Trinity High School's Adelyn Emter was one of six North Dakota students nominated to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point by Sen. John Hoeven.
Joining the military wasn't always a goal of Emter's. To her knowledge, she has no active-duty military members in her family, though her family does has a couple of Vietnam veterans.
One of the biggest influences in her decision to pursue a military option for her interests in forensic psychology and law was her experience at Girls Nation this summer.
"It’s run by the American Legion Auxiliary, so they have a very strong honor and respect for veterans. I saw that in the women that I met during that experience, and I saw the value in the people that serve our country," Emter said.
Two girls from each state are chosen to participate in Girls Nation, a week-long program giving participants insight into how the federal government works.
"It’s all focused around politics," Emter said. "We were elected to different positions. I chaired a committee. We were all senators there, so we presented legislation. The other girl from North Dakota and I did one on ending military support for Saudi Arabia in Yemen … That actually passed, and it was signed by our president that we elected from the 100 girls that attended."
She can't point to one specific instance during that week that set her on the path to West Point. It was, rather, an accumulation of her experiences there.
"At Girls Nation, a lot of the girls there are daughters of people who are in active military service," Emter said. "One of my roommates, both of her parents are active duty military members. She’s currently living in Japan, which is really cool. Just hearing her witness to how powerful and impactful having a family in the military can be to your life was really incredible. I don’t have that experience."
Having received the principle nomination from Hoeven and a competitive nomination from Sen. Kevin Cramer, Emter is waiting to hear from West Point itself, which makes the final determination.
If she is accepted into West Point, she plans to study military intelligence, a non-combat role.
Although Emter said she has gotten a lot of support from Trinity and her family, she has heard some negative comments.
During her interview with Rep. Kelly Armstrong's office, she acknowledged that people don't often look at her — a petite girl — and think she'd be in the military.
Emter recalled, "One of the men on the panel stopped me there and said, ‘As a veteran … some of the most incredible generals and ranking officials that he’s known were petitely built young women.’ So he said, ‘Don’t let people tell you that you can’t do that, because you can. I’ve seen people do it before.'"
Trinity's Dean of Students, Father Kregg Hochhalter, said Emter has two important characteristics: confidence and grit.
"Seeing her (apply for West Point), I think it does take a lot of grit," he said. "There’s a lot of steps that are hard to obtain and outside of your control at the end of the day. You can have the scholastic performance in the classroom. You can have the social performance of being involved in extracurriculars and succeeding at them, but there’s still these external factors that need to support you to even get nominated, chosen and then get an interview and get accepted."
Emter is captain of Trinity's student congress and speech team. She is secretary of the student council and is involved in musical theater, drama, band, choir and yearbook. She is also a varsity cheerleader. She volunteers at her local church and is in its choir.
She said that her teachers and classes have really challenged her, which is helpful in the competition.
Hochhalter said he thinks that Trinity's faith-based education will help Emter in her goals.
"I think there are skills in thinking and acting that Trinity offers that a public school does not, and it offers it because we teach the faith," he said. "When you teach Catholic faith or Christian faith as a discipline, as a class … it’s a body of material that they have to master … The body of knowledge demands (philosophical) thinking, at the highest level … So I think that’s where Trinity has helped her the most, is teaching her how to think."