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Community profile: ‘All about our experiences’

Glenwood Springs High School student sets bar for above and beyond

Glenwood Springs High School AFJROTC student commander Dylan West gives a presentation to fellow students about NASA's Grail Mission at the school on Thursday morning.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

As a reporter, I have written about exemplary students with an eye toward top-earning careers, athletic youths who might one day represent the nation on the global stage, Eagle Scouts whose service to their community exemplifies American ideals and JROTC cadets with more military training and discipline than the average line grunt — speaking from the perspective of a former line grunt.

Seventeen-year-old Dylan West is all of those and more.

Eloquent, well-mannered, hair perfectly parted to the right, Dylan sat across from me with his parents, an elementary school teacher and an architect, at a polished wooden dining table in a respectable home in Park East.



It’s difficult not to see Dylan as the poster boy of American values long since thought lost to the technological revolution of aspiring video gaming professionals and YouTube influencers.

“This isn’t us,” Dylan’s mother, Stephanie, reassured me as her son listed off some of his accolades. “This is all Dylan. Since he was 2, he’s been deeply interested in trains and history — that’s what he’d watch on TV, not cartoons or other programs, but documentaries and historical shows.”



Brian, Dylan’s father, quietly listened to his son talk about a potential future in aeronautical engineering, mentoring other Eagle Scouts and waking up at the crack of dawn to prepare for a military inspection scheduled months in advance.

“He’s always had a proclivity for taking things apart, so I’ve known for a while that he might lean toward engineering,” Brian said, a proud smile on his lips.

Chuckling, he added, “I told him he wasn’t allowed to follow my footsteps and become an architect.”

Twenty minutes into the interview, pages of my notebook were filled with Dylan’s laundry list of accomplishments, none of which were presented boastfully — except maybe, Dylan’s passion for restoring model trains.

I fidgeted with my pen and joked about my own misspent youth landing me across the table from someone who might one day lead our country.

“There’s nothing wrong with that approach though, right?” Dylan asked rhetorically. “It’s all just about our experiences, isn’t it?”

Glenwood Springs High School AFJROTC student commander Dylan West uses the flight simulator in the ROTC building at the school on Thursday morning.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Symbols and procrastination

Born and raised in Glenwood Springs, Dylan attended Sopris Elementary School where his mom now teaches first graders.

Each day he passed the lone flag pole, noting most people passing by ignored the star-spangled banner flapping about overhead. As his Eagle Scout service project, he decided to draw attention to the flag, ensuring it snared the gaze he so dearly felt it deserved.

“The American flag is the symbol of our country,” Dylan said, emphatically explaining his project choice. “It symbolizes everything we stand to be as a country.”

At 14 years old, Dylan designed, organized and constructed a three-tiered crescent flower bed around the flagpole in hopes of attracting passing eyes and adding substance to the Old Glory display.

“It took 60 volunteers and 513.25 community service hours to complete the project,” he said. “I didn’t get my Eagle Scout (rank) until I was 15, though, because as you might expect from a teenager, I procrastinated a bit on my paperwork.”

Dave Merritt, a former Boy Scout who put his kids through the program and is now working through it again with his grandson, said he respects Dylan’s leadership style.

“As a Boy Scout, Dylan is a quiet leader, who leads by example and doesn’t need to order people about to get them to follow him,” said Merritt, Boy Scout Troop No. 225’s assistant scoutmaster. “He’s a great kid to work with, who’s very respectful of everyone.”

Dylan’s willingness to apply himself completely to every task was on full display during a recent camping trip in Moab, Utah, Merritt recalled.

The troop’s camp trailer, full of supplies for the trip, is always the last thing to get cleaned after an outing and for years, the troop has hemmed and hawed about completely emptying the trailer and reorganizing its contents.

“On the last day of the trip, while we’re all sitting about eating our breakfast, Dylan just gets up and starts emptying the trailer,” Merritt said. “No one told him to, and he didn’t tell anyone that’s what he was doing or ask for help. But after a few minutes, the other boys quietly get up and go over to start helping him.”

