Continuing a long tradition of academic excellence and commitment to service and country in Hockinson, two HHS graduates headed to basic cadet training at the United States Air Force Academy this June. Since just after graduation, Ally Peterson and Ryan Fitzgerald have been honing their physical fitness abilities and learning the ropes of serving in the US Air Force as they prepare to start their undergraduate education.
“Getting accepted into a service academy is a high honor,” said HHS counselor Myke Pace. “We’re so proud of both Ally and Ryan for the hard work and dedication they showed throughout high school to make themselves ready for such an intensive college experience.”
Since 2015, four other HHS graduates have gone on to attend service academies – a remarkable achievement for a district the size of Hockinson. The acceptance rate for USAFA (and other service academies) is around 10%, making it one of the country’s most competitive schools. US military academies are known for being highly selective, and the bar has only risen for today’s applicants.
“Service academies have recently started looking at applicants from a more holistic viewpoint,” Pace said. “They want individuals who are not just book smart but who are well rounded and have life skills.”
While there are some very real challenges to being a small school district, including more limited resources in some cases, “being part of a small community and a small school presents students an opportunity to shine and stand out whereas they might blend in as part of a larger school,” said Pace. “There are also more opportunities for leadership and service in a small school and community.”
Ryan and Ally were both high achieving and very involved during their time at Hockinson High School, each doing well in academics and participating in multiple sports and activities. Both students even received the HHS Outstanding Citizen Award for demonstrating integrity and a respectful attitude toward others.
Ryan took Advanced Placement classes and was Class co-Valedictorian and Senior Class President. He also played golf, held an officer role in National Honor Society, and participated in Key Club. Ryan credits some of his success in being accepted into USAFA to the small school size in Hockinson, as well as the support of his family. He also had the support of former HHS Associate Principal Josh Johnson, a former Marine who helped Ryan condition for the academy’s Candidate Fitness Assessment.
During her time at HHS, Ally was a two-time district cross country champion (in 2020 and 2021, her junior and senior years) as well as the runner up during her freshman and sophomore years. She also took multiple AP classes and was involved in the Key Club and Mock Trial. “The small school environment at HHS gave me confidence and the opportunity to dream big, and my teachers and coaches were invested in my success every step of the way.”
Ally and Ryan will begin taking classes this fall as they embark on their individual undergraduate programs. Once they graduate, they will be required to fulfill at least five years of service in the Air Force.
Since 2015, four other HHS graduates have gone on to attend service academies—a remarkable achievement for a district the size of Hockinson:
- Joseph Brennan, class of 2019, United States Naval Academy
- Colton Wheeler, class of 2018, West Point
- Thomas Brennan, class of 2016, United States Naval Academy
- Meghan VanderMaas, Class of 2015, United States Air Force Academy