Tuttle’s tassel turn points to Air Force Academy | PostIndependent.com

Tuttle’s tassel turn points to Air Force Academy

Glenwood Springs High School graduating senior Jessica Tuttle will be attending the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs in the fall.

Even though seniors have not had to go to class this week, Jessica Tuttle says she hears her alarm go off in the morning and her mind tells her, "time for school."

That's the kind of strict regimen she knows she'll have to be prepared for as she gets ready to enter the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs at the end of the summer.

"I'm pretty sure I'll be ready for that ordered schedule," said Tuttle, who will be one of 175 Glenwood Springs High School graduates receiving their diplomas on Saturday.

"The academy does have a very set schedule, which is good because I like things to be laid out in order," she said. "Even though getting yelled at to get up at 4 o'clock in the morning doesn't sound great, at least I know I won't be late for class."

“One of the other reasons I chose the academy is that it has a really good systems engineering program, which is what I want to do.”

Jessica Tuttle

A Memorial Day weekend full of area graduation ceremonies starts at 10 a.m. today for Yampah Mountain High School, to be held at the Glenwood Springs Community Center arena, followed by Bridges High School in Carbondale at 5 p.m.

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Saturday commencement exercises begin at 10 a.m. with GSHS, held outside at Stubler Memorial Field, and concurrently at Grand Valley High School in Parachute. Those will be followed by Basalt High School at 1 p.m. and Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale at 4 p.m.

Tuttle, 18, said she was inspired as a freshman to consider one of the military academies by one of that year's seniors, GSHS graduate Foster Gross, who was headed to the Naval Academy, the most recent GSHS grad to attend one of the military academies.

"Just the way he explained it and the rigorous process he had to go through, I knew it was something I wanted to try to do," Tuttle said.

The accomplished high school and national-level swimmer also considered the Naval and Merchant Marines academies, but settled on the Air Force Academy where the incoming cadet will be competing at the Division I level.

The daughter of Jeff and Cathy Tuttle of Glenwood Springs, she also applied at other universities and was accepted to the Colorado School of Mines.

"One of the other reasons I chose the academy is that it has a really good systems engineering program, which is what I want to do," Tuttle said.

She is also a product of Glenwood High's 2-year-old Air Force junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program, which happened to come along after she was pretty sure what her future might hold.

To have a cadet emerge from the program in just its second year is something in which the school can take some pride, said retired Air Force Col. Ben Akins, who began teaching in the junior ROTC program this year alongside founder Paul Nunemann, also a retired Air Force officer.

"We're not a recruiting program," he emphasized. "The program is about developing character and leadership and to teach young men and women to be better citizens."

Akins said Tuttle has been a role model in the program through her "genuine interest, commitment and dedication."

The AF junior ROTC had more than 60 students this year, and so far has 75 signed up for next year, Akins said.

"It definitely made it more real for me, what I was committing to," Tuttle said of her junior ROTC experience, in which she has served as element leader, operations officer and squadron commander. "I'll go in knowing how to do drill, and how to wear the uniform correctly."

Following her four years of schooling and training at the academy, Tuttle will be obligated to at least four years of active military service. She said she is also interested in going into pilot training, which would involved an additional year of commitment.

The Glenwood Springs High School commencement address will be given this year by 2012 GSHS graduate Catherine Schmitz. The class of 2016 will also hear from classmates Erick Quintanilla Orantes, Dylan Mechling, Mackenzi Johnson and Megan Uren on behalf of this year's valedictorians.