to attend one of the country's military academies.

"I'm very proud of her," Susan Soto said, standing next to her daughter and her husband, Edwin.

Nicole Soto, a Jonesboro High School senior, is one of 17 young Americans in whom U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Jonesboro, nominated to four of the nation's military academies. The nominees, 11 of whom reside in Henry and Clayton counties, were honored during a reception held in his Jonesboro District 13 office.

The 17 residents received nominations to attend either the U.S. Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, Colo., the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, N.Y., the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., or the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md. Eleven of the nominees reside in Henry and Clayton counties.

"Ever since 10th-grade year in the Junior ROTC, I always wanted to go to a military academy," said Nicole Soto, who is a junior squadron commander – the highest ranking officer – in Jonesboro High's Junior ROTC program. Nicole Soto, who is ranked third in her senior class, will attend the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, N.Y. this fall.

Although the nomination is not a guaranteed in into the academy – students have to apply separately – it is a critical point of the acceptance process, Scott explained.

"Without a nomination, you can't get in," Scott said. This year marks Scott's third time holding nominations. He previously nominated 10 people – eight to military academies and two to military preparatory schools.

Paid tuition for four years of school and top-notch training, along with other benefits, are among the many gains the nominees will receive if they are accepted into the military academies.

"It is a very, very highly valued education," Scott said, explaining if there was a dollar amount put on the whole package, economists, educators and military officials had valued it around $300,000.

The 17 nominees honored Saturday were among about 50 who initially inquired about receiving the Congressional nomination. The 13th District 2005 Military Academy Selection Board, which is comprised of seven ranking military officers, is the advisory group that helps winnow down the nominee selection.

"It's an ongoing process. In this process, I've already began the process of the next school year," said David Johnson, Scott's senior staff assistant and military and veterans liaison.

Riverdale resident Theresa Bowen's 19-year-old son, Rudolph, will graduate from the Air Force Preparatory School in Colorado next month after receiving a nomination from Scott last year to attend.

"And he's doing quite well there. He's on the prep school basketball team, and he's a flight commander," Bowen said.

Scott also nominated Rudolph Bowen to attend the United States Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs, Colo., in the fall.

"It is truly a blessing for me to have this opportunity to make these appointments for these outstanding, well-qualified and dedicated young people," Scott said. "They are excellent role models for our youth."

Scott said every Congressman and senator has the opportunity to make such nominations.