Soaring to success
Parents swear they didn’t put anything in the baby food, and it seems unlikely there’s a secret ingredient in the water.
But something in southern Nevada County has produced an unusual number of appointees to the United States Air Force Academy: Bear River High School, though relatively small and rural, has produced four in the past two years, and at least seven in the past 10 years.
A four-year appointment is worth $400,000.
“I’d like to say it’s unusual, but really, it’s kind of like they won the lottery,” said Lt. Col. Paul J Malenke, the academy’s liaison officer in Northern California.
Appointed this year after a lengthy and highly competitive process were graduating seniors Hannah Morehouse and Marie Paquin, and Hannah’s older brother, Kristopher Morehouse. He graduated in 2007 but, due to a “technicality,” Malenke said, did not get the appointment he sought. Kris has spent the past year at the University of California, San Diego, on a Navy ROTC scholarship, Malenke added.
In 2007, Kris’ buddy, Travis Lyon, did win the appointment. He followed in the footsteps of brother Rick Lyon (Placer High, 1998) and sister Kirsten Lyon (Bear River, 2001).
“It was weird,” said Rick Lyon. “The year after Kirsty, another girl who graduated in 2002 was appointed; her name was Scott and she played basketball for the academy.”
In all 40 young people from Northern California will enter the academy with the next class of 1,300 freshmen, culled from more than 50,000 who inquire about the academy and 9,100 who are allowed to apply.
Applicants must show academic and athletic excellence, community service and leadership, win a limited congressional nomination, then pass interviews with three-star generals, Malenke said.
In four years, about 950 students from the original class will graduate, with majors ranging from the humanities to the sciences, but all well-grounded in engineering and airmanship, Malenke said.
Even the English majors learn to fly, he added.
Interest in aviation
“Bear River has quite a community there,” Malenke said. “That school seems to put out a lot of well-rounded individuals with character.
Hannah, 17, said she cried when she received her acceptance letter.
“I was so happy,” Hannah said Wednesday. “I really wanted to contribute. There’s so much given to us, especially (in Nevada County), that I wanted to give back. I wanted to serve.”
Marie, 17, said she was elated when she received word of her acceptance in the mail last January.
“I was really excited,” Marie said. “It’s really hard to get in.”
Marie has been interested in aviation ever since she visited the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C., with her family when she was in seventh grade.
“I’d like to fly helicopters or go into engineering,” she said.
Lyon attributed his own offspring’s success to his wife, Lois Lyon, whom he described as focused and driven.
“It’s not something I would have put myself through,” Lyon added.
One answer to the school’s numerous appointees – not counting those appointed to the military and naval academies – could lie in the demographic, Malenke suggested. Nevada County has a proportion of political conservatives.
Barbara Ross, who oversees scholarships applications at the Nevada Joint Union High School District, agreed this many acceptances in one year is “highly unusual.”
“These are just great students,” Ross said.
“It’s amazing to see there are kids out there who want to answer the call of something higher than themselves,” Malenke said.
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