Kenna Pierce Jr. (middle) is pictured with CHS NJROTC Capt. David Bryson (left) and CHS NJROTC Senior Chief Alonzo Myers (right).
Kenna Pierce Jr. (middle) is pictured with CHS NJROTC Capt. David Bryson (left) and CHS NJROTC Senior Chief Alonzo Myers (right).
Mr. Canton High School has been accepted to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and will begin with a 10-month stint at their Preparatory School in Rhode Island.

Kenna Pierce Jr., was running the clock and scoreboard at a Canton High School girl’s basketball game, one of his many activities, when he got the news he had been accepted into one of the nation’s prestigious service academies. He has spent three years in JROTC program at Canton High.

“I was in total shock,” he remembered. “I don’t think it really sank in until I got home and told my parents. I just thank God for this opportunity.”

Pierce, the son of Kenna and Sharmain Pierce, said that he was originally interested in a career in the military after hearing stories from his father and grandfather, Sherman Johnson, who were a boiler technician and an airman respectively.

“Hearing their stories and seeing how they lived their lives really captured my attention,” Pierce said. “It was a good entry into what the Navy had to offer. I always knew I wanted to be an officer in the Navy and as a young man from Canton, Mississippi, I knew the Academy would be the best road to take.”

Pierce has been nominated and appointed to the United States Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, Rhode Island. The preparatory school is a 10-month program that prepares Midshipman Candidates.

Pierce is the first candidate accepted since Capt. David Bryson took over the CHS JROTC in August. Bryson retired from 26 years in the Navy as a captain where he spent time mostly flying aircraft.

 “This is obviously the prime goal of JROTC and I hope it shows other students that this can be a path to a successful future,” Bryson said. “Kenna has worked so hard, this is his achievement and I think it really shows what we are about here in Canton.”

Since Bryson took over the number of cadets has ballooned to nearly 91 students. Dr. Pamela Self said she quickly identified the program as a "hidden gem” when she was hired two years ago and said she hopes Pierce’s story and success will inspire more interest.

“When I hired Capt. Bryson, I made sure we were on the same page that we wanted to show kids what they are capable of,” Self said. “We are so proud of Kenna and this monumental achievement. I think we have a motivated group coming up that are eyeing something similar and he has shown that it can be done.”

Pierce serves as Commanding Officer for the JROTC. In addition, he is captain of the cross country and track teams. He is a member of the school choir, honor society, and he serves in the student government.

He is an active member of Mary Grove Missionary Baptist Church. He “absolutely enjoys” hunting, fishing, running and swimming in his free time.

“I know the challenge ahead is going to be rigorous, but everything and everyone from my family to the school to the community have helped get me hear and that just fuels my fire,” Pierce said. “I know this will help me further develop into a man and a leader and I look forward to serving my country and one day being able to give it all back to my community.”

Every year, there are on average 16,000 students who apply to the Naval Academy out of which 1,200 students receive appointments. Only 250 of those are admitted to the Preparatory School.

Pierce will report to Newport, Rhode Island, in July.