November 23, 2011 - Gabriella Spindler touched the pen to her letter of intent and proudly signed to take her next step in academics and tennis at United States Military Academy at West Point, Nov. 18.
Gabriella Spindler signs her letter of intent, with Clarkston Girls Varsity tennis teammates. Photo by Wendi Reardon (click for larger version)
"I am really excited," the Clarkston High School senior smiled. "It is an honor to be chosen to not only go to the best school, but go into the military and serve my country afterwards."
"We couldn't be more proud," said dad, Marc. "The biggest thing that is going to stand out in my mind is when I asked her why."
He added he is a good debater and wanted to debate the situation. He was taken aback by Gabriella's answer, "dad, I want the ability to make a difference and West Point will give me the opportunity."
"She is going to be working for four year to become an officer to ensure the liberties and freedoms we have," Marc said with a gleam in his eye. "She is a special kid and there are not many that can do it."
Gabriella admitted when West Point contacted her during her junior year, she was unsure about going there.
"I wasn't sure if it was for me," she added.
She spoke to the coach and began looking into the academy more. Between the information and visiting the academy, she could see herself there.
Class sizes at West Point are about 25 students, offering personal interaction between professors and students. She also met with the tennis team and found they were just like the girls on the high school team.
"The bonds you make at West Point, you make for life," she added. "I could see it as soon as I was there. Your life depends on them - you are a unit. They are all super friendly and super nice."
She applied during the summer, going through the application process, getting recommendation letters from her teachers, writing essays, and getting medical and physical exams.
She received the Superintendent Award from her future coach, only one of 50 receive the award.
"It is an honor and unbelievable," Gabriella said. "Without it I wouldn't be signing today, because I would have to have the nomination from a senator. I can still be interviewed by a senator and be nominated."
Her main goal is to go to medical school after serving in the U.S. Army. She said she would give back and be a doctor for the army.
"If it doesn't pan out, there are so many opportunities," Gabriella added. "I see myself making a career out of the army. It doesn't take anything away from you. It makes you stronger. It builds onto your personality."
Gabriella was a swimmer before she began playing tennis at 9-years-old and admitted she wasn't the best player.
"I was horrible," she smiled, adding Coach Gilbert Rincon helped her along the way.
When participating in both sports were messing with her strokes she had to make a decision.
"I made that choice," Marc said. "Tennis is a life sport. I looked at my wife and her friends as well as the older women at Deer Lake Athletic Club that are still playing."
Gabriella finished her junior year in third place in singles #1 at the MHSAA State Championship, helping her team to earn the championship title.
Her advice to aspiring athletes is there will be lots of highs and lots of lows.
"There were times I didn't think I could do it and coach said I could," she said. "All it takes is one person to believe in you. You can do anything."
Over 25,000 apply to West Point with 1,000-1,200 being accepted. Only 20 percent are female.
"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity," Gabriella said. "I could go to any college I wanted to. I could play on a club team. I have good grades, I am prepared for it. But what they offer at West Point, you can't get anywhere else. I love it."
Wendi graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in communications. She wrote for the Michigan Times college paper and Grand Blanc View before joining The Clarkston News in October 2007.