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Education

Timothy Christian alumna pursues dreams at West Point

Alyse Schnurr, plebe captain of West Point's cheer team, cheers at a game at West Point's Michie Stadium.
Alyse Schnurr, plebe captain of West Point's cheer team, cheers at a game at West Point's Michie Stadium.

LOMBARD – In three years, Scott Schnurr’s little girl will be a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

Alyse Schnurr, a Timothy Christian High School graduate, is a freshman at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

It’s not the career path the Lombard resident imagined for his daughter, but it’s one of which he’s very proud, despite some initial hesitancies.

Alyse Schnurr’s dream started when she saw a recruiting commercial for joining the U.S. Army when she was around 7 years old.

“I was like, ‘Whoa, I want to do that.’ But I never thought I could,” she said, believing she wasn’t strong enough.

A Pentagon trip and realizing that she could do it brought back the dream, she said.

The family had taken a trip in June 2015 to Washington, D.C., and since Alyse’s younger brother, Scotty, was interested in attending West Point, the trip included a tour of the Pentagon with family friend U.S. Army Col. Rob Dickerson.

Over lunch, Dickerson suggested Alyse consider West Point.

“Quite honestly, as a father of a then 16-year-old girl, I was like, ‘There’s no way my daughter is going to go to a military environment,’” Scott said.

He had heard of concerns about sexual assault and harassment, which had made him uncomfortable about the idea of her going to West Point, but he thought that her desire to go there would “blow over.”

Looking back, he recalled that she was very attuned and focused during the tour and asked a lot of questions.

That evening, Dickerson invited them to go to a “hail and farewell” military leadership transition event, and three people talked with Alyse and remarked that she would be an “excellent” candidate for West Point, Scott said.

“To see what these people have accomplished, how they’ve served, what they’ve delivered to our country, and then while you’re there, recognizing that all those people that were in that room … they had all at some point signed the blank check that says ‘This check is payable up to and including my life for this country,’” he said.

He still had reservations about having his daughter, with whom he’s very close, go to West Point, he said.

“It was tough for me because I knew that Alyse was a good enough daughter that if I told her, ‘No, you shouldn’t do this,’ even if she wanted to, I believe she probably would have respected my wishes,” he said. “So it made it tough to say, ‘OK, I want to allow her to do something that maybe is going to be dangerous, but I still want her to fulfill her dreams.’”

Shortly thereafter, a business associate asked him if Alyse would want to talk to his daughter, who is now a senior at West Point. Talking with her about his concerns over safety put him at ease, Scott said.

Now Alyse is serving as plebe captain on the cheerleading team at the academy, taking on 19.5 hours of academic credit this semester and doing plebe duties, such as cleaning.

“I feel, quite frankly, that my daughter is safer there than any place else she could be,” Scott said.

In his several visits to the West Point campus, he’s been impressed with the “very respectful, very orderly, very honorable” young adults, and the family receives communication from alumni of the academy.

“It’s more like a family than just a college,” he said.

Alyse wants to pursue aviation when she becomes an officer, and she’s working on getting a fixed-wing private pilot’s license and flies out of Aurora Municipal Airport.

One of her grandfathers was a pilot, and Dickerson’s tales of his experiences in aviation also made an impression on her. But that option is in high demand among the students who mark their preferences for the various options when they become officers so she also wants to explore the other branches.

“Even if I don’t [go] into aviation, I’ll probably continue to fly in my free time,” she said.

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