Class of 2020 honor graduate earns appointment to U.S. Naval Academy

December 2019 is certain to be a memorable one for recent Mount St. Mary graduate Cecelia Rech. While visiting her sister in London with family over Christmas break, this year’s fifth honor graduate finally learned the result from the months of preparation and hard work that went into applying to the U.S. Naval Academy. On December 23 – just two days before Christmas and four days after receiving a Letter of Assurance – Cecelia received her official nomination from Congressman French Hill, thus ensuring her appointment to the highly selective federal service academy in Annapolis, Md.


The U.S. Naval Academy is recognized as one of the most competitive educational institutions in the country, typically offering appointments to less than 10 percent of its more than 16,000 applications each year. Cecelia is the fifth Mount St. Mary graduate in eight years to receive an appointment. She joins Annie Quo ’19, Allison Polston ’16, Rachel Parker ’15 and Bridget Lee ’12 as the most recent Belles to attend the prestigious service academy.


CAPT Scott Pursley, Arkansas area coordinator for the U.S. Naval Academy, presented Cecelia with her official appointment certificate during a brief ceremony in the MSM McAuley Center on May 29. The small celebration, limited in size due to social gathering restrictions related to COVID-19, included administration, teachers, family members and fellow students. Cecelia is scheduled to report to the Naval Academy and officially become part of its Brigade of Midshipmen as a member of the Class of 2024 on June 30.


We reached out to Cecelia as she prepares for her departure to get her thoughts on this impending new chapter, as well as to have her reflect a bit on her time at Mount St. Mary.


What motivated your decision to apply to a federal service academy – and the U.S. Naval Academy, in particular?


Before mid-December of my sophomore year, I hadn’t considered a service academy for college. I knew about West Point, but had pretty much ruled out the military. I learned about the Naval Academy from a summer program information card I received in the mail, and then I decided to look into the other academies, too. Ultimately, I just had a feeling about the Naval Academy. When I visited, I knew it was where I was meant to go. I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself, and to become a better leader, and I feel there is no better place to do that than the Academy.


Had you applied to, and received acceptances from, any other academic institutions?


Yes, I also received acceptances from Georgia Institute of Technology, St. Louis University, Illinois Institute of Technology, University of Dayton, St. Edward’s University and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.


You’ve chosen to major in Cyber Operations with the ultimate goal of pursuing a career in Cryptologic Warfare. What initially sparked your interest in this field? How have you already been able to study/explore it?


My mom first got me interested in computer science when I was in fifth grade with drawing shapes in JavaScript. I’ve since been able to explore this interest through online coding programs, girls’ coding workshops and other engineering camps around the state. I initially planned on pursuing computer engineering. However, I decided to shift my focus slightly to cybersecurity, which will allow me to protect and create safer technology.


What part of your four years at “the Yard” are you most looking forward to?


I’m most looking forward to developing close friendships with my classmates; the people in your company are essentially your family while you’re there!


In what ways do you feel MSM has prepared you for this opportunity and your future?


MSM taught me how to work well under pressure, to not be afraid to ask for help from both my teachers and classmates, and to always aim high. When I told [MSM College Counselor] Mrs. Coffey I wanted to apply to the Naval Academy, she immediately helped me write essays for summer program applications, learn everything I could about it and plan out when I could start my application. Having her support and encouragement throughout this process was such a gift!


Is there one experience from your time at MSM that has been most meaningful to you?


Taking AP Physics with Fr. Fred my junior year was my most meaningful experience. It challenged me in a way that I had never before experienced in the classroom. Throughout the year, there were many times I wanted to give up because I wasn’t constantly successful. It was one of the first times I was unable to rely solely on natural academic ability and had to work to further my work ethic and study skills. This experience taught me that progress is just as, if not more, important than final success.


What advice do you have for younger students who are interested in pursuing an opportunity like this, but who may feel it’s unattainable?


My best advice would be to not be intimidated by the grandeur and challenge of it all. Yes, the Naval Academy is competitive, but only you know how amazing, intelligent and talented you are. Be confident when you talk to your admissions counselor, Blue and Gold Officer, and Congressional Nomination committee, and don’t be afraid to highlight all your well-earned achievements. Don’t let your accomplishments just be numbers and words on paper; really display all your hard work and effort.


Mount St. Mary Academy, sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, develops young women with a moral and intellectual foundation rooted in Catholic tradition. Mercy-minded and college-prepared, our students meet the future with wisdom, compassion and integrity.