John Stanley studied for the ACT in a karaoke room with classmate Jillian Vogel across the street from his house.
If he wasn’t there, he could often be found in Chanute High School’s library, focused on studying math and English.
Working collaboratively with a steadfast friend in Vogel – CHS’ salutatorian and future Harvard student – and also working diligently on his own led to a brilliant end to Stanley’s high school academic career. The Chanute native scored a perfect score of 36 on his ACT, earned a 4.0 GPA, is a Governor’s Scholar (top 1 percent of Kansas students) and a National Speech and Debate Association Academic All-American, is the class valedictorian, and will be attending the United States Air Force Academy this summer. Stanley received appointments from not only the Air Force, but also from West Point and the Merchant Marine Academy.
Stanley was able to accomplish the dream of going to the military institution, which has been a goal in his family for a very long time.
“I wanted to do what my dad wanted to do when he was in high school, but unfortunately, his eyes were just below the limit,” he said, “so this is really cool, I think, for me and my parents.”
Stanley’s parents, Dustin and Angie Stanley, watched their son manage numerous activities from the start of the school year. The academic All-American worked on the family farm, Little d Cattle Company, played soccer for the first time and had a lead role in the school musical “Fiddler on the Roof” in the fall semester.
After feeding about 100 cows, kicking around the soccer ball at the Chanute Community Sports Complex, studying, and focusing on the school musical, Stanley, 18, dedicated his time to losing weight – a goal he set in his junior year.
In May of last year, Stanley weighed 220 pounds. When he decided that he wanted to join the Air Force Academy, he made it a priority to lose dozens of pounds in an effort to maintain the inevitable physical and mental military workload.
“That was probably my biggest project and my biggest challenge. I never appreciated doing physical things and doing physical work as much as everyone else,” Stanley said. “I never appreciated athletics as much as I should have. And that’s probably my biggest project was overcoming that and changing that. And it’s worked great.”
He was committed. In the summer of 2019, he woke up at 7 am and ran with the CHS cross country team at the Chanute Recreation Center. When it came time to eat, Stanley chose a ketogenic diet, which forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates, and ultimately turn fat into energy for metabolism.
As a result of working out and his newfound diet, Stanley now weighs 179 pounds.
Still, his main goal was always to keep his head in the books. And a good mix of his parents’ influence and an intrinsic motivation were the factors that pushed Stanley over the top.
“My parents from a very young age, they were always reading to me, trying to teach me to read well,” Stanley said. “It’s kind of an internal motivation for me. So parents, they cared ... They don’t look at my, or any of my brothers’ grade reports or anything. They don’t really have to tell us to do our homework. We kind of just do that naturally. And I don’t know why that is. It’s just kind of how it is. It worked for us. I don’t know if it necessarily works for everyone. But my parents, I think they cared, but it’s not to the point that it’s not a choice that my brothers and I make.”
Stanley chose to concentrate on academics at a very early age. In seventh grade at Royster Middle School, he was dubbed the “most voracious reader.” He earned that title thanks to reading books that were worth 70 points each, and the end result was Stanley accumulating over 1,000 points in books read.
A few years later in ninth grade at CHS, Stanley earned English Student of the Year, was the Drama and Calculus Student of the Year last year as a junior, and was the Student of the Month this past March.
“We are, of course, super proud of John,” his mother Angie said. “It has been such a blessing to watch him grow and mature into the amazing young man he has become over the past several years. We believe God has special plans for his life and are thankful for this opportunity he has been given.”
Now it’s time for Stanley to take advantage of the Air Force Academy opportunity, even in times of uncertainty, as the military doesn’t stop because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Stanley will journey to Colorado Springs on June 25.
“Basically I am just getting physically prepared. You always have to be getting more and more prepared for it because basic cadet training will hit you like a truck; no matter how prepared you get, they’re going to knock you down, so you kind of need to build yourself as high as possible for that,” Stanley added. “Even though there is a pandemic going on, military doesn’t stop. It doesn’t stop. You have Marines still going to Florida. You have Navy recruits going up to Michigan. The military academy doesn’t stop.
“We’ll put on the masks. A lot of the academies are sending people home, but they said they have every intention of making my day a reality.”