GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - When 15-year-old Meranda Prince said she wanted to move from Raymore, Mo., to Grand Junction to help out her great-grandparents, her mom and dad had some concerns. It was a long way from home for their teenager.
To Prince, it was the obvious choice, however. She said her "GG and Grandpa" were heartbroken after the recent death of their son, her great-uncle, from a heart attack. He had lived close to his parents, 79-year-old Wanda Dunlap and 80-year-old Chuck Dunlap, for more than two decades. And his sudden death was shocking to everyone.
"I realized family is really important," Prince said. "I wanted to bring them joy."
So, her family approved a temporary move to the Western Slope, and she's lived with GG and Grandpa since the holidays. Now, the sophomore attends Central High School, where she's already an active member of the JROTC and the Color Guard.
JROTC wasn't at Prince's old school; she said she went to private Christian school until the first semester of her sophomore year in Missouri, when she switched over to public high school.
"My great-grandpa is a veteran, and he's the reason I'm going into the Army," Prince added.
MSgt. Steve Yates, Prince's ROTC leader and teacher, said: "For her age, she has a lot of enthusiasm and drive. She knows where she's going. ... And anyone who's 15 years old and moves away from family and friends to take care of great-grandparents is incredibly selfless. It's amazing."
When she's not attending classes at Central, Prince said she spends a lot of time with both Dunlaps.
"They're happier when I'm with them," she said.
Wanda, Prince's GG, agreed, saying, "It's been a blessing, there's no doubt about that."
Prince said she loves to sing country music with her Grandpa when they drive in the car. Being able to help around the house is important to her, too. Plus, Prince goes to church with her great-grandparents on Sundays.
"It just tickles us to death," Wanda said. "It's so much fun watching her."
Though many folks never know their great-grandchildren well because of the expansive age gap, Wanda also acknowledged how lucky she feels to spend so much time with Prince.
"It's exciting to just know we have this closeness," she said.
According to the Dunlaps, they have seven great-grandchildren and have close relationships with all of them.
Prince additionally said she comes from a strong Christian family, and their faith played a role in her moving to Grand Junction.
"I may want to stay here longer than a semester," Prince said. "We'll see what God has in store. If my great-grandparents need me, God is the ultimate decision maker. We'll just see how that has to go."