NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The entire Drury High School student body rose on Friday morning to give one of their own — Holly Boudreau — a standing ovation to celebrate her induction into the U.S. Air Force Academy.
"I just want to say a very big thank you to everyone who helped me get here today, specifically my parents," said Boudreau, tearing up at the end of the ceremony that included a presentation by U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, who nominated her to the service academy.
Boudreau, the daughter of Donald and Laurie Boudreau, is one of only 1,000 cadets accepted out of more than 12,000 applications each year.
"It is a remarkable thing in this day and age for anyone to choose a life, and a path, and a commitment to service," said Mayor Thomas Bernard. "Molly, you've done that through this process ...
"It's not just a commitment to service but you've matched that with hard work, you have been diligent, you have been dedicated in your pursuit of your dream of attending the Air Force Academy. And you did that, you know, on your own and you did that with the support of your parents and your family, your classmates, and your friends, but you stand up here today to celebrate this achievement and to let us all know that your future is bright and you're setting out a path that will lead you to success. And we are all so proud of you. Holly, Thank you."
The ceremony also included state Rep. John Barrett III, remarks by Superintendent of Schools Barbara Malkas and Principal Timothy Callahan, performance by the Drury band, local veterans, and Boudreau's family and former teachers.
Nomination to four of the service academies (not including the U.S. Coast Guard Academy) are made through a congressional representative or senator or the vice president of the United States but do not guarantee acceptance. Candidates must also supply the usual college application materials as well as pass a physical.
Past appointments from Drury include Alex Shueckler, who was accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy in 2008, and Todd Catelotti, who was accepted into the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1993.
Neal noted he represents 87 cities and towns with some 750,000 citizens in the 1st Congressional District and can only nominate five candidates each year. (Senators may each nominate five statewide.)
"So I cannot overstate the intensity of the competition that has brought us to this moment and to the community of North Adams, it speaks so well of you within the family of Drury High School," he said.
The competition can start as early as the eighth or ninth grade, and then his office gets notified of students' interest through guidance counselors, and there are interviews and essays.
"The one thing that shines through is the commitment. The commitment," the congressman said. "You really have to be a superb student, good SATs, good grade point average, but increasingly the military academies look for the well rounded student. ...
"Nobody applies to the U.S. military academies unless they are of certain quality of standard."
Neal said afterward that what really moved him was the family commitment and that some of her grade school teachers attended.
"It was pretty impressive and again it highlights the success of what happens here in North Adams," he said. "It's a credit to all of them because these nominations are infrequent and competition for these these positions is enormous."
Boudreau reached out to the congressman last year when he taught a civics class at Drury. The Clarksburg resident has been a consistent honors student, a member of the soccer team, a member of the band and participated as a student leader with Attorney General Maura Healey's violence prevention program. She also has been a participant in the annual Haiti Plunge and will be returning to Haiti this year to work on a water system for a village. Then she's off to boot camp by the end of June.
After attending a career fair during a summer seminar at the Colorado academy, she is interested in environmental engineering and perhaps meteorology.
"It's big science school, but I'm keeping my doors open to see when I get there what I want to do," she said at a reception in the school's career center with her parents, brother Brian Boudreau and her grandmother, Beverly Troop.
"I'm so proud it makes me cry," Troop said. "I guess that's what happens when you're so happy."
The Air Force is a tradition in Boudreau's family, with fathers, grandfathers, aunts and uncles having served in the force. Her father joked that he told her she could only join the Air Force, but Boudreau responded that was the only service she was ever interested in.
"The academy provides a world-class education, while also developing cadets through military athletic and character outcomes and an academy education is valued at more than $416,000," said Malkas. "Yet it's offered at no financial costs to cadets and their families. In return, a cadet commits to serve as an officer in the Air Force."
Malkas encouraged the audience to applaud as a few claps were heard. "I'd want to clap for that," she said. "It is with incredible Drury High School pride that we acknowledge this incredible accomplishment for Holly Boudreau.
"Holly, may you continue to aim high over your next four years and throughout your military career."
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