By Vern Hee
Angelica McNerny makes reaching for the stars look easy.
The Pahrump Valley High senior is battalion commander of the Trojans Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps. She is also college bound in a big time way, earning thousands of dollars in scholarships recently as well as invitations to some of the nation’s best universities. Even her goal of getting into one of the service academies is a dream so close to coming true she can almost taste it.
Keep your fingers crossed, Pahrump hasn’t sent a local graduate to one of the academies for a decade.
Earlier this year, the aspiring astronaut received nominations from two congressmen for the service academies.
The ideal situation for McNerny would be to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs or the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. She says both institutions have launched more than a few NASA careers.
McNerny isn’t alone in her quest. Amanda Head, another PVHS standout, is vying for a spot in a service academy, too.
The wait for both ladies is almost unbearable. McNerny, wisely, isn’t pinning her hopes on just one option, though.
Just after Christmas, she heard she was accepted to Purdue University. After that she heard she was accepted to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with campuses in Florida and Arizona. That school added a $15,000 scholarship to go with the invitation and the U.S. Air Force added an additional $18,000 for an ROTC scholarship.
Christmas did not end there for McNerny. Two weeks ago she traveled to Charleston in South Carolina. She was there to visit The Citadel, a historic military academy founded in 1842. The school invited her to attend an interview along with 80 others for the opportunity to earn a full-ride scholarship. She spent three days in South Carolina enjoying the sights and touring the campus.
Then, like a bolt of lightning, a gift from the heavens, she heard she was awarded one of the school’s full-ride scholarships.
It costs about $36,000 a year to attend the prestigious military school, add another $9,000 for room and board.
For McNerny, dreams do come true. She should hear in March about a Naval ROTC scholarship, and, of course, the service academies should be sending out their notifications around that time.
According to her mother, Candace, McNerny has earned every bit of this.
“She doesn’t go to a lot of parties,” said Candace. “She pretty much focuses on her school work. She enjoys her social life through her education in different clubs at school and things like that. Then also, she has made the sacrifice, she doesn’t have a boy friend. She said she just is not interested in that and she wants to focus purely on her goals. Then once she achieves her goals then she might start looking for a partner.”
Angelica feels her sacrifices have been well worth it, and it was not too hard to do.
“I feel that I have made adjustments to my social life. The funny thing is that I enjoy school. I enjoy extra-curricular activities. I enjoy spending time like that as opposed to hanging out at the house and playing video games. In a way, I have sacrificed, but not really,” she said.
Candace said Angelica’s hard work has yielded every major scholarship with the exception of one, the Navy’s. She added if parents have an exceptional child, it is not too hard to put in the extra hours to find the right schools, the right programs and the right financial opportunities.
“She did not apply for the scholarship from Embry-Riddle, they gave her that one. They gave her $10,000 a year and plus $5,000 for being a woman in excellence. Other than time, it is not that difficult to get these scholarships. If you have a kid who has the grades and they are committed, you just need to be a supportive parent. Here is the thing, you can not rely on the counselors to do this stuff for your children. You have to be proactive and you have to do it for them. At least be part of it, encourage them and guide them through the process. Michael, my husband, was pretty much hands- on with Angelica,” said Candace.
For parents and students applying to military or civilian schools, Candace believes the key to success is organization.
“Have a file for every school that you have applied to, and make sure you note where you are at in each process. If you apply for a lot of schools, it can be a little daunting. Keep track of everything. They give you due dates. Right now we have till the end of March to accept the scholarship to The Citadel. We will do this regardless of what we hear from the service academies. If we hear she is going, then we will let The Citadel know.
“Right now, that is where she will be going unless she is accepted to a service academy,” Candace said.
Angelica said it would have been much harder without the parental support.
“I have my parents to thank for helping through this,” she said. “They always say I would not be getting these scholarships, if I have not put the effort into it as well. My parents helped me out with the application part of it. They have also motivated to do a lot of these scholarships as well. You have to have the support of family. My dad has knowledge of writing things in a professional manner and that has definitely helped me.”
NASA, look out.