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While recently-minted alumnus Gaven Cantwell is excited to see the world, he considers Momence home and, wherever he may wander, plans to return to the area. A 2023 graduate, he says he plans to join the military. While he hasn’t selected a specific branch of service or military occupation yet, he anticipates following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a second generation of his family to enlist in the Navy.

By Barry Engelhardt

Gaven shares that it’s not just his love of travel but also his father’s countless stories that have him leaning strongly toward joining the Navy. Pragmatic in nature, he also adds that some of the jobs, such as construction electrician, seem like an excellent opportunity to receive military training that will translate into the real world.

He plans on enlisting for four years and wants to evaluate his options based on how he takes to military life. While he may choose to extend his military career, he admits that he may not like it. He smiles and adds that his plan assumes he decides to pursue electrical work in the military. If not, he’ll finish his initial contract and hopes to use the skills he gains to transition into an electrical union.


Gaven is no stranger to pivoting. He has been riding motocross for several years. While he wasn’t racing, he was riding a motorcycle in the pits of a motocross race in Florida when he collided with a golf cart and broke his femur. While recovery took half a year, Gaven remained positive throughout.


“I couldn’t walk and was stuck at home for a long time,” shares Gaven. He adds, “I never stopped or tried to slack off. I still did my work. I did the stuff I was interested in to prepare for my future. I didn’t stop and say, oh, I’m injured; I won’t do anything. I kept trying to drive forward.”


Besides motocross, Gaven played basketball and enjoys fishing. He shares that as his high school career is winding down, the school’s bass fishing season is just starting. One of the aspects of living in Momence that he appreciates most is the closeness to the water, sharing that he picked up fishing in junior high, and it’s stuck with him ever since.


His favorite place to fish is the Kankakee River or Island Park. With both grandparents living on the river, there’s always an opportunity to try new spots as he fishes for large and smallmouth bass, channel catfish, and pike.


While Gaven is excited to travel the world and enjoys vacationing, he shares that Momence is home. It’s where his family is and where he hopes to return when he’s ready to settle down and plant roots. He hopes to one day establish a business, using his military and union experience to pursue an entrepreneurial spirit and start what he describes as his own thing.


As he reflects upon his life on the eve of his high school graduation, Gaven shares that if he could go back and change anything, he’d consider making some smarter decisions, adding that not getting hit by a golf cart comes to mind. But he pauses, grins, and adds, “I’m happy with how I’m turning out. I feel confident in myself. I like what I’m doing.”


He adds that ultimately, “I will probably stay close. I don’t see myself living too far away. I don’t think I’ll leave for good. My family is here. You know everyone, and they know you. This is an area where we’re all connected.”

I’m happy with how I’m turning out. I feel confident in myself. I like what I’m doing.

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