Unlike a lot of high school graduates, 2018 Enterprise High School graduate Jimmy Wells has his life planned well into the future. That’s what happens when you’re accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy.
The Navy inducted Wells into the class of 2022 on June 28 in Annapolis, Md., and he began his six weeks of “Plebe Summer” to prepare him for the academic year, which begins Aug. 20.
The Wells family left for Annapolis June 25 and rented a home in Annapolis to spend a couple of days with their son.
The U.S. Naval Academy doesn’t take just anyone. Only nine percent of applicants are selected, which makes the 2018 Enterprise High School graduate unique.
Not only is he one of that nine percent, he is also one of only nine Oregon students accepted into the academy this year. Wells worked hard and jumped through a number of hoops to earn admission to the academy. He began the application process last fall.
A 3.95 GPA, helped. Brains, however, aren’t the only midshipman prerequisite.
“There were a lot of physical exams and tests,” said Wells’ mother Illene Wells. Also included were numerous interviews, including several with Oregon politicians: U.S. Rep. Greg Walden. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley.
Wells’ experience as a varsity basketball athlete, his participation in a number of clubs, including FFA and 4-H, along with copious amounts of community service and volunteer work with his church youth group impressed the academy.
The Navy also performed a thorough background check, including medical records, which noted Wells had been prescribed an inhaler for a severe cold suffered in elementary school. The family drove to Boise to see a specialist and do a stress test on his lungs, which he passed with flying colors, said his father, Larry Wells.
Their son’s choice of the academy initially shocked his parents. Originally intending to attend the University of Montana in pursuit of a wildlife biology degree, Wells experienced a change of heart.
“He had been on the path of wildlife biology since he was about 10,” said Illene Wells. “About a year ago, he suddenly felt the need to serve. It came out of the blue. My dad was in the Navy, and that’s as close as we have.”
“He was trying to decide between the wildlife biology and the Navy,” said Larry Wells. “But he wound up wanting to go into an engineering-type program, systems and robotics engineering.”
U.S. News and World Report ranked Navy’s undergraduate engineering program as one of the top five in the country.
Wells got the nod for academy admission in late April. Walden relayed the good news.
“He called Jimmy on his cellphone while he was still in school,” Illene Wells said.
After the Walden call, Wells didn’t slack up on his studies, and in fact, embarked on a physical conditioning regimen including weights, running and exercise to prepare himself for the academy. He didn’t neglect some of his favorite activities.
“He spent a lot of time fly-fishing and hiking,” said Larry Wells. “There’s not a lot of time for those pursuits at the academy.”
The Navy will only allow Wells three cell phone calls over his six-week training. He will not have access to television, music, the Internet or movies as he learns seamanship basics, navigation, damage control, sailing and handling yard patrol craft. Infantry drill and weapons training is also on the agenda.
Wells can again visit with his family after the training in August. They will return to Annapolis Aug. 9-12. Thanksgiving is the earliest date he can visit Wallowa County.
After his four-year Annapolis stint, Wells will serve five years on active duty as an officer.
“Post military, I’m sure he’ll have some great opportunities,” Larry Wells said.
Wells, athletic director for Enterprise Public Schools, added he’d like to see more of the county’s students consider service academies after graduation.
“Service academies like these kids that come from rural areas,” he said. “They’re typically more involved in sports, leadership and club activities. I know service academies are not for everyone, but I’d like to see more of our kids consider it.”
Illene Wells noted that her son’s hard work paid off with the academy admission.
“This is his accomplishment,” she said. He’s a good kid and a smart kid with good values who stayed out of trouble and did well in school. He really deserved this.”