Ever since he can remember, Marco Gillispie has known what he wanted to do.
The son of retired United States Air Force Major Mark Gillispie, the notion of following in his father’s footsteps and entering the paternal business just seemed a logical direction for Marco.
But simply wanting to accomplish a feat is far from succeeding at it. Gillispie remained determined. He developed a strong work ethic and a sense for service while setting his sights on the ultimate goal this year.
Gillispie, a senior at University City High School, recently became one of a select group of Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFJROTC) cadets to receive an appointment to the United States Air Force Academy.
“I was very excited when I woke up and saw the email and I immediately went online to confirm,” Gillispie said. “The first thing I did was call my dad at work.”
The five National Service Academies — Annapolis, West Point, Air Force Academy, Coast Guard Academy, and the Merchant Marine Academy — matriculate approximately 4,000 new freshman each year from the tens of thousands of qualified applicants from across the United States.
Each student who is granted the opportunity to attend the four-year academy is required to meet a very high criteria of academic and athletic proficiency, significant community involvement, and possess outstanding leadership qualities. Each finalist is subjected to numerous military interviews by the Academies and the Congressional and Senatorial boards from their regions.
According to Colonel Thomas Henson, who has been working with Gillispie, typically, the Academy selects 15 to 17 percent of student applicants. Gillispie is one of only 20 Missouri cadets selected and one of 1,200 nationally.
“Marco is a true leader who demonstrates a high degree of integrity and character,” Henson said in a statement. “He leads by example, is highly involved with many extracurricular and community activities and his academic record of performance is unmatched. Marco has the ability, confidence, and drive to succeed and to achieve the high goals he sets for himself.”
Col. Henson said the Academy’s application process is tough and that students must be in the top of their school’s ranking with a 3.5 GPA or higher and pass the physical ability tests.
“It is very competitive and must be the student’s initiative with a vision for a career in the Air Force,” he said.
Gillispie, who will turn 18 soon, carries a weighted GPA of 4.3/unweighted 3.9 and has been entertaining offers from prestigious colleges including Washington University. Up until recently, however, getting into the Academy became his ultimate goal .
Gillispie recognizes the importance of the opportunity he has been offered and credits his school with helping him achieve his goal. Currently, there are two other University City juniors hoping to join the Academy next year.
“UCHS provided me with a lot of great resources including Colonel Henson, computer classes for systems engineering and (preparatory) resources for ACT testing and college admissions,” Gillispie said. “It was awesome news and it took a lot of weight off because I now know where I am going and that I will be attending a great institution.”