Hard work, drive carry Springboro grad to Air Force Academy

Many high school students know that focus and determination are important to achieving their goals, but not many teens have those traits to the degree that Paige Sullivan does.

The recent Springboro High graduate has thrown herself into a few key pursuits — lately her studies and the Junior ROTC program at the school — earning an appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado, where she’ll follow in her father’s footsteps.

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“I really enjoy hanging out with my friends, but I’m not really one for any hobbies, which (I know) is kind of odd,” Sullivan said. “Gymnastics was really my life up until junior year, and then it’s academics all the way to the Air Force Academy.

“If I have time to watch Netflix, then I have time to work. That’s just kind of my mentality.”

This year, Sullivan was Springboro JROTC’s cadet group commander, responsible for leading the 130-plus cadets in the program. As a sophomore, she had been selected along with a few other students to create Springboro’s arm of the Kitty Hawk Air Society, JROTC’s National Honor Society.

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Todd Berrier, who leads the school’s program, said Sullivan steps up whenever needed, adding that he’s watched her grow as a leader the past four years.

“Paige has been a standout cadet since she entered the program four years ago,” Berrier said. “She always demonstrates discipline, focus, tenacity, and a willingness to work hard to achieve her goals. … Paige definitely possesses the ‘right stuff’ to be successful at the U.S. Air Force Academy.”

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Sullivan said she really enjoys school and learning, pointing to her ROTC classes and Chris Rowe’s AP statistics class as some of her favorites. But her high school years were about evolving as a person, too, along with the academics.

“I’ve had my most growth these past few years, especially with my maturity and my confidence,” Sullivan said. “I’ve been able to show myself and confidently do whatever I’m asked to do. … I don’t even know how to describe it. I’ve just grown up.”

Her coronavirus-interrupted senior year has been tough to deal with, and Sullivan said she’s glad she has friends with positive attitudes to lean on, because she’s been pretty frustrated this spring.

She said the JROTC awards ceremony and senior recognition have been milestone events each year as the group sees another class off, but they had to be canceled this year.

“We’re all taking it differently, but together we’re all fine because we have each other, which is really nice,” she said.

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Springboro High Principal Kyle Martin said there’s no question Sullivan will succeed in life, calling her “the best of the best.” Sullivan acknowledged she’s very competitive, a trait that she said her parents accentuated. But she said there’s balance there too.

“You want to win. You want to be the top. I’ve always really liked getting A’s and winning,” she said. “But you don’t always win, so that’s when you learn sportsmanship, and maturity comes in.”

Sullivan won the Commandant’s Award as a junior for placing first out of 156 Springboro cadets. She participated in the Ohio Valley Leadership School three straight years and was selected for the West Point Leadership and Ethics Seminar.

She was a competitive gymnast for 11 years but stopped as a high school junior, citing injuries and a need to make sure she qualified physically for the Air Force Academy.

She made it, and she’s now preparing for the six-week summer basic cadet training program before the fall academic program starts. She said summer training will be different this year because it will start with a two-week quarantine.

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“(Basic) is going to be a very, very hard transition for those who aren’t building a structured day or keeping that discipline in preparing,” Sullivan said.

Martin said structure and discipline are right up Sullivan’s alley.

“Paige is a very strong leader who is committed to her dreams and realizes what must be completed to reach them,” he said. “She has unbelievable determination and drive, and she commits this to her daily studies, extracurricular activities, and life.”

Sullivan said she hopes to stay in the Air Force as long as she possibly can, but she hasn’t fixed her eye on a specific career pathway yet.

It’s a fair guess that when she does, distractions will not stand in the way.

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