Blue Paper Airplanes
Who reads all of the Eagle’s View Monthly, anyway? As a student at ECA I would always give it a quick scan. If I couldn’t find my name or a friend’s name somewhere in bold, that month’s Eagles’ View was swiftly recycled into a small blue paper airplane.
Before this becomes your own paper airplane, I want to thank Dr. Jim Johnson for giving me the opportunity to share about how ECA has impacted my life, and thank you for reading. Now let’s dive in.
My mom enrolled me in ECA because she knew it would both challenge me academically and reinforce the values I had been learning at home.
“My mom enrolled me in ECA because she knew it would both challenge me academically and reinforce the values I had been learning at home.”
My Journey through the Air Force Academy
She was right, and after five years at ECA I received an appointment to the only college I wanted to go to: the U.S. Air Force Academy.
The Air Force’s values of integrity, service, and excellence resonated with me. They described exactly what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be. If the Academy was willing to invest in me as a leader of character, I was ready to go all in.
Upon entering the Academy I dove into the military, athletic, and academic training. I didn’t come from a military family, but somehow I felt like I had a huge advantage over most of the other cadets. I’d played basketball and baseball every year at ECA, so I knew how to follow directions and work with a team.
Coach Bost’s conditioning had kept me in excellent physical shape. And, no joke, Miss V’s notoriously tricky multiple choice questions had instilled in me an attention to detail that made my military history courses easy A’s. All in all, the teachers and coaches at ECA had prepared me very well for many of the challenges that I would face at the Air Force Academy.
During my time at the Academy, I was given the incredible opportunity to lead 557 cadets; organize an international political science conference; and live for three weeks with a family in southern France (something that never would have happened without Mrs. Burley’s French classes). In 2014 I graduated from USAFA with a B.S. in Political Science and a French language minor.
Going to Harvard
After the first couple of years at the Air Force Academy, I learned that every year ten percent of the new officers were sent to graduate school as their first assignment. I’d kept up a solid work ethic, so I applied for the program, well aware that I might not get in. To my disbelief, the Air Force and the school both said yes, so after graduating I moved to Boston to complete a Masters in Public Policy from Harvard University. Over the next two years I learned to listen well and find common ground with people who had vastly different experiences from my own.
I graduated from Harvard in May 2016 and moved back to Colorado Springs with my beautiful and supportive wife, Emily (who also went to ECA). I’m just getting started with my second military assignment: flying satellites for the Air Force out of Schriever AFB, CO.
It’s been 6 years since I graduated from ECA, and the values and principles that I was raised to believe in have served as a solid foundation for my life outside the bubble. And isn’t that what it’s all about?
Every now and then I hope you take a minute to thank God, your family, and your teachers for everything they’re giving you. When should you say thanks? How about every time you make a blue paper airplane.
Share your story! Contact Michelle Poli at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your ECA story.