Since he was 12, Andrew Stephenson has wanted to fly jets. He spent his high school career working and sacrificing, hoping to receive a nomination to the U.S. Naval Academy.
"I was able to visit the naval academy and I fell in love with the place. They projected an image of what I wanted to be," said Stephenson, a Carson High School senior.
Just before Christmas, his dream came true.
Stephenson received a letter informing him he had received the nominations of both then-Rep. Jim Gibbons and Sen. Harry Reid.
"It was pretty much the best Christmas present you could ask for," Stephenson said.
Military life runs in Stephenson's blood. His dad served in Vietnam and his brother is a discharged Navy SEAL.
"When I was little, I looked up to my brother because he was a SEAL, but they are just too crazy for me. Being a pilot is hard enough for me," Stephenson said.
Soon after receiving his notification, Stephenson learned he would be joined at the academy by classmate Chad Shroy.
"We've had one, but not two during my 19 years," said Senior Naval Science Instructor Skip Cannady, himself an academy graduate in 1967. "They've been focused on this since their freshman year."
Both Shroy and Stephenson are in leadership positions of the JROTC program at Carson High School.
Shroy was also recruited by the academy to run track and cross-country.
"It was just such an incredible feeling. I've worked for the greater part of my life and to see it come true was amazing," Shroy said. "I've wanted to go to the naval academy since I was 5. There's something about the naval aviators that just captured my attention."
The pair will enter the academy on July 1 and spend the first 10 weeks in what's called "Plebe Summer," during which the will adapt to military life. Their days will begin at dawn and end around 11 p.m.
"I love the people, that structured way of life. I've always wanted to be in the military and serve my country. It's almost been bred into me," Stephenson said.
With less than 6 months until they leave for Annapolis, both students said the sacrifice and the preparation was worth it.
"If you really want something, there is no reason you can't get it. Just stay focused, and don't be afraid to get your hands dirty," Shroy said.
• Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1217.