Ready to Serve

Three NCSS Grads are Ready to Serve
Posted on 05/29/2020
Three seniors with Rep. Hank JohnsonThey’ve been friends since middle school and now as they embark on life after high school, these three high school seniors are ready to serve their nation as officers in the United States military. Corinne Hanson, Israel Dixon, and Kijana Knights have each been nominated to and accepted to attend one of America’s prestigious military academies.

After graduation, Eastside High School and NCCA Stem Institute senior Hanson will leave for the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado while Dixon, a senior at the Academy of Liberal Arts at Newton High School and Knights, a senior at Newton High School and the NCCA Stem Institute will each head to the United States Military Academy at West Point in New York. While each is ready to serve their country their paths to get to their decision to apply for acceptance into a military academy were vastly different.

For Kijana Knights, attending West Point has been a dream since middle school.

“Since sixth grade I kind of knew I wanted to go to West Point or at least be in the military, but I had to explain it to my parents because they saw me being an engineer or a doctor.”

According to Knights, it was ultimately a family tragedy that made him determined to pursue his dream.

“It was the death of my cousin in seventh grade that really showed me that life is too short not to pursue what you want to do. That was kind of the catalyst for me to do that and every year since then has been just step by step trying to get to West Point.”

Knights continually focused on his academics and worked to build and enhance his leadership skills, too. In high school, he applied for admission into the NCCA Stem Institute and opted for rigorous Advanced Placement coursework throughout his high school career. He is a member of the National Honor Society and the Beta Club as well as the Student Council for the STEM Institute and the Associate Board of Directors for the Career Academy. Knights has served as an officer in the Newton High School JROTC program all four years and is proud of his role as captain of both the school’s track and cross country teams. Despite a challenging academic curriculum and a full load of sports and extra-curricular activities, Knights excelled and was named Newton High School’s 2020 STAR Student for having the highest SAT score in one sitting at the school.

His accomplishments most definitely were noticed on the national level as both U.S. Representative Hank Johnson and U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson nominated him to attend service academies. Rep. Johnson nominated him to attend West Point and Sen. Isakson nominated Knights to attend both West Point and the United States Naval Academy.

He followed that original dream from sixth-grade and chose West Point noting that he believes West Point is all about people.

“I’ve visited West Point three times and they’ve always been people-centered,” Knights explained. “They’ve showed that they care about me and they’ve showed that they want me there and that they genuinely care about my wellbeing.”

While Knights was resolute on following his dream of attending West Point all the way back in middle school, for Dixon, what to do after high school was not quite so clear. College was definitely in the plans but he hadn’t zeroed in on where. That is until he attended a college fair and representatives from West Point were in attendance.

“It was the middle of my junior year and West Point was there so I stopped by and thought this one is pretty cool,” said Dixon. “I got some more information and went home and looked it up on the internet. After doing my research I fell in love with the school and ever since then I’ve made it my mission to try to get into West Point.”

Knowing that a strong high school resume is necessary to obtain a nomination to a U.S. military academy, Dixon said he prepared for West Point by “taking the most rigorous classes I could, by taking science and math heavy classes like AP Chemistry and AP Biology.”

“Not only that,” he added, “I also tried to become a leader on the baseball team. I’m on the team and being that leader and stepping up ever since my junior year—I was the only one my junior year who had varsity experience—having that adversity of trying to teach new kids how it is with varsity has prepared me to be a better leader.”

While he and Knights both have worked on the athletic requirements of attending a military academy by attending the gym together, Dixon said it’s more about the leadership and academics.

“I study early and often and take the most rigorous classes I can to challenge myself,” he explained. “I think that’s what West Point wants to see is students that challenge themselves and push themselves so that they can be great.”

Dixon has excelled in academics and was recently named Newton High School’s 2020 valedictorian. In addition to serving as captain of the baseball team, Dixon is vice president of the National Honor Society and is also a member of the Beta Club. He also serves as a Newton High School RAMbassador and has volunteered the past five years for Newton County’s Feed the Hungry program at Thanksgiving.

Like Dixon, Corinne Hanson had no plans on attending a military academy. In fact, the thought never even crossed her mind until one of her friends from all the way back in middle school—Kijana Knights—spoke to her about his dreams of attending West Point.

“He was talking to me about it last year and I loved what he had to say,” said Hanson. “I had no idea what West Point was—no idea about the service academies. They are all a great opportunity to serve our country and you can get your degree and education too. I was just amazed at the opportunities that were presented. It sounded like an amazing school that would lead to excellent opportunities and a promising and rewarding career. As a result, I changed my mind about my life plans at the end of my junior year, which is probably not the best course of action,” she laughed.

Hanson, who is also a dual enrollment student at Georgia State, added that serving in the Air Force is also right in line with her life values of putting others before self and the importance of volunteerism.

“I have really always had a passion for serving other people and volunteering—I have an extensive volunteering history. I really do just love helping people and I love to put other people before myself. And I also have several family members who have served and I kind of felt that calling to kind of follow in their footsteps, but also make it my own journey.”

While both boys chose West Point, Hanson found the values of the Air Force Academy a much better fit for her. With that goal in mind, she prepared by taking Advanced Placement classes along with her courses at Georgia State University. As a result of her college courses, Hanson will be extremely close to obtaining her associates degree upon graduation from high school.

Although she initially thought about just serving the required amount of time in the Air Force upon graduating from the Academy, Hanson said she’s now thinking about making a career out of it.

“I’ve always wanted the traditional life—having a family—but when you really look at it, the Air Force doesn’t have to keep you from doing that. Plus, it’s a rewarding career and you even have the opportunity to travel the world!”

She noted, “I’ve been to some of our surrounding states and to Washington, D.C., but I’ve never been out of the country so I would love to see what the world has to offer!”

Very soon, each of these three remarkable students will see what the world does indeed have to offer as they prepare to become officers in the United States military.