Lillian Roxas-Powers sits in her family’s living room with father, Paul Shankland, mother, Amanda Shankland and brother, Rodrick Roxas-Powers. Lillian, who will graduate from Coconino High School in June, has been accepted to attend the United States Naval Academy which her father Paul also attended.

Sibling rivalry in the Shankland household just got kicked up a notch.

Lillian Roxas-Powers, the daughter of Amanda Shankland and step-daughter of Paul Shankland, is headed to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., as a midshipman. Her brother Rodrick Roxas-Powers is already a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, NY.

“Army-Navy football games will never be the same,” said Paul Shankland, who is a graduate the Naval Academy and retired from the Navy. He works at the U. S. Naval Observatory in Flagstaff.

It doesn’t help that Lillian and Rodrick both played football as kids and in high school. Lillian has a varsity letter in boys football and was captain of the junior varsity team last year. She played football when she was younger with two of her older brothers. At Coconino High School, she played defensive end and linebacker at various times.

“It surprises a lot of people when you walk out on the field,” she said.

A small number of Flagstaff high school graduates go out of state to attend college, but very few make it to one of the U.S. military academies, which are notoriously difficult to get into. The academies are ranked in the top 10 most rigorous and selective schools in the nation.

The U.S. Naval Academy is one of the top 30 liberal arts colleges in the U.S., according to U.S. News and World Reports.

“Very few students get into an academy, it is a very difficult process. We may have one student a year that gets an appointment,” said Flagstaff High School counselor Katherine Pastor. This year, the Flagstaff Unified School District has two students:  Roxas-Powers and Karl Boerwinkle, who plans to attend the Air Force Academy.

About 12,000 to 20,000 people apply to the academy each year, about 3,000 qualify but only 1,400 are accepted, Roxas-Powers said. After four years, about 1,200 of those who enroll are left. Tuition at each academy is free and cadets are usually given a stipend to pay for clothing, books and other needs. The cadets are required to serve at least five years in the military after they graduate.

The Naval Academy is looking for a well-rounded individual, Paul Shankland said. A candidate has to have outstanding grades, a high score on the ACT and SAT, be physically and medically fit and show leadership through the clubs, after-school activities, sports and volunteer opportunities they participate in.

There are no particular limits on ACT/SAT scores or GPA to enter the academy. However, according to a 2014 U.S. Today article, about 56 percent of the midshipmen that made up the 2017 class at the Naval Academy came from the top 10 percent of their high school graduating class. The academy recommends being in the top 20 percent of your class. Roxas-Powers is in the top 10 percent of her class at Coconino High School.

According to the Naval Academy’s website, you have to be a U.S. citizen of good moral character, at least 17 years old but no older than 23, unmarried with no children or other dependents.

The academy also recommends but does not require that candidates have four years of math, at least one year of chemistry and physics, four years of English, two years of a foreign language, a year of U.S. history and computer courses. Roxas-Powers was part of Coconino High School’s Institute of Technology.

It also encourages interested students to attend its Summer Seminar after their junior year in high school. Roxas-Powers attended the Summer Seminar and the Summer STEM Program at the academy last year.

They must also pass a physical and medical exam and be interviewed by an academy official.

Roxas-Powers has played on the varsity football team for Coconino High School for several years, is involved in track and a number of after school clubs. She’s played football with the guys for at least 10 years, ever since she saw her older brothers play when she was 6 or 7 years old. On the girls track team, her specialties are the 100 and 200 meter dash, shot put and discus, high jump and long jump.

She was also a battalion commander for her Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at Coconino High School and won several medals for the school’s marksmanship team.

A candidate must then get a nomination to the academy from their U.S. representative, U.S. senator, the vice president or president of the United States. Each member of Congress and the vice president are allowed to nominate 10 candidates but can only have five cadets attending the academy at one time. The president can nominate as many as he wants but only 100 appointments from the president are available each year. You can also be nominated if you are the child of a deceased or disabled veteran, or a child of a parent who is missing in action, a child of a Medal of Honor recipient, an enlisted member or member of the reserves or a member of an honor military school or ROTC.

Seawater runs on both sides of Roxas-Power’s family, she has one grandfather who served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II and another grandfather who served in the U.S. Naval Construction Battalion, knowns as the Seebees for C.B., during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

However, Roaxs-Powers' direct connection to Shankland was not a factor in her application and acceptance. Because Shankland is her step-father, his experience in the Navy did not count toward her application.

“She got her appointment based on her grades and achievements,” Shankland said. “She and her brother (Rodrick) have always had the highest expectations for themselves. She’s one of those who walks the walk, but doesn’t really talk about it. It’s very cool to see a young person like her really go for something. She’s found where she enjoys doing her thing.”

Roxas-Powers got her nomination from U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick. She had to apply for the nomination to Kirkpatrick’s office and then interview in-person with the representative.

She received her letter of acceptance at the end of October, which is actually pretty early in the process, Paul Shankland said. According to the Academy’s website, most candidates are notified of their final status by April 15.

The Academy continues to expect the best out of its cadets after they’ve been accepted, he said. Cadets are expected to meet all physical requirements, attend physical training each day and carry 21 to 23 credit hours worth of classes.

“If anything, it’s gotten more rigorous and the academics more robust, since I graduated,” Paul Shankland said. He attended between 1979 and 1983.

Roxas-Powers is excited to get started at the Academy. She leaves for Annapolis at the end of June, less than three weeks after she graduates from Coconino High School. She’s not worried about packing her life into a small duffle bag and living clear across the country from her family.

She said she’s known for a while that she wanted to go into the military and get a college degree. The Naval Academy was the perfect fit, she can get a degree and serve her country too.

She plans to continue to aim high at the Academy. She hasn’t picked a major yet but is thinking about something in the engineering field. She wants to become a fighter pilot. She’s had a fascination with planes ever since she went up in a plane at a Young Eagles event at Flagstaff Airport as a kid. There are five pilots in her family, including her step-father. Her mother is the general manager of the Sedona Airport.

Roxas-Powers is currently working on her pilot’s license and hopes to have it in hand when she leaves for the Academy at the end of June. She tried the Civil Air Patrol, which is a volunteer civilian branch of the U.S. Air Force.

“It just wasn’t me,” she said. “This is my home. It (the Naval Academy) just felt right.”

“She’ll have an amazing education,” her mom, Amanda Shankland, said. “This has always been her choice and once she’s made her choice she doesn’t give up.”

The reporter can be reached at sadams@azdailysun.com or (928)556-2253.


Education/Business Reporter

Suzanne writes about education and business. She covers the local school district, charter schools and Northern Arizona University. She also writes the Sunday business features.

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