U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) hosted at her Hinsdale home Tuesday night more than 20 students from her 13th Congressional District who currently attend, will attend, or recently graduated from the U.S. service academies.
Biggert nominated all of the students present Tuesday for attendance at the U.S. Military, Naval, Air Force, Coast Guard, or Merchant Marines academies.
"This is one of the best things that I get to do as a member of Congress," Biggert said of the nomination process. "It’s a real honor to have all of you."
The Congresswoman said she's proud of all the work the students have done and the decision they have made to enter the armed forces and protect the country.
"We really admire you and respect you," Biggert said.
It was the seventh year the Congresswoman has held a reception for the students she's nominated. The students and their parents were able to introduce themselves to one another, then chat and take pictures with Biggert. In between, returning cadets gave advice to future cadets in both a big-group session and small-group sessions.
Returning Military Academy cadet Ariana Mankus, of Lisle, told her junior colleagues that the first day will be the hardest. But, she said, everyone who enrolls at a service academy does so because they want a challenge.
"So as long as you keep with that mindset, that I want to challenge myself and better myself every day, you’ll be fine," Mankus said.
Class of 2012 Naval Academy graduate Matt Koltis, of Clarendon Hills, shared similar advice. He told naval cadets to always keep in mind their motivations and always work hard.
"And don't think you're special," Koltis added, to chuckles from the group.
Naperville native Daniel Mendendez, who will head off this summer for his first year at Air Force Academy and play on the school's Division I football team, said he's more excited than nervous.
"I wanted to challenge myself and see what I can complete," said Menendez, a former Neuqua Valley High School student who spent last year at the Air Force's prep school in Colorado Springs. "It will challenge me in different aspects of life."
Tuesday's invitees came from 12 towns. Their names are listed below along with the academy they do or will attend, and their graduation year.
Clarendon Hills: Michael Fikaris, Military, Class of 2016; Kyle Fredrickson, Military, Class of 2015; Matt Koltis, Naval, Class of 2012.
Naperville: Conner Adamski, Naval, Class of 2016; Joe Brant, Naval, Class of 2015; Susanne Maria Dannessa, Merchant Marine, Class of 2015; Mariano Long, Air Force, Class of 2016; Daniel Meaney, Naval, Class of 2014; Daniel Menendez, Air Force, Class of 2016; Charles Ren, Naval, Class of 2016.
Orland Park: Kieran Dziallo, Naval, Class of 2016; Michelle Kuyper, Air Force, Class of 2014; Zachary Reks, Air Force, Class of 2016.
Aurora: James Hunter, Naval, Class of 2016.
Bolingbrook: Michael Westrom, Military, Class of 2016.
Burr Ridge: Jackson Panice, Military, Class of 2015.
Downers Grove: Carolyn Smith, Coast Guard, Class of 2016.
Lisle: Ariana Mankus, Military, Class of 2013.
Lockport: Nicholas Dominguez, Naval, Class of 2012.
Orland Hills: Mara Blagojevic, Marine Merchant, Class of 2016.
Plainfield: Allison Maie Gahafer, Air Force, Class of 2012.
Romeoville: Myles Walters, Military, Class of 2016.