As a preliminary matter, the views I express today are my own and do not reflect the positions of the United States Air Force or the Department of Defense. Our ethics attorneys are very strict about the talks we give.
With that out of the way, thank you Molly, for the introduction. I am so honored to be speaking to you today and to express my gratitude. As you all know Greenwich Academy is an incredible place, one that gave me opportunities I couldn’t have even imagined when I received my acceptance letter, complete with alligator sparkles, when I was 13. It is a place that absolutely formed me into the person I am today, as a woman, as an attorney, and as a leader.
My journey to GA resulted primarily from my own initiative. When I was in middle school I talked to my parents about wanting to go somewhere other than the public high school I would’ve been funneled into. I wanted an environment that would nurture all my pursuits – academic, athletic, and music and would prepare me well for college. For a little background on where I come from, my Mom is a public school elementary teacher of 30 years, and my Dad worked in a family owned small business and never went to college. My twin brother Wyatt has severe cerebral palsy requiring round the clock medical care. From that first conversation I had with my parents about going to a place like GA, it was clear that they supported me in what I wanted to do, but that financially, it wasn’t something we could afford. In order for this to work, I had to receive financial aid. Fast forward to my GA acceptance letter, complete with a scholarship that absolutely changed my life.
From the moment I got to GA, I realized this place was special. Primarily because of the people. I met lifelong friends, and learned from incredible teachers. To highlight a few of the staff – Mr. Pepe was the first teacher I had where I ever failed a test. I was a bit of a mess at the time, and he was patient and kind and worked with me, and then proceeded to put up with me for the following three years when I was in two more of his classes, or when I just showed up at his office hours to chat. He’s the reason I minored in environmental science, took Environmental Law in Law School, and hope to pursue a LLM degree in environmental law in the future. Then there are Mr. Schwartz and Mrs. Meyer – they taught me how to write, and I credit them with helping me develop the advocacy skills that I use now as an Air Force JAG. And Ms. Meyer let me write about a Nine Inch Nails song and compare it to literature, which is all I could’ve ever wanted. Jamie Brower, was my advisor my junior and senior year. She was always looking out for me, asking not only how I was doing, but also about my family and still continues to do so.
Finally, there’s Connie Blunden. She taught my freshman year world cultures class and welcomed me to the Global Scholars program when I showed an interest in humanities and languages. I chose Chinese as my language at GA, and as part of the Global Scholars program, I had to travel. My family could not afford to send me to China and I was worried I’d have to drop it. But the wonderful people here stepped in, sending me to Beijing for two weeks. It was the first time I had ever gone out of the country and was an unforgettable experience. By the time I’d graduated, GA had given me even more of these experiences, sending me to the Senior New Orleans trip, letting me teach guitar to the students at the GATE summer camp, and helping me get into my first choice college on early decision.
While at Macalester College, I majored political science, finishing in 3 and a half years, because of the Advanced Placement classes I was able to take while here at GA. I played drums in a band, was the captain of our club hockey team, and spent my summers interning for a judge as well as working on Caroline Simmons’ State Representative campaign, a position that GA helped me secure. These experiences helped me discover my passion for using my advocacy skills to help others and brought me to Boston for law school, where I served as a managing editor on the Public Interest Law Journal, and worked as a student attorney during my second year in the civil litigation clinic. As a student attorney, I argued in Federal Court to help an indigent client receive disability benefits. We won the case, and it is still one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I also met my fiancé, Nick, a Navy Officer, while he was studying nuclear engineering.
It was that desire to serve, and help others through advocacy that eventually brought me to the Air Force. Now I’m a Judge Advocate, and an Officer. I advise commanders, I prosecute cases, and I help the Airman, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines, that come to me with legal issues. Most importantly, I take the time to take care of and mentor those that rank below me, because I know just how much that means to people because of how much it meant to me. Especially for young women in a male dominated environment. And it’s that last part of my job that I enjoy the most.
In my four years at GA, I had people surrounding me that encouraged me to be myself. The faculty here taught me how to fail, taught me how to succeed, and taught me how to be a leader. While I swapped out the kilt for a different uniform of a more camo variety, I’ve always reminded myself that it’s the opportunities that this place gave me, and the generous scholarship I received that made me the woman who stands before you. I hope in learning a little bit about me, you’re encouraged to continue your contributions to this scholarship program. It is your generosity that has allowed me to pay it forward, and continues to make sure that every girl’s potential is realized. Thank you again.