ELKINS - When Elkins resident Kaci Young had the opportunity to skip eighth grade and move on to Elkins High School, she and her family met with some resistance, but she is happy to report that moving ahead was the right decision, and she has continued to rapidly excel ever since.
Young said she graduated from Elkins High School in 2007, at only 17, and was ranked in the top 10 percent of her graduating class. "This is one of my proudest moments."
While in high school, Young participated in some student and community organizations and she said she would recommend that all high school students find something in which to participate.
Kaci Young is on the path to become a Naval JAG officer.
"I think being part of a group or organization is great for building self-confidence," Young said.
She also said students need to do things to become more responsible. "I took a part time job when I was 16," she said. "I was able to help my parents pay for my new car."
Young said while in high school, she strived to develop good study habits.
"As a middle school student, earning good grades came naturally," Young said. "I did not have to work hard. However, in high school, I found I actually needed to study. I would encourage students like myself to realize that at some point, being 'smart' will not cut it. Use your time to form good study habits, because you will not make it through college without them."
She also offers advice to high school students. "Set some goals now. They may change while you are trying to find your place in life, but you need to start somewhere."
Young also has advice for parents of high schoolers.
"Never tell your students they cannot or should not do something they desire to do with their lives," Young said. "I was asked once how I have accomplished so much and my answer is 'because no one ever told me I couldn't.'"
Young said her mother has to hear about one new goal or adventure after another. "She just smiles and says, 'Okay, we will do what we need to make that happen."'
Young said she is now starting to realize that getting up early is good practice for life. "College may ruin that for a while, but you will use that skill again in the real world."
After high school, Young attended West Virginia Wesleyan College, graduating in four years with a Bachelors and Masters degree in International Relations. While at WVWC, Young was a cheerleader four years, serving as squad captain for two of those years.
While at Wesleyan, Young said she formed lasting relationships with her peers and professors.
"That is what college is really about," Young said.
And those relationships have helped continued to help her.
"When I moved to Pittsburgh for law school, a former professor from WVWC invited me to live rent free in his home with his family," Young said. "In exchange, he asked only that I spend a few hours a week helping his wife with their daughter while he taught out of town. They are like my second family and have helped in so many ways."
Young is currently in an internship with the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, Organized Crime Unit.
"I attend Duquesne Law School," Young said. "I describe my relationship with law school as love/hate," she said. "It is difficult, however, there are great opportunities for those willing to take them. The out-of-class experiences are true learning experiences. Whether in high school or college, never pass up an opportunity to get hands-on, real world experience."
Young said being in law school afforded her the first opportunity to travel overseas.
"I spent a month studying in Ireland," she said. "I strongly encourage students to participate in study abroad programs. These can be expensive but there are many avenues for students to obtain the funds necessary to participate in these life-changing experiences.
Determination is a trait Young definitely shows.
"I started law school knowing I wanted to become a JAG Officer," she said. At times, I almost gave up."
Young said her first semester of law school was not her shining moment academically.
"I was not used to the way law school courses were taught and tested," Young said. "This made me want to give up on law school altogether. Eventually, I figured it out and my grades continually improved."
After joining the Military Law Society, Young found she was the only member not already in the military. "This made me think it was too late to start."
She said she applied twice to the Navy, but was denied both times.
"In September, I spoke with a female Air Force JAG Officer visiting Duquesne," Young said. "She encouraged me to apply to the Air Force, and the more personal interview process seemed better suited for me. After a four and a half hour interview, I left the Air Reserve Base in Youngstown very nervous."
Two months later, Young received her acceptance phone call. "I am glad that I did not let any obstacles deter me from my goal."
Young reminds high schoolers again they are never too young to begin setting goals.
"Some great people have stumbled upon their calling in life, however, most of us need a plan to get there," Young said. "If you are not sure about attending college, at least give it a chance. The life experience of being on your own and meeting new people is worth taking classes."
Contact Beth Christian Broschart at 304-636-2121, ext. 114 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @ITM_Broschart.