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Potsdam graduates looking forward to opportunities the military offers

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POTSDAM - In a typical year at Potsdam High School, a small number of seniors enlist in the military following their high school careers.

This year though, that number is more than double what it is typically is with 10 students, nearly 10 percent of the graduating class electing to do so.

“It’s a larger percentage than normal,” according to Superintendent Patrick H. Brady, who noted the district typically sends 4 percent or less of its graduates into the military.

“I’m not sure if this is a trend or an anomaly. It’s difficult to tell without speaking to them individually, but the military does open doors for students and present them with an opportunity for a good career or advancement.”

While the military may not be for everyone, Mr. Brady said it can be a good start on the right path for students choosing to go that route.

“I think it’s an excellent option for those interested and willing to pursue those field,” he said, adding one of his daughters served in the Navy, a branch chosen by one of this year’s graduates.

Aaron D. Clement said the benefits, as well as jobs that “are pretty sweet,” led him to the Navy, where he was looking for a chance to get a good start on his adult life.

“I figured it would be a good opportunity for me to better myself and have an opportunity for a career should I get out or decide to stay in,” he said, adding he’s signed up to become an aviation machinist.

“I’ll be working on aircraft out on a carrier in the middle of the ocean,” he said.

Five of his classmates will be joining the Air Force, including friends Alanni I. Silkowski and Sabrina A. French.

“I’ve always been interested in the military,’ Ms. French said. “My sister is in the Army, and she’s one of the key people in my life.”

Ms. French said she was more interested in the skies than the ground or water. “The planes are pretty sweet. If the opportunity arises to be a pilot, I would take it.”

She also said she’s looking forward to the travel that comes with being in the military and the “free education.”

Like Ms. French, Ms. Silkowski said she’s been interested in the military from a young age. She was actually planning to follow her grandfather’s footsteps into the Army.

“My grandfather was in the Army, and he always preached about how good the military was,” she said. “I was going to go in the Army, but Sabrina convinced me to talk to an Air Force recruiter.”

Ms. Silkowski said aside from her grandfather’s stories Hollywood helped to steer her in this direction.

“I’ve always wanted to be in the military. Since I was a little kid I’ve enjoyed war movies,” she said.

And making matters even better, Ms. French and Ms. Silkowski will even be serving their nation together.

“We’re going to basic together,” Ms. Silkowski said. “We’re leaving the same day, and we’ll graduate together.”

Danielle M. Sinnigen will also be joining her classmates in the military, though as a member of the Coast Guard.

“It’s a smaller branch of the military so it’s definitely a more tight bunch, and it’s easier to get promoted,” she said.

Ms. Sinnigen comes from what she described as a military family.

“My whole family is in the military. My dad was in the Army. He’s retired now. My sister was in the Air Force, but now she’s in the Army stationed in Afghanistan,” she said, adding her sister’s husband is a Marine, leaving the Coast Guard as one of the few military options not represented in her family tree.

“They’ve all taken their own paths in the military, and I wanted to take my own path too,” she said, adding that she’s known from a young age that she would be headed for the military after high school.

“It’s kind of a requirement in my family,” Ms. Sinnigen said. “My mom was an Army brat. Her dad was a soldier, and she married a soldier.”

Given her family background, it goes without saying that they were supportive of her decision to enlist.

“If it’s for four years or for life, they’ll be supportive either way,” she said.

Family support was something that each of the students said they were fortunate enough to have.

“They’re actually pretty proud,” Ms. Silkowski said, referring to her parents. “They knew I wanted to join, but I don’t think they ever thought I actually would.”

Having a sister already in the military also made things easier for Ms. French’s parents.

“They’re 100 percent supportive,” she said.

Mr. Clement said he has the support of his father, who served in the Army, but noted that his mother wasn’t too keen on the idea of him enlisting in the military.

“Mom is mom,” he said. “She absolutely hates the idea of it. She doesn’t want to see me get hurt, plus I’ll be gone for a long time.”

In addition to Ms. French, Ms. Silkowski and Ms. Sinnigen, six other Potsdam graduates will be enlisting following graduation.

They include Nolan Baker, joining the Marines: Spencer Neaton, Aaron Parent and Dillon Smith , enlisting in the Air Force; and Brian Thomas and Jason Monast, entering the Army,

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