WAYNE, NJ – Amanda Piszczatoski, a Wayne Valley High School graduate from the class of 2019 is the only Wayne resident accepted into a service academy this year.  Following in her father’s footsteps, Piszczatoski applied for only one service academy and was accepted. She will be leaving in early July to start her career as a US Coast Guard Officer.

US Representative Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) recently held a virtual reception to honor the 23 students from her district who were accepted into service academies. Piszczatoski was among this group.

“This year’s class of service academy appointees from our community is extraordinary,” said Representative Sherrill. “They already understand the importance of service and commitment to our country’s values. I know I speak on behalf of our entire community when I say we are proud of these students, and we wish them the best as they head to a bright future.”

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Wayne Mayor Chris Vergano said: “I’m very excited for Amanda and her family. It’s really a great honor for Wayne for what she has accomplished, and for what she will accomplish in the future.  We are all very proud of her.”

Piszczatoski had only one choice for her career pursuit after high school.  “It was in eighth grade when I started to look into the Coast Guard,” she said.

Her father, Daniel Piszczatoski served in the Coast Guard for 37 years, finishing in the reserves as a Chief Warrant Officer. “I really admired the values around the Coast Guard and how they're always trying to help people,” she said. “When I was searching for colleges in high school, I just couldn’t see myself doing anything else. I couldn’t see myself doing something mundane or sitting in an office. I knew that I needed to be out and actively helping people. I’ve always felt that need for service.”

This need for service took form during her thirteen years in the Girls Scouts.  “I remember this one service event where we were helping people with Autism play basketball and I remember liking the feeling of making them happy,” she said. “That has always stuck with me.” 

Her determination showed early in life as a little girl trying to emulate her older brother. “I looked up to my brother, Adam because he was always doing tough stuff and so I was always trying to show him what I could do and show my strength because I didn't like the idea of being limited.”

In eighth grade, Piszczatoski set her mind to one accomplishment: Going to the Coast Guard Academy, but she fell short after receiving a rejection letter at the end of her senior year. This did not stop the determined young woman. She applied for and was accepted into the SAP program at Marion Military Institute. SAP is the Service Academy Program which preps students to be accepted into one of the five service academies.

When an Academy rejects an applicant, but feels that the student is close, they will sponsor the student and pay for them to attend the SAP program at Marion.  This was not offered to Piszczatoski. Her parents, understanding that their daughter did not want anything else for her future, paid for her attendance.

“My parents have always been so supportive, telling me that ‘no one was better than me,’ and that ‘I can do anything I put my mind to,” she said. But Piszczatoski admitted she had some doubts. “I remember when I played basketball my Dad telling me that ‘no one was better than me,’ and I wasn’t very good at basketball,” she said laughing.

"All the professors at Marion were really helpful with the classes, because that was something I really struggled with in high school,” she said. “I was also able to meet some important and influential people, like Admiral Kelly who is the Admiral of the Coast Guard Academy.”

COVID-19 sent Piszczatoski and the rest of her class home from Marion early, just like every other college.  This worried the Wayne student because she wasn’t able to finish the SAP program.

Then she learned that her Marion roommate had received her acceptance call to the Naval Academy and Piszczatoski spent that day pacing her room, worrying and wondering if her call was going to come. 

The call came to her Mom’s cell phone. “I saw the call was from New London, Connecticut,” said her mother Lisha, who brought the phone to her daughter without answering it.  They made eye contact in silent excitement before Amanda Piszczatoski answered.

Mother and Father listened from the next room and only heard, their daughter answering questions matter-of-factly. “When she hung up, I was a little concerned, because Amanda didn’t seem excited like I would expect her to be,” said Lisha.

“Well…” she said to her daughter.

“I got in,” was all Amanda said before Mom and Dad were screaming and the young woman was swallowed up in a vise hug between her parents.

“I was just standing there, completely shaken up,” said Piszczatoski as her parents were jumping up and down while hugging her. “I was so surprised and happy, I was speechless.”

Their investment in their daughter’s future had paid off. Five years of dreaming about and wanting this moment had come. Amanda Piszczatoski, upon several recommendations, and with her grades and test scores higher than they had ever been, was officially accepted into the US Coast Guard Academy.

"I am so proud of her," said Lisha of her daughter. "She was so determined to go, and she made it happen. She absolutely amazes me." 

The new Coast Guard Cadet will report to the Academy on July 8 where she plans on majoring in Government. 

“I’m so grateful for my parents since they’ve never stopped believing the fact that I could do something even when I couldn’t see it myself,” she said. “They never give up on me and always made sure that I never quit and was dedicated to everything that I did.  It’s always so nice to have someone to back me up in whatever I was doing.  They always made sure I was involved in so many things and gave me confidence and, I think, that’s what made me who I’ve become. I’ve fallen in love with the world and I have my parents to thank for that.”

One last bit of good news for Amanda Piszczatoski.  Her brother, Adam, who is three years older is enlisting in the Coast Guard this summer.  There may come a time, down the road, when her older brother is saluting her and calling her Ma’am.