February 29, 2012 - By Joe St. Henry
Tweedie stands between her parents holding her acceptance notice from West Point. Photo by J. St. Henry (click for larger version)
Special Writer for The Review
Leading a varsity athletic team Qas its captain is quite an accomplishment for most students.
But for Lake Orion senior Kaileen Tweedie, it is just a warm up for what is coming after lacrosse season and the end of high school.
In July, Tweedie will leave for the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., where the cadet will begin basic training prior to studying political science and government. Military instruction will prepare her for an appointment as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army upon graduation.
Lake Orion typically sends one student a year to a military academy, according to Associate Principal Chris Bell. He said Tweedie is the first female from the community to be accepted in several years. West Point is located about 50 miles north of New York City.
"Kaileen approached me when she was in ninth grade, expressing her dream to enter a military academy," said high school counselor Sarah Budreau. "She planned her entire four years of school to prepare herself for it. It never was a question if she would get accepted, but when?"
The journey to the academy began at the end of her sophomore year, when she registered with West Point and expressed her desire to become a cadet. A lengthy questionnaire had to be completed and she had to secure a congressional nomination.
She received two: Rep. Gary Peters made her his "principal nomination" to West Point, while Sen. Carl Levin provided her with a nomination to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. The process involved being interviewed at length by Peters and Levin.
"It was a nerve-wracking experience," Tweedie said. "I was part of a group of more than 200 students looking for a nomination to an academy."
During her interview with Sen. Levin, she was asked about the possibility of leading men into combat. The high school senior obviously answered the question in a convincing manner that left little doubt she could handle the responsibility.
"I told them I would bust my butt to prove myself and earn their respect," Tweedie said. "It would make me a better person."
The cadet, who has successfully completed a long list of Advanced Placement classes at Lake Orion, decided on West Point because of its strong reputation for leadership development. She officially applied last summer and was notified of her acceptance to the military academy not long ago.
"I want to represent my country to the best of my ability," she said. "I could just enlist, but there's so much to learn at the academy and experiences I wouldn't have if I didn't go there.
"I know going to West Point will prepare me for anything."
Tweedie's parents, Peggy and James, are very proud of their daughter's accomplishment. She said they are most surprised with the fact that she pursued the West Point appointment on her own.
Her friends are proud, too, although some are surprised with her desire to join the army.
"Some of my friends don't understand, especially those that are super girly," Tweedie said. "But this has been a dream of mine for a long time."
In addition to leading the Lake Orion girls' lacrosse team, she also earned a varsity letter in cross country, plus has a black belt in the martial art of Choi-Kwang-Do. These activities helped her pass the rigorous physical tests required as part of the application process.
"I guess when I want something bad enough, I find a way to get it," Tweedie said, noting that she leads through self-motivation, never giving up and being an honest person.
After her military career is over, Tweedie plans to pursue a career as a foreign service officer for the U.S. Department of State, maybe becoming a U.S ambassador.
Budreau, for one, is not going to question her student's determination and ability to reach her goals in life. The counselor said she has never seen a student take so many AP courses at one time and do well.
"She is a true leader in the classroom, as well as on the lacrosse field," Budreau said. "There's no doubt Kaileen is what this country is looking for in its next generation of leaders."