By Marv Kohlbeck
Words such as determined, organized, intelligent, a born leader, competitive, and nonwavering would best describe attributes of Sophia Schwanebeck, a 2014 graduate of Pittsville High School who now is in her third year at West Point Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.
The daughter of Steve and Peggy Schwanebeck of Pittsville, Sophia always had dreams of pursuing a paid education in civil engineering and a burning desire to attend West Point.
Based on the strength of her honor student grades, sports, and other extracurricular activities, her application to West Point was accepted in 2014, the only graduate from Pittsville to hold that distinction.
I was able to meet Sophia recently on one of her infrequent vacations home to spend time with her family.
It was interesting to note that of the approximately 1,200 students in her 2014 freshman class at West Point, about 1,000 have continued on for the two years she has been there. She estimated that about 20 percent of her classmates are women.
Although her present learning has a military flavor and commitment to it, she feels that she is receiving a very good civil engineering education along with military training. She is confident that she will be ready to perform her military obligation after her four-year college career.
She has become a squad leader in her military training, which includes a heavy dose of extensive exercises, parades, field training, and military strategy.
Sophia said, “It did not take long to adjust to daily inspections and two annual white glove inspections of our rooms. Initially, most of us were homesick the first few weeks of school, but due to the heavy schedules and responsibilities, we were blended into a new way of life.
“I have enjoyed all of the travels with my rugby sports team and a three-week civil engineering training session at the Air Force Military Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. I have many new friends and have met many amazing people. I am excited about what lies ahead in my training and upcoming experiences. Of course, among the many opportunities available to us, probably the most exciting event we look forward to is the annual Army-Navy football game.”
She went on to say, “We don’t have much free time, and I do concentrate on my studies as I want my parents and friends to know that I am giving them my best effort to be a successful leader and graduate of West Point. Besides my civil engineering studies, I am adding the Russian language as a foreign language course.”
Although her mother and father miss her being at home, they are extremely proud of her goals and accomplishments so far.
“I am extremely happy to have four years of civil engineering education paid for as a result of my appointment, and I look forward to my five years of military service and three years of reserve duty as payback before entering a future of civil engineering,” Sophia said.
Her father summed it up best when he said, “Sophia loved challenges, is goal oriented, and readily accepts a structured life.”
Her mother added, “We miss her dearly but are so proud of her.”
Sophia’s closing comment was, “I am ready for the challenge.”