Coudersport native Darren Keglovits

Coudersport native Darren Keglovits is home for Thanksgiving — and to share an important message with high school students in rural Pennsylvania.

Keglovits is a 2016 graduate of Coudersport High School and is a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. He’s taking part in a program called Operation Information at the academy, sharing word in his home community of what the academy has to offer.

“Our area is underrepresented at the academy,” Keglovits told The Era. This week, he’s spoken at schools in Potter County about the academy and what options it has for education and careers.

On Monday, he spoke at Northern Potter School District, and at Coudersport and Galeton on Tuesday.

“At Northern Potter, I spoke to hand-selected students,” he said, explaining students were chosen who teachers thought may be interested in such an opportunity. In Coudersport, he addressed the entire student body, talking about what he’s done and the steps he took to get in the academy. In Galeton, he spoke to 10th- and 11th-grade classes.

The students and staff had the opportunity to ask questions as well.

“One of the interesting questions was about the retention rate,” Keglovits said. “I do explain it is a very difficult school. Once you get in, they want to keep you there because they invest so much time and energy into you. For first-year students, there is a 97 percent retention rate, which is basically unheard of with other colleges.”

It is a lengthy and time-consuming process to get accepted, he explained.

“You have to get a nomination first,” the midshipman explained. He was interviewed by representatives of U.S. Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and by U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-State College.

“That’s their screening process of seeing if you are qualified for the academy,” Keglovits said. “If you can obtain that nomination, pass their physical standards and their mental stuff, if your GPA is high enough, you get the actual appointment from the academy.”

Keglovits started his own application process in the spring of his junior year of high school.

“Probably about spring time in your senior year is when you hear back,” he explained.

While students have asked Keglovits how to go about getting into the academy, teachers have asked questions about what he’s found to be the most rewarding.

“I would say a change in outlook. You definitely become more appreciative of where you come from, at least in my case. Once I got there I was really homesick,” he said. “I definitely appreciate my family a lot more. It’s difficult for me to be there, but it’s difficult for them. And (I’m thankful for) the support they give me while I’m away.”

He spoke about the reason why he selected the Naval Academy instead of a traditional college.

“You get this schooling and you become an officer, too,” he said. “It was the two-for-one deal that I really liked.”

He hadn’t planned on a military career, but his mother suggested he consider military academies when he was a sophomore in high school.

“You begin to realize it’s a much more difficult lifestyle. It’s not like regular college,” Keglovits said, adding that he has no regrets about the route he’s chosen. “You are pushed harder academically. You certainly have more restrictions because of the military aspect.

“I was drawn to the idea what it demands more from you than a typical college would. I was going after a more challenging experience,” he said.

Job security and no student loans were also big selling points for considering the academy, he said.

Upon graduation from the academy, a midshipman is a commissioned officer, and can go into the U.S. Marine Corps as a second lieutenant or the Navy as an ensign. It’s a minimum of five years of service and three years in the reserves, or a career in the military.

“I’m looking into the possibility of going into submarines,” Keglovits said. “I spent my summer on a submarine for about two weeks. But I still have two years to make that decision.”

He added, “In the end, if I can’t make up my mind, Big Navy will.”