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FARMINGTON – Two Piedra Vista High School seniors have received nominations from state politicians to attend U.S. service academies.

Calista Weiss was nominated by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, to the U.S. Air Force Academy and by U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-Santa Fe, to the U.S. Naval Academy. Luján also nominated Belle Toney to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. If accepted, the two girls will be in the class of 2020 for their respective service academies.

The service academies include the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. The U.S. Coast Guard Academy does not require a congressional nomination.

To be accepted into a military academy, students must receive a nomination from a member of Congress or the vice president or president of the United States. The nomination does not guarantee students a place at the academy. Each member of congress can nominate up to 10 people to each of the four military academies. However, each academy can only accept five students from each politician.

"The United States service academies provide a top-notch education and unparalleled opportunities for students to succeed in military and civilian life, and it's my privilege to nominate outstanding New Mexico students to the academies each year," Udall stated in a press release.

Lt. Col. David Naber, the Piedra Vista Junior ROTC instructor, said the amount of determination that the students have displayed is what helped the school have two nominees this year.

"We have some very determined students," Naber said.

Naber encouraged Weiss to apply to service academies because of her good grades. She said she had the highest GPA of any student in the Junior ROTC last year.

Weiss said she was surprised to get nominated for both the Air Force Academy and the Naval Academy.

"I expected only to be nominated for one," she said.

At the moment, Weiss does not prefer one academy over the other.

"I would be fine with an acceptance to either," she said.

She said she was surprised when she found out another Piedra Vista High School student had been nominated, but she was not surprised when she learned the other student was her friend, Toney.

Toney said she was happy when she heard that her classmate also had been nominated.

"She's getting what she wants, as well," she said.

Toney said her father encouraged her to go to a military academy.

"He just wanted the best for his kids," she said.

Luján announced his intent to nominate Toney while presenting medals to local Air Force veteran Emerson Lee in November.

"I was speechless," Toney recalled.

In addition to nominating both Piedra Vista students to the service academies, Luján also nominated Luke Byrom, a Farmington High School graduate who is currently attending New Mexico Tech in Socorro. Byrom has been nominated to the U.S. Air Force Academy, where his younger sister, Lydia Byrom, was accepted last year.

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, has not yet released a list of his nominees.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

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