Student Features

PA Cyber senior promoted to highest level in US Navy Sea Cadet Corps

Jan 25, 2019

A PA Cyber senior has been promoted to Chief Petty Officer, the highest rank a cadet can achieve within the U.S. Navy Sea Cadet Corps.

Aidan Sommers, 17, of Kilbuck Township in Allegheny County, was recognized Saturday, Jan. 19 during a pinning ceremony in Pittsburgh.

Sommers belongs to Pittsburgh Sea Cadet Battalion, the western Pennsylvania chapter of the national youth leadership development organization. Modeled after the Navy's professional development system, the Sea Cadet Corps promotes interest and skill in naval disciplines while instilling strong moral character and life skills through leadership and technical programs.

In order to receive the rank of Chief, according to Commanding Officer Guy Mignogna, a cadet has to complete five different courses, pass his exams, complete five advance training sessions, including leadership, and staff an advanced training. The cadet must have served in various leadership positions within the unit and have the recommendation of the unit Commanding Officer, the regional command and the national command. Ultimately, and most importantly, his fellow cadets and the command staff must respect him and have confidence of in his decision and leadership skills.

"Aidan is an outstanding example of what a leader is and should be," Mignogna said. "He has always put his fellow cadets ahead of himself. He has, since joining the program, been a guide and example for his fellow cadets, aiding them when they were struggling with courses, PRT [physical readiness training] activities, and just being a sounding board if they needed to talk."

When he was 13, Aidan's mother, Patricia, in searching for a local, junior ROTC program, happened upon the Pittsburgh Sea Cadet Battalion. They found it was inexpensive to join and Aidan liked that many of the experiences it offered could boost his application to the Naval Academy. His parents left it up to him to decide to join and he went through the recruitment process. Aidan has been actively involved in various trainings for about four years.

"Personally, I'm very proud of him for sticking with it," Bob Sommers said. "We've never had to force him into doing any of this. When he was 14, he had to do a color guard on Veteran's Day and he said, 'you know dad I feel like I'm a part of something bigger than myself.' He felt that this was something to be proud about."

Established in 1964, the Pittsburgh Battalion conducts monthly drills and prepares sea cadets for various national trainings and leadership instruction hosted by the national organization. In addition to teamwork, leadership development and community service, they focus on STEM — science, technology engineering and math — one of Aidan Sommers' top interests.

Aidan's dad, Bob Sommers, said he considers the program to be one of the best in the country for youth development.

"For Aidan to put all this effort into it and achieve this — you have to put in the time, but you also have to go to these high-intense trainings across the country, plus you have to take these series of exams that move you through the process. It's pretty intense. To achieve the level he achieved, which is the highest level — that's a pretty big accomplishment," he said.

The Sommers family believes that PA Cyber opened Aidan up to opportunities such as the sea cadets. Sommers swims competitively and spends three hours a day practicing. Having freedom in his schedule to attend cadet activities, work out, practice and still have time to finish homework has been invaluable.
As a gifted student, Aidan was able to excel in math by taking courses at his own pace. He also has access to an array of classes and the opportunity to take courses with the John Hopkins University program through PA Cyber. Colleges have been impressed with his coursework, he said.
"One of the biggest things I think for my applications, particularly when I'm applying for Navy ROTC and the Naval or Air Force Academy, is that I've been taking classes in Arabic, which of course is very helpful for our nation's military and our security. After this next semester I will have had two years of Arabic experience, which not a lot of kids can say. There's barely any Arabic programs out there, especially in brick-and-mortar schools."

Aidan plans to study electrical, mechanical or aerospace engineering after graduation. His dream is to go into the Naval Academy or the Air Force Academy. He received a congressional nomination to both academies from his local congressman and he was awarded an Immediate Scholarship Reservation, a Navy ROTC scholarship, to attend any school of his choosing with a Navy ROTC program. If the Naval Academy doesn't work out, he wants to attend Cornell University, which has an ROTC program. Once out of college, he would serve five years in the military.

"He has worked diligently to continue to grow and advance through the program all while maintaining the highest performance levels in both the Sea Cadet program and in his school courses and activities," Mignogna said. "He is a true example of the Navy core values and what a young person can accomplish if they have self-confidence, self-respect, a true understanding of team work, and respect for others. I am proud to have had the opportunity to command him and watch the strong young man he has become."

Aidan Sommers said joining the sea cadets was life-changing. He had the opportunity to attend a medical training two years in a row at Central Michigan University. The training is run by university professors and Navy retirees and delves into topics like microbiology, forensics, and blood cells. Sommers also attended the American Legion Keystone Boys State week-long mock government this past summer at Shippensburg University. Additionally, he's traveled out of state, including for two weeks in 2017 to Camp Pendleton in California, the largest U.S. Marines base. He spent his time there doing field drills, backpacking, and generally getting a taste of what it's like to be a Marine recruit.

"There was a certain camaraderie and enjoyment about basically playing soldier for two weeks with active duty Marines, which is something you really can't get anywhere, especially as a 16-year-old kid," Bob Sommers said.

Aidan Sommers said the program offers young cadets a way to explore their interests, whether your plans are to enter the military or take the civilian route.

"If you are a teenager looking to experience different learning environments that are fun and challenging, consider the Pittsburgh Sea Cadet Battalion," Aidan Sommers said.

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About PA Cyber

Serving students in kindergarten through 12th grade, the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (PA Cyber) is one of the largest, most experienced, and most successful online public schools in the nation. PA Cyber's online learning environments, personalized instructional methods, and choices of curricula connect Pennsylvania students and their families with state-certified and highly-qualified teachers, and rich academic content that is aligned to state standards. Founded in 2000, PA Cyber is headquartered in Midland (Beaver County) and maintains a network of support offices throughout the state. As a public school, PA Cyber is open for enrollment by any school-age child residing in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and does not charge tuition to students or families.