CHRISTIANSBURG (WSLS 10) - Leadership, physical fitness and academics came together to make 17-year-old Sarah St. Jean's dream come true.
"I was through the roof," she said. "I just wanted one. I just wanted one that I could have and know that I had that privilege and opportunity to serve my country."
Wanting an appointment to just one of the nation's military service academies, she accomplished a rare feat.
"I got the call for West Point in January," Sarah recalled.
The call from the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y, came first.
"On the same day I got accepted into Air Force and Navy," said Sarah.
Then came the call from the United States Air Force Academy, in Colorado Springs, Colo., then the United States Naval Academy, in Annapolis, Md., and finally, the United Sates Coast Guard Academy, in New London, Conn.
She chose not to apply to the fifth military academy, the United States Merchant Marine Academy, which is in Kings Point, N.Y.
"I just sat on the floor and cried," St. Jean recalled.
It was an emotional release after more than a year-long process far exceeding the demands of a typical college application with its essays and teacher recommendations.
"But then you also have to do an interview and you also have to do a physical fitness test which is push ups, sit ups. You run a mile and then you have to do a basketball throw where you are on your knees and you throw a basketball as far as you can," she explained.
It's a drive she shares as a leader with the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps in Roanoke.
Sarah vividly remembers her first day as a recruit and what she thought leadership was at the time.
"I thought leaders just kinda stood up there and barked orders. It's not that at all. You're out there and you're taking care of your people and making sure you're partnered up when you have a new kid with another kid. It's absolutely great."
It is an intense training program designed to introduce kids to the Navy.
Its goals include helping participants develop an interest in seamanship and seagoing skills, instill strong moral principles, and expose cadets to the prestige of public service and career paths.
She loves working with the kids where she sets an example for both physical and academic achievements.
"99th percentile test scores for the ACT," she answered when asked. "I have a 4.0 GPA"
And then there's this.
Home-schooled since 8th grade, Sarah is taking college courses at New River Community College, where she's been a student since she was 14.
"I'll graduate with 47 credit hours of all math and science classes."
From linear algebra to calculus-based physics, She had no trouble securing the required congressional nomination for three of the academies. Republican Congressman Morgan Griffith nominated her for three while Democratic Senator Tim Kaine gave her the nod for the Naval Academy.
"Even if you make it through everything you still have to sit and wait until they say yes."
But Sarah said she waited long before now.
"I've grown up, like most kids my age, with the War on Terror."
Growing up post-September 11th and witness to the Boston Marathon bombing, she said she knew she wanted to make a difference.
"Just seeing that and seeing the pointless, senseless killings and knowing that I can do something to help that and I can serve. I can give people freedoms that we honestly take for granted every day. That is absolutely amazing," she explained.
A perspective beyond her years and a love of learning and of country, but not surprising to anyone who knows her.
Sarah said she has until May 1 to make a decision but is leaning toward West Point or Annapolis.
She was accepted to Virginia Tech and Texas A&M in the event she needs a back-up.
"If I somehow got hurt and was medically disqualified, then I would have to go to a civilian University. You always have to have a plan B through Z," she smiled.
Sarah said her goal is to be career military but could work in public service or possibly run for election. After earning an engineering degree, she may choose to work with defense contractors.
Much like having plan B and beyond, she's giving herself options for the future.
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