Churm appointed to the Naval and Air Force Academies


Joe Churm has grown accustomed to life on the move.

He was born in New Hampshire and moved with his family to New Mexico as a fifth-grader.

At the beginning of his eighth-grade year, the family relocated to the Mahomet-Seymour School District.

During Winter Break, his father’s job promotion prompted a move to Midland, Mich.

A new home, however, didn’t mean a new school for the senior. Churm had enough credits to graduate from high school early and is now taking a calculus class at Delta Community College.

While in Mahomet, Churm wasn’t one to stand still. He was an active member of the cross-country teams which captured back-to-back Class 2A State Championships.

“I couldn’t have thought of a better way to end my senior year,” he said.

Last week, he had another reason to celebrate.

Churm received a telephone call from an aide for 15th District Republican Congressman John Shimkus informing him of an appointment to the Naval and Air Force Academies.

“I was overwhelmed, Churm said. “I didn’t expect to hear this early. Most people don’t hear until April.”

Churm had applied to both the Naval Academy, in Annapolis,  Md., and the Air Force Academy, in Colorado Springs, Colo.

He has already been accepted at Annapolis — his first choice — and is waiting on word from the Air Force so he has “all the options on the table,” before he confirms his intentions.

As he awaited word, Churm tried to temper his expectations and hopes.

“I tried to be optimistic, but also realistic,” he said. “It’s a very lengthy process and there are so many components.

“It’s definitely the culmination of a lot of work on my behalf and others’ behalf.”

Unlike many teenagers who are unsure of their future path as they prepare for college, Churm’s journey is clearly defined.

Though he is level-headed, he hopes to be less grounded in the future.

“Hopefully I will graduate with a degree in aerospace engineering and become an aerospace engineer or a pilot,” Churm said, “and apply for the astronaut path.

“I’ve ways been a fan of space travel, rockets and planes in general.”

He had a desire to join the Navy, he said, “after watching the movie ‘Top Gun.’ “

His thinking was swayed by more than the actors.

“I have been in Boy Scouts since first grade and that was also one of the things that influenced my wanting to join the military due to their similarities (uniforms, ranks, structure), Churm said,

Last April, he became an Eagle Scout after labeling a 3-mile trail in Buffalo Trace Prairie.

Churm was among 19 students nominated by Shimkus for an appointment to a
service academy. He is the only one from a Champaign County high school.

In anticipation of his next move, Churm has already started his preparations.

“You are required to do a sport or activity (at a service academy),” Churm said. “I have to stay fit and I’m going to keep running.

“Running is a great option.”

Churm has an idea of what to expect from life at the academy.

The summer after his junior year, he spent a week at the Naval Academy “to see first-hand how life at an academy would work.”

In a press release, West Point graduate Shimkus said: “The academies look at academics, leadership and physical fitness in order to assure a young person is well-rounded and able to cope with the unique challenges of attending a military school.”

If he winds up at the Naval Academy, Churm plans to try out for the cross-country team or be involved with the club marathon or triathlon teams.

Each graduate from a service academy faces an additional five-year commitment as an officer.

Though he is not from a military family, Churm said, “I’ll do whatever the military needs me to do.”

After that, he hopes his future plans are up in the air.

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