FREDERICK — Next year, Grace Lahrs will either be a plebe on the East Coast or a freshman cadet closer to home, but in either case she’ll be on her way to serving her country.
With nominations from two members of Congress, Lahrs, 17, has her sights set on two military service academies: The U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs or the U. S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.
The interviews for the schools are over, but the acceptance letters have yet to go out, so Lahrs has a simple response for … ahem, media inquiries about her preference.
“I’d be happy to go to any academy,” Lahrs said.
A follow-up question about geographical preference meets another polite elision from the FHS senior.
“I don’t know yet if staying in Colorado will be a factor in my decision or not,” Lahrs said. “Either one would be an exciting opportunity.”
And she’s right. Securing nominations at the nation’s service academies is a competitive process; each member of Congress can submit 10 names to each service academy each year.
Before any student is accepted at a service academy, they compete against highly-motivated peers within their congressional district for the distinction of a nomination.
And Lahrs received the nomination of both her representative, Jared Polis, and her senator, Mark Udall, who judges applicants from across the state.
“One of my favorite opportunities is to nominate highly qualified, bright young people to attend our military service academies,” Udall said in announcing this year’s nominees. “Throughout American history, these academies have produced some of our finest military and civilian leaders. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I take very seriously the responsibility of nominating the most highly qualified applicants. Every year I am reminded that Colorado’s human resources are every bit as impressive as our natural resources.”
As one could imagine, attracting the attention of a busy senator requires an impressive resume, and Lahrs doesn’t disappoint.
Her 4.1 grade point average at Frederick High School is a sign of the times: the days are over when a 4.0 GPA marks true north for academic achievement. High school students now use advanced placement courses and International Baccalaureate courses to climb ever higher in the race for college.
And Lahrs is no exception; she’s taking four AP courses this year while participating in tennis, debate and cross country.
“And working at Dairy Queen,” her dad, Matt Lahrs said with a hint of disbelief as he lists her activities out loud. “Wow, she’s busy.”
Matt and Lisa Lahrs beam about the nominations.
“It was stunning to us — just an amazing accomplishment,” Matt said. “I was surprised she wanted to go into the military.”
Her decision was a surprise, but there is a history of service in her family. Grace’s grandfather served in the 1st Marine Division at Okinawa, and Grace’s cousin, a marine, received three purple hearts for his service at Falluja.
Grace’s parents had a simple vision for her: a bright future for a bright child.
“We weren’t sure where she would go as she grew up; for years she wanted to be a doctor and other things,” Matt said. “I think she has determined this really is the direction she wants to go. She wants to be an aerospace engineer.”
He waits a beat before offering a great idea for a bumper sticker aimed at the proud parent market.
“It’s not every day you expect your child to grow up to be a rocket scientist — but our daughter’s on her way.”
Contact Ben Wiebesiek at 303-659-2522, ext. 205, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.