CHS valedictorian graduates from Naval Academy

Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Cheyann Essley

After graduating as valedictorian of the Cassville High School Class of 2009, Cheyann Essley decided to continue her education at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. Cheyann graduated with a bachelor of science in American politics and law and earned a commissioned officer rank of second lieutenant.

"When I was little, I remember seeing my mom's boot camp picture from the Marine Corps Boot Camp," said Cheyann. "I thought about just enlisting in the Marine Corp, but I had good grades and was involved in different programs in school. My parents suggested I look at colleges first."

Although her parents, Billy and Lisa, hoped to put Cheyann's career in the military on the back burner, she cleverly found a compromise that would allow her to attend college while jump starting her desired career.

"I was in the counselors' office and I saw an old pamphlet for the Naval Academy, which said that you could become commissioned as a Marine Corp officer," said Cheyann. "That was in September of my senior year."

Cheyann introduced the idea to her parents, who gave her the responsibility of making the necessary phone calls to get her application started. After receiving a conditional acceptance letter, in December of 2008, Lisa was notified by telephone that Cheyann had been accepted into the Naval Academy.

"I was shocked," said Cheyann. "I'm from Cassville, Mo., and I was accepted to the Naval Academy. I don't know of anyone from Cassville who attended this institution."

After graduating in May, Cheyann flew to Annapolis, Md., alone to participate in Induction Day on July 1, 2009.

"I remember when we were driving in I saw a plaque at the main gates, and I began to get very nervous," said Cheyann. "They lined us up on a wall. We had to stand really straight, and they were giving us all these instructions. I did not sleep at all that night."

The next morning, Cheyann and her fellow classmates began working with "detailers," which are senior students in charge of the "plebes" or freshmen.

"They gave us our uniforms and gear and were moving us through everything and yelling at us," said Cheyann. "I didn't know what I was getting myself into."

Over the next few months, Cheyann had the opportunity to meet other students from across the country and world. She said she really enjoyed hearing their backgrounds.

"Some of the students were in Junior ROTC and others had parents who were in the military," said Cheyann. "Some of them had family members who attended the Naval Academy and were legacy names, and others were the first members of their family to serve in the military."

Although Cheyann learned a great deal during her time at the academy, above all she said she learned patience.

"After your first year, you begin to receive more leadership responsibilities and be in charge of the classes beneath you," said Cheyann.

Some of Cheyann's leadership positions included serving as a squad leader during the freshmen summer program, which allowed her to work with high school seniors interested in a career in the military.

"They expect you to grow up fast," said Cheyann. "I became a training sergeant my junior year, which put me in charge of 41 students from the Class of 2015.

"I had some gray hairs after that, but it told me what type of leader and officer I want to be," continued Cheyann. "I learned different ways to approach situations and that what works with one student will not work with others."

Even though Cheyann has graduated from the Naval Academy she has not completed her service there. She will return to Annapolis in June to complete a month of temporary duty then she is off to Quantico, Va., where she will complete Marine Corps Rifle Platoon Commander Training.

During her basic training, Cheyann will take part in military occupational studies that use performance scores, Cheyann's preferences and the Marine Corps' needs to determine which specialist area in which she will serve. Her current interests include human intelligence, military police and logistics.

"You make a minimum of a five-year commitment," said Cheyann. "Right now, I plan to stay in the Marine Corps and pick up a command. I am nervous and excited to see where it will take me.

"My main goal is serving and leading young Marines," added Cheyann.

Out of the 16,000 students who applied for the United States Naval Academy in 2008, only 1,200 students were accepted. The institution is also credited as the third most difficult university to graduate from in the United States.

Lisa said she and her husband are extremely proud of their daughter's accomplishment.

"Both of our kids chose to serve," said Lisa. "To see them choosing to do something bigger than themselves gives us pride beyond words."

Lisa served in the Marine Corps for six years, and Billy served as a marine for four years. Cheyann's brother, Henry Dominic "HD," is a Corporal in the United States Marine Corps.

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