EPOP: Exciting People of Pelham

Shulzhenko, Montiel, Driesen & Ploch Head Towards a Future of Military Service


Photo by Soren Bushong

(l to r): Seniors Andrew Shulzhenko, Ashley Montiel, Maddy Ploch, and Henry Driesen aim to include military service in their future.

For many Pelicans, going to a prestigious college is on the top of their priority list. However, some strive for a different path which provides its own unique benefits- the armed forces. Whether it be going to a military school or entering directly into the service, more and more students strive to serve their country post-graduation.

Throughout his lifetime, senior Andrew Shulzhenko, who will be attending Texas A&M University as a member of the Corps of Cadets, has been inspired by the military and its services. Coming from Ukrainian descent, Shulzhenko has been able to observe the severe political persecution to which Ukrainian people have been subjected. In fact, the situation in the Ukrainian territory of Crimea was one of the main inspirational forces behind Schulzhenko’s desire to join the military. Joining the military also gives servicemen and women certain perks that can help them get a step ahead in life. Besides benefits such as medical care, the military also helps strengthen the character of servicemen and women.

“I think serving is something that I will benefit from in a lot of ways, and the leadership and character development from service really can’t be matched by anything else, but the main focus is being able to do something for others,” Shulzhenko said.

Shulzhenko hopes to serve in the military throughout his professional career, and is grateful to have been a part of the Pelham community which has had a large impact on his life. He will carry with him the sense of togetherness that he’s experienced at PMHS and the lessons he has learned as he prepares for the next chapter of his military journey.

Senior Ashley Montiel was in a similar situation to many upperclassmen as she was indecisive about what to do post-graduation. Montiel wanted to pursue a path that would effectively prepare her for the future, but would simultaneously be cost efficient. That’s when Montiel stumbled across the path of military, and set her mind on that goal.

“… My sister graduated marine recruit training in 2012 and… I did a bunch of research on them, and said to myself , ‘I want to do that.’ Now, years later, here I am training with other kids who want to be Marines.”

Montiel plans  on taking a different direction in life after serving in the military for a few years, but is confident that her learned discipline and other behaviors in the military will carry on with her throughout her life, and other potential occupations.
“I would recommend the military as an option because it helps you financially, you grow as a person, you get to help people, you won’t get stuck with debt after college…and you’ll get a step up in life.”

Henry Driesen’s dad constantly jokes that his son made the decision to serve in the military when he was five. Thirteen years later, that young boy’s dream came true when he received an acceptance letter from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University’s (VT) Corps ROTC program.

“I’ve always been drawn to service, so [getting that letter of acceptance] felt great,” Driesen said. “I was an especially big fan of Virginia Tech because it balances civilian and military life.”

In addition to training, Driesen plans to spend his time at VT studying political science and possibly international relations. Whichever path he ends up choosing, he hopes to pair it with a history major. Driesen hopes to serve the country by getting involved in politics, specifically holding public office, but he first has to complete mandatory military service.

“If I do ROTC, it’s four years of minimum active duty. However, I’m planning on doing more than that. It’s always been something I’ve known that I wanted to do,” Driesen said.

While other PMHS seniors are lining up to take their diplomas on graduation day, Maddy Ploch will already be training at the United States Naval Academy, where she will spend the next four years serving the country.

“I’ve always felt that military service is one of the best ways that you can show your patriotism,” Ploch said. “I’m extremely loyal to my country so I want to give back in any way that I can. Military service definitely wasn’t the easiest route, but I felt that this way I would make the biggest difference.”

Ploch started her application process in eighth grade by reaching out to navy personnel and attending seminars. She has undergone mental and physical tests in order to determine her readiness for the demanding work, which starts this summer as she is participates in plebes’ summer and prepares to be mid-shipment, which will essentially make her a navy officer of the junior-most rank.

“For a certain amount of time you feel like your individuality is stripped, but at the same time you’re building your own community,” Ploch said.

As she adjusts to her new home away from home, Ploch will be studying cybersecurity and computer science. These double majors will ensure a plethora of career options after she completes the mandatory five years of service after graduation.

Ploch is excited to attend a program in which everyone has the same goals and drive that she does.