A fifth grader at the time, Dylan West holds up his winning pine wood derby car.
Photo courtesy of Stephanie West

Happy place

A senior at Glenwood Springs High School, Dylan’s Grade Point Average is currently 4.3, and his course load includes Advanced Placement (AP) physics, chemistry, calculus and U.S. government and politics.

“School is probably one of the happiest places I can be,” Dylan said. “I like to challenge myself, and I love learning. It’s rewarding to take some of the hardest classes my school has to offer, work hard and see something in myself come out the other side.”

Linda Flohr has taught Dylan physics for two years and believes the possibilities for his future are limitless.

“The world is his oyster,” Linda said. “He’s going to find something that is interesting and meaningful for him and just excel at it.”

When presented the opportunity to instruct AP Physics C: Calculus-based — one of Dylan’s several AP courses this semester — Flohr said she accepted the offer primarily because of the low time requirement. As one of the school’s most difficult courses, the class has only five students, and they essentially follow the course materials with little instruction.

“He’s not only hard working and dedicated, but he cares about learning the material and is willing to share his time mentoring students who aren’t quite at his level,” she explained. “He excels at working through difficult topics in a small group and finding success where many others likely wouldn’t.”

While academic excellence is noteworthy, it’s Dylan’s attitude toward others that is, perhaps, most memorable, Flohr said.

“Dylan is not just the kid who does well in class,” she said. “He’s the kid who stops in the hall, asks you how you’re doing and if there’s anything he can do to help.”

Glenwood Springs High School AFJROTC student commander Dylan West gives a presentation to fellow students about NASA's Grail Mission at the school on Thursday morning.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Light reading

While participating in Boy Scouts, Dylan met Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Ben Akins, who encouraged Dylan to give his JROTC class a go during Dylan’s freshman year.

“I had space for an extra elective, so I figured why not,” Dylan said. “The first day, he gave us a presentation about what ROTC was, and it was then that I decided, ‘This is a program I want to be part of for all four years of my high school experience.’”

Rising to the rank of squadron commander — the highest rank a student at GSHS can achieve — Dylan stepped into leadership on a level above that of his experience with the Boy Scouts.

The position means spending time cataloging his classmates’ uniforms, hours learning how to shine leather shoes to a mirror finish and regularly showing up to school an hour before the first bell to ensure his team has what they need to succeed.

As reward for the effort, Dylan’s color guard team — those snappy, uniformed men and women who present the colors at important events such as funerals, parades and memorials — recently won second place in a regional championship, losing only to a team from Cheyenne, Wyoming.

“I carry the Colorado flag and have ever since I joined the team,” Dylan said. “I’ve broke my wrist too many times playing soccer to properly handle the rifles.”

Oh, that’s right, dear reader. He plays sports, too.

Without going into lengthy detail about Dylan’s athletic endeavors, here are a few tidbits: he served as the GSHS Soccer Varsity Team captain in 2021, he played for an Olympic developmental soccer team, and lastly, he’s broken his left wrist four times and his left hand once while playing the sport.

It’s worthy of mentioning that Dylan also runs cross-country and track, participating in relay races, the 800 meters , long jump and triple jump.

On Wednesday, he and his friends ran 3.5 miles during a blizzard.

“I don’t know that I’ll ever do that again,” Dylan said, laughing. “But it was for the experience, and I can say I’ve done it now.”

With his graduation set for May, Dylan has applied to Harvard University, the University of Notre Dame and has been accepted to the Colorado School of Mines, Texas Tech University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. While he is still waiting to hear from Harvard and Notre Dame, Dylan’s first choice so far is the aeronautical engineering program at Embry-Riddle.

If I write much more, my editor will chew my hide for spending too many precious column inches on a single article, so I will wrap this up with the only question that remained after listening to Dylan’s story.

“I’d ask any other teenager what they like to do in their free time,” I prefaced, “but I’m wondering if you have any?”

Dylan’s cheeks blushed. While his answer was immediate, this was the first question that truly caught him off guard.

“I take time for myself,” he said defiantly. “I love puzzles and reading. I’m currently reading a book about the Cuban missile crisis, ‘One Minute to Midnight, (by Michael Dobbs).’”

Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at ifredregill@postindependent.com.


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