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High school grads throughout the Alle-Kiski Valley plan careers of service

As the Alle-Kiski Valley’s high school seniors graduate, some are taking steps to serve their country while pursuing secondary education.

At Springdale High School, of the 78 seniors graduating, eight — about 10 percent — have enlisted for military service.

By comparison, Plum High School, which has a graduating class of 309, has 11 students — about 4 percent — going into military service.

Of the eight Springdale grads, two have been accepted into military academies; Collin Hurley is headed to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and Matthew Alese was accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md.

Of the other six, Benjamin Sowinski, Jonathon Spencer and James Joyce are going into the Navy; Matthew Cicolini and Erik Brannock are going into the Army; and Damian Brand has signed up with the Marines.

Hurley will be joining his older brother, Spencer, who is wrapping up his second year at West Point.

Springdale school counselor Rebecca Dyer said most of the eight didn’t know each other well in school but drew closer when they became aware of their military aspirations.

Alese said he’s proud to be part of that group and considers them to be friends.

“It’s amazing to know and definitely helpful to me that there will be such a large group of people going into the service that have similar experiences to me,” he said.

Hurley said he felt there couldn’t be a better group going into the military.

“I think it’s an honor and it shows the quality of character of these other gentlemen, that they are willing to make these sacrifices to serve their country and improve themselves and their community.”

Alese said that he had never thought about going into military service until he saw another Springdale graduate who had gone to West Point.

“He had changed; his time at West Point had made him more confident. He had become a stronger person.”

Hurley applied for similar reasons. His brother’s appointment to West Point made him realize it was the ultimate way to improve himself and better serve his country.

Alese plans to pursue a position as a surface warfare officer with a nuclear option, where he would be an officer aboard a nuclear powered warship.

Sowinski also is going into the Navy with a nuclear focus.

Hurley said he plans to pursue mechanical engineering with a goal of a helicopter assignment.

Spencer’s goal is to become a Navy SEAL.

Similar feelings elsewhere

Graduates from other A-K Valley schools are taking similar steps.

St. Joseph High School senior Thomas Klawinski will attend U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Klawinski said he also was offered ROTC scholarships to Virginia Tech and Penn State.

Klawinski said his sister, Amanda, is already at the Coast Guard Academy. He feels the Coast Guard is closer to police work than other military branches.

Klawinski has been surrounded by police officers his whole life, through his father, Westmoreland County Detective Tom Klawinski, and that inspired him to go into public service.

He already has found public service appealing through the Boy Scouts, in which he achieved Eagle Scout status.

He hopes to pursue a program where he will performs statistical analysis and optimize operational logistics.

At Burrell High School, Ally Spohn has been selected for a full ROTC scholarship to Arizona State University.

“When I checked it and saw I was accepted, I almost cried it was so exciting and fulfilling to know I achieved this,” she said.

Spohn was president of student government and captained both the swim and cross country teams, among other extracurricular activities.

Spohn will be pursuing a bio-medical engineering degree with a goal of becoming a military physician, so that she can help people while serving her country.

“I’ve wanted to be a doctor since my mom got pregnant with my brother,” Spohn said. “I’d be in the doctor’s office with her and I’d see the charts and everything and I knew this is what I wanted to do. I used to walk around with a stethoscope saying ‘I’m gonna be a doctor.’ ”

Leif Greiss is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4681 or [email protected].


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