From the time she was young, Genevieve “Ginny” Kelsey had a hunch she would join the military.
“A lot of my mom’s side of the family has been in the Navy, and I think I had a strong influence. I’ve heard awesome stories and have grown up around naval bases my whole life,” said Kelsey.
But it wasn’t until around her junior year of high school that she really started to think of it as a real opportunity.
Her older brother, Kahleb, had enrolled at the Air Force Academy, and after observing the influence it had on his life, Ginny became intrigued.
“I wasn’t big on grades probably until junior year of high school,” Kelsey said. “I always thought I would enlist in the Navy or Air Force. After seeing my brother go to the Air Force Academy, it encouraged me to get myself together, get the grades I needed and actually apply to the academies. Even if you’re not there right now, if you work hard enough, you can get to that point.”
Kelsey, 21, graduated from Mariposa County High School and had applied to both the Air Force Academy and U.S. Naval Academy. She didn’t receive an appointment to the Air Force Academy, but she was fortunate enough to be accepted by the Naval Academy.
“I ended up falling in love with it,” Kelsey said.
She is now a midshipman in the Class of 2020 at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. She is a quantitative economics major.
Kelsey, home last week for nine days to celebrate Thanksgiving, spoke with the Gazette in hopes of inspiring young people to learn more about why the Naval Academy would be a good option.
Kelsey outlined numerous benefits of attending the U.S. Naval Academy.
The academy offers courses in three areas: engineering and weapons; mathematics and science; and humanities and social studies.
She said there are small class sizes, with a student to faculty ratio of 8:1.
Everyone who attends the academy has their tuition completely paid. Tuition for midshipmen is fully funded by the Navy in exchange for an active duty service obligation upon graduation.
“That’s room and board, every meal, medical and dental,” Kelsey said. “That amounts to about $450,000 over four years.”
“On the surface level, there are crazy benefits,” Kelsey added. “You get your four-year studies paid for. You’re not going to get opportunities like this paid for anywhere else.”
The students also receive stipends each year of their studies, starting with $100 as a “plebe”, or freshman, and then raising to $200, $300 and finally, $400-600 as a senior.
If midshipmen decide after their second year of studies that the academy isn’t for them, they can leave the academy.
Upon graduation, every graduate earns a bachelor of science degree, commissions as an officer and has a minimum five year service commitment.
She said if she could list the top five reasons to attend the academy, they would be: the full scholarship; guaranteed employment after graduation; the location of the school; the fact that while there, the midshipmen “really learn how to be a better person, not just a smarter person”; and it has an 89 percent graduation rate.
She said attending the academy has helped her become more independent, and has given her valuable communication skills.
“I’ve learned that every interaction you have with a person matters so much, and to be genuine in those interactions,” Kelsey said.
She said bonds are formed “with people that you would not be able to make anywhere else.”
The Navy is a small world so you’ll see these people the rest of your Naval career,” Kelsey said.
Kelsey said young people with interest in joining a mlitary academy should begin preparing as soon as possible.
“I would start thinking about it sophomore year, getting yourself prepared physically and getting your grades right, start taking your ACT and SAT,” Kelsey said. “By junior year, you should be applying to summer seminar and opening your application for the academy.”
She said it is important for candidates to “be well rounded.”
“They want someone involved in sports, involved in leadership, involved in community service, that also has the grades and the physical ability,” Kelsey said.
She noted that to enroll, candidates must be at least 17 years of age at a minimum, and must not have passed their 23rd birthday by July 1 of the year of entry. They must be unmarried, not pregnant and have no children.
To learn more, visit www.usna.edu/admissions.
One of the things Kelsey recommends is attending seminars offered by the Naval Academy to high school students.
She attended a summer seminar, which helped give her an idea of what life was like at a military academy. To learn more about the summer seminar, visit www.usna.edu/admissions/nass.
While at the academy, Kelsey decided to try out for the club softball team. She had been a star athlete at MCHS and figured, why not try out?
She didn’t make the cut her freshman year, but decided to give it another go her sophomore year — and she made it.
“It’s an awesome group of people,” Kelsey said. “It’s highly recommended when you go to the academy to find an outlet like that. I’m thankful for that group of girls.”
Although it is technically a club team (it is not backed by the academy financially), it is still close to the same caliber of play as the school’s Division 1 sports. Club softball competes in both the fall and the spring in the North Atlantic South Conference, with the ultimate goal of competing at the National Club Softball Association World Series each year.
Kelsey was fortunate enough to be a team member this past season when the team won the NCSA World Series.
“It’s been an awesome experience,” Kelsey said. “It’s a real bonding experience. It was always a dream. … It’s definitely been amazing being on the softball team at the Naval Academy. I think high school and coach Tony Williams (of MCHS) did help me a lot with that.”