Local student among 10 Arkansans to begin studies at U.S. Naval Academy

Members of Arkansas' U.S. Naval Academy Class of 2016 pose for a photograph while attending Plebe Family Orientation Picnic at the Rockefeller Institute in Petit Jean on June 3. From left to right (front row) Ashley Eves, Mari Eves, Bridget Lee, Weston White, Zach Nelson and Hannah Adams. (Back row) Paul Weatherford, Kyle Plunkett, Zach Caldwell, Jonathan Connor and Sully Bigger.

Zachary David Caldwell is among ten outstanding Arkansas students who have received and accepted appointments to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. As the undergraduate college of the Navy, the Naval Academy prepares young men and women “morally, mentally, and physically” to become professional officers in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. Additionally, another Arkansan will attend the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, Rhode Island, before beginning their studies in Annapolis.

Reporting on June 28, 2012, these future midshipmen will begin four demanding years of study and military training. Upon successful completion, they will earn Bachelors of Science degrees and become commissioned officers in the United States Navy or Marine Corps.

These students were chosen from more than 20,400 applicants nationwide for the 960 member Class of 2016. Providing an education valued at $400,000, the Naval Academy is among the most selective colleges and universities. It traditionally ranks in the top tier of engineering colleges in the United States. All expenses related to their education and training is taxpayer-funded and, upon graduation, each student will serve a period of mandatory military service raging from five to eleven years.

Zachary David Caldwell is from Magnolia, and the son of David and Angie Caldwell. Zachary graduated from Taylor High School where he was National Honor Society and Class President. He was the co-captain of the Taylor High basketball team and captain of its Quiz Bowl Team. Zachary is very interested in space flight. He plans on majoring in Aerospace Engineering and to become a Marine upon graduation with the long term goal of becoming an astronaut.

Other Arkansans include:

Hannah Adams is the daughter of Robert Adams and Ayn Freygang-Adams. Hannah is a 2012 graduate of the Naval Academy Preparatory School. She graduated St. Joseph Catholic High School in Pine Bluff in 2010 where she was co-salutatorian and student council president. Hannah played varsity basketball and tennis and was a cheerleader. Hannah has been a participant and counselor at Girls State. Hannah hopes to major in Chinese.

James Sullivan (Sully) Bigger is the son of Jim and Dana Bigger from Walnut Ridge. Sully graduated from Crowley’s Ridge Academy in Paragould. A three time All State athlete in track and once in cross country, Sully was a member of the 2009 cross country state championship team. Both Class President and History Club President, Sully also earned All-Regional and All-State honors in Quiz Bowl all four years. He intends to major in Electrical Engineering or Political Science and would like to purse Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD).

Jonathan Conner is the son of Travis and Cherie Conner from Harrison. Jonathan is a graduate of Harrison High School where he was an officer and Marching Captain in its band. He was National Honor Society Secretary and a member of the Harrison Goblin Soccer team. Jonathan is a graduate of Boone County Youth Leadership Academy and earned the U.S. Achievement Academy National Math Award. He intends on majoring in Aerospace Engineering and hopes to be a Navy Aviator.

Ashley Eves is a daughter of Auristela Eves and John Eves from Bentonville. Ashley is a 2012 graduate the Naval Academy Preparatory School (NAPS) and a 2011 graduate of Bentonville High School. At NAPS, Ashley served as Platoon Commander and made the Superintendent’s List and Commanding Officer’s list. As Bentonville High, Ashley was a member of the varsity cross country and track teams and was President of the Young Republicans. A certified lifeguard, Ashley enjoys volunteering and plans on majoring in Engineering.

Mari Eves is a daughter of Auristela Eves and John Eves from Bentonville. Mari is a 2012 graduate the Naval Academy Preparatory School (NAPS) and a 2011 graduate of Bentonville High School. Mari served as Platoon XO and made the Dean’s List at NAPS. At Bentonville High, Mari was a member of the varsity cross country and track teams and served as Vice President of the Young Republicans Club. She is an avid runner and a certified lifeguard. Mari is interested in political science and international relations and hopes to become a Marine Aviator upon graduation.

Mari and Ashley are twin sisters and have attended the same school since kindergarten. They now will attend the now the Naval Academy together.

Bridget Lee is the daughter of Dennis Lee and Theresa Wrape-Lee from Little Rock. A graduate of Mount St. Mary Academy, Bridget was the team captain of the national champion, Catholic High School JROTC Female Physical Fitness Team and earned All-American honors. Bridget was also, a varsity swimmer, soccer player, and track & field athlete. She played on four USYSA state soccer championship teams. Bridget earned the Beta Club Service Award four times and was an American Cancer Society Junior Hope Ambassador.

Zachary Tyler Nelson is a 2010 graduate of Heber Springs High School and majored in Mechanical Engineer at Arkansas Tech University for the past two years. He is the son of Danette and Tony Thomason of Heber Springs. Zachary was an ROTC Cadet and a member of Sigma Pi fraternity and earned Dean’s List honors at Arkansas Tech. He will major in engineering.

Kyle Plunkett is the son of David and Holly Plunkett from Van Buren. Kyle was Van Buren High School co-valedictorian, tied with his twin brother, and a Governor’s Distinguish Scholar. He was captain of the Van Buren varsity baseball team. Kyle has been a volunteer youth baseball and basketball coach at the Boys Club for the past four years.

Weston Taylor White is the son of Don & Denita White from Blytheville. Graduating from Blytheville High School, Weston was Valedictorian and Student Council President and on tennis team. He was elected Arkansas Boys State Lt. Governor in 2011 and is a College Board AP Scholar. Weston is also an active volunteer in his community and plans on majoring in Electrical Engineering and serve as a submarine or nuclear surface warfare officer.

Another Arkansan has been selected to attend the Naval Academy Preparatory School (NAPS) located in historic Newport, Rhode Island. NAPS emphasizes on strengthening the academic foundation of individual candidates for the U.S. Naval Academy and their possible appointment for the Class of 2017.

Paul Weatherford is the son of and Linda Doug Weatherford from Dumas. Paul is a graduate of Dumas High School where he was Student Council Secretary and a member of National Honor Society. He is an Eagle Scout and was a senior patrol leader for his troop. Paul is an active member of First United Methodist Youth group.

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