NFA Alumni headed to the United States Naval Academy posted in News, NFA in the Press on August 11, 2020 in News, NFA in the Press on 8/11/2020
Gabriella Hand

Source: The Griffin Daily News
By: Jennifer Reynolds

Local student headed to the United States Naval Academy

Gabriella Hand, a local homeschool student, has been accepted to the United States Naval Academy after obtaining an associate’s degree.

Her goals are clear. She wants to become an officer in the United States Navy, she wants to advance the field of aviation, and she wants to be an inspiration to young people – especially girls.

Her path to aviation began in an unlikely place. It was her love of music that introduced her to flying.

She plays both piano and flute and her music teacher, Nellie LaBerge, is an aircraft and powerplant mechanic. Her daughter is a pilot and when Hand was 14-years old, she offered to take her flying.

Hand said the first flight was a thrill and it was one of that would never go away.

“It always feels like the first time flying,” she said.

She began working as a student mechanic for pilots in exchange for flight lessons and has worked at both Candler Field Museum’s Youth Aviation Program in Williamson and at FlyBoys Flight Centers in Griffin.

It was when she was a sophomore in high school that an uncle who had retired from the Navy, first told her about the Naval Academy. Hand who said she has always admired the military life, knew it was the path for her.

She said she wants to serve and she thinks that her service is a way of giving back to her community.

She said getting accepted to the Naval Academy was a rigorous process but that by going through it, she learned to look at her life experiences in a broader way. It was her personal statement about learning the value of honor while attending the National Flight Academy in Pensacola, Florida that she thinks made the biggest impact in her acceptance.

She attended the National Flight Academy’s summer camp twice, one leading her eight-member team (teams are usually 12 members) to win Squadron of the Week, and earning them the title the “Honorable Eight” after encouraging her team to do everything they did with honor.

She would later become the first volunteer at the National Flight Academy and took joy in explaining STEM to the girls who attended the camp and showing them how a STEM career could benefit them.

This week, she sits for her written exam for private pilot’s license and on June 24, she will take her checkride flight. Just three days later she departs for Annapolis, Maryland with family before reporting to the Naval Academy on July 1.

“I believe the Naval Academy will be my next step in becoming an honorable leader,” she said.

She hopes that after graduation she will return to Pensacola and the Naval Air Station to train as a fighter pilot.

She said she wants to encourage students to pursue dual enrollment and that she thinks that were it not for her own dual enrollment, she would not be where she is today. She also encouraged anyone who has an interest in the Naval Academy to consider attending a Candidate Visit Weekend to “expose candidates to all facets of life as a Midshipmen.”

Hand will be recognized by the county during the June 15 Board of Commissioners meeting.

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