There is an old saying that says, “Without hard work, nothing grows but weeds.” Based on that, with all the work Valpo native Rainer Neis has put into achieving his goals the past four years at Valparaiso High School, Neis would have a whole garden at this point. Heading into his freshman year at Purdue University with a full ride scholarship and an Eagle Scout award, there is no wonder Rainer Neis deserves to be this week’s Life In The Spotlight!
Growing up here in Valparaiso, Neis has always had a passion for giving 110% of himself regardless of what he was involved in. Between being an avid Boy Scout member and ten year competitive swimmer, those activities alone always kept Neis on the go. When he came into the high school, his list of activities and commitments kept on growing! He spent two years balancing a cross country and swim season, then decided to focus on swimming alone where he found tremendous success his junior and senior years, and was then named a National Honor Society leader and board member his senior year, all while honoring his long time commitment to Boy Scouts as well!
Even with phenomenal grades through his time at VHS, a successful swim career, and of course an avid social life, Neis began finding passion elsewhere- the Air Force.
“I’ve always been interested in flight,” Neis explained. “I’ve always known I wanted to do something with flight, so aerospace engineering seemed like a perfect fit to study. But I started looking at my future, and I didn’t want to spend my life sitting at a desk job. I wanted to do something that could really make a difference, and I began finding so many opportunities for that with the Air Force.”
After making the decision to want to enroll in the ROTC program at Purdue, Neis began the application process for a scholarship called the Commander’s Leadership Scholarship. Given only to ONE student per ROTC program in each college in the nation that offers ROTC, this scholarship differs in its rather subjective approach, as opposed to the other two Air Force scholarships that are more objectively given. Not only did Neis have to have the proper credentials (i.e. grades, leadership positions, etc.), he had to demonstrate his excellent people skills after being granted an interview with a colonel out of South Bend. Neis also made an effort to introduce himself to the head ROTC colonel down at Purdue, who upon speaking to Neis’s interviewer knew Neis was the perfect choice for this highly prestigious award. Now, Neis’s four years at Purdue will be entirely paid for through the scholarship, and he will attend basic training between his sophomore and junior year. After graduating, he will be committed to five years of active service followed by four years of reserve.
“I’m really excited about all the different possibilities aerospace engineering could hold for me,” Neis enthused. “I could end up in navigation, in flight school, there are so many opportunities.”
Besides earning himself an astounding scholarship during his last year of high school, Neis was also busy his junior year doing amazing things for our community while he earned his Eagle Scout award. Being incredibly difficult to attain, the Eagle Scout Award requires all portions to be completed before the person turns 18, at which point the final review process begins. Neis, ever ahead of the game, completed his necessary projects his junior year, giving him plenty of time to relax during the final review phase. He earned his necessary 21 specific merit badges, ranging from first aid, to lifeguarding, to citizenship, which then culminated to his final project, designed to show both leadership and planning.
Neis was able to link up with Opportunity Enterprises where he designed a project to provide them with the wheelchair accessible picnic tables and art easels they needed. He put together an entire team of volunteers himself, and constructed four tables and four easels for the organization.
“What a lot of people don’t realize is how much your community gives back to you,” Neis reflected. “In order for that circle to keep going for the benefit of everybody, you have to continue giving back as well.”
Now that Neis has time to look forward into the next phase of his life, he’s incredibly excited to pursue some rather new passions. He recently went skydiving for the first time, and plans on joining the Purdue Sport Parachute Club next year! He also looks forward to spending time outdoors doing activities like hiking and kayaking that he’s always had a love for. He may even join the fencing team or crew team! He certainly doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.
Rainer Neis has served as a role model in our community for several years now, and is a perfect example of the amazing benefits that hard work and a dedication to service may bring to you. Thanks for all you do, Rainer!