WILMINGTON, N.C. — High school graduation can be viewed as the end of a journey, but it is also the path to a new one.
Makayla G. Cessna, a 17-year old South Brunswick High School graduate in Southport, North Carolina, completed school early to join the Marine Corps.
Cessna, a Southport, North Carolina, native, grew up doing competitive dance where she learned discipline, teamwork and physical fitness – all skills she believes will translate to the Marine Corps.
Cessna’s dream was always to become an air traffic controller. This dream was reinforced when she toured the Wilmington International Airport air traffic control tower.
“They told me there, that they’re looking for air traffic controllers to have their pilot’s license so it’s easier for them to communicate with pilots in the air,” said Cessna.
She looked into getting her license at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, but with a cost of over $16,000 per semester, it seemed out of reach. It wasn’t long before she started looking at other options.
Cessna says she first started talking with her recruiter, Sgt. Christopher Rocha, a recruiter for Marine Corps Recruiting Sub-Station Wilmington, during her junior year.
“She would come around during her junior year and ask one or two questions about the Marine Corps,” said Rocha. “Over time, I just got to know her and figured out that she was more serious about joining.”
Cessna is known among friends and teachers for her great academic record and her focus in school. Michele Dixon, a counselor with South Brunswick High School says that Cessna was very concerned about her grades and how they would affect her future.
“I was a little shocked when she said she wanted to join the Marine Corps,” said Dixon. “We don’t see too many females who are so driven and so focused on joining the military. I know when she sets a goal for herself, she’s going to achieve it.”
Cessna took her oath of enlistment on May 22, 2015, and began working on graduating high school early so she could attend recruit training in March.
“I wanted to graduate early so that I could finish my last semester of high school in boot camp,” said Cessna.
Cessna not only graduated early in January 2016, but she also received her pilot’s license the following Feb. 6. She says the course was difficult and she wasn’t sure she would complete it.
“I didn’t study like I should have, and I never thought I would have gotten my pilots license,” said Cessna. “I think joining the Marine Corps will help me be more disciplined with things like that.”
Cessna will ship to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, on March 8. She is currently working on her physical fitness and trying to be prepared as possible.
“So far, I really enjoy the Marine Corps,” said Cessna. “It’s been really awesome, I like the people I’ve met and my recruiters are pretty cool.”