Time after time, Rowan College of South Jersey (RCSJ) students display dogged determination when it comes to achieving their dreams. Anthony Cervini can now be added to the list. The freshman was recently accepted into the United States Naval Academy (USNA), after being turned down the first time he applied.
Cervini, a mechanical engineering student, will begin his military journey as a plebe at Induction Day on June 30. He is an official member of the USNA Class of 2026.
It was not smooth sailing for Cervini when he initially attempted to get into the 176-year-old institution. However, the NJ Stars student did not allow that disappointment to define him and eventually used the setback as a pathway for success.
“I was right out of high school thinking I was some hotshot saying, 'Yeah, I'm going to the Naval Academy,' but I didn't get in," Cervini admitted. “Of course, it was really discouraging. It was my dream for so long. But I didn't let that stop me."
The Vineland High School (VHS) graduate reflected on his rejection, looked at himself in the mirror and began to ponder what went wrong. “I had to ask myself, 'What kept me from not getting in?' 'What do I need to change?' 'What do I need to improve to make sure I get to go there?'" Cervini disclosed.
While searching for answers, he enrolled at RCSJ's Cumberland campus, and learned what he needed to do to succeed. “One of my biggest weaknesses during my last application cycle was my standardized test scores. That's something they value very highly at the Academy," Cervini noted. “I just studied all the concepts on those tests on my own months before I had to take them again, so that I was prepared."
The 18-year-old's preparation and determination led him to reach the goal he had been dreaming about for 10 years, while also teaching him a valuable lesson. “I showed up and took the test and came back with a great score," said Cervini. “It really taught me that if I'm willing to put that extra time aside to study and make those improvements, I'm going to get (positive) results."
Cervini, whose father was in the Army and whose sister is in the Navy, discussed other challenges it took to get into the Academy. “It's definitely not something that comes easy because there's 16,000 to 17,000 applicants every year from around the world," he explained. “My interview was a little over two hours long."
Cervini also mentioned enduring a Candidate Fitness Assessment that included pushups, a mile run, basketball throw and more. He also had to reach out to New Jersey Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker plus Congressman Jefferson Van Drew to receive a nomination to enter the Naval Academy.
The Congressman informed Cervini that he got accepted into the Academy, which left the student speechless. “I was actually on my way to class at RCSJ when I got the call from Van Drew," the midshipman revealed. “I had no words. The only thing I could say was 'Oh my gosh!' I was a mess. I called my mom, and my voice was shaking all over the place. It was probably the happiest moment of my life. It was something really special."
“I, along with my Service Academy Nomination Board, felt that Anthony showed great leadership qualities in and out of the classroom," said Van Drew, who serves South Jersey (NJ-02) in the U.S. House of Representatives. “I was also extremely impressed with Anthony's determination and his strong desire to serve his Country, as this was Anthony's second time applying to the Naval Academy and to my office for a nomination."
Van Drew also stated how happy he was for Cervini and wished him luck. “Anthony and others in the Naval Academy should be very proud of their accomplishments and it was my honor to have had the opportunity to recognize Anthony for his dedication to serving … America."
Although denied entry into the Naval Academy the first time around, according to Cervini, an unintended benefit that came from that initial denial was becoming an RCSJ student. While at VHS, he heard great things about the faculty, teachers, and the practicality of the lab courses at the College. He decided that coming to RCSJ, while waiting to hear about his second application to the Academy, “just made sense."
“Coming here has really been a privilege because I've met so many different people that I otherwise never would have," he said. “I mean, all the teachers that I've met, the connections I've made here, some of the friends I've made, it's just really invaluable because everybody offers a different perspective to your own life. It makes you a better person."
Cervini, who loves taking things apart and putting them back together, is grateful he was able to experience life at RCSJ and enjoyed his mechanical engineering classes. “I think the biggest thing about mechanical engineering is coming together as a team and designing a product to find a solution to whatever problem you're being tasked with. Then, you get to see your idea actually come [to fruition]. It's really satisfying, especially when you get to do it as a team."
“I really enjoyed my time here," he continued. “The impact that the people here made on me, that's what RCSJ really is — it's the people."
Cervini is an example of someone who got knocked down and got back up and has some advice for his peers who may experience similar situations. “You just have to look at what's in front of you and determine whether or not you have what it takes," Cervini conveyed. “Not just hoping for the best … you have to put the work in to get there."
For more information about engineering classes at Rowan College of South Jersey, visit RCSJ.edu.