The end of the school year means a changing of the guard at the United States Air Force Academy for two of Craig's premier students.
For Moffat County High School alumna Jill Adamek, the academy's graduation on Wednesday marked the successful completion of her undergraduate education and the beginning of her 10-year professional service commitment to the Air Force.
Adamek said she was "definitely relieved" to have finished the finals for her meteorology classes.
Graduating as a second lieutenant, Adamek exudes confidence, hardened during her four years of disciplined training and education. She looks forward to spending the summer on "casual status," awaiting an opening slot in the Air Force two-year pilot training program while teaching military training as an executive officer at the USAFA Preparatory School, which she attended for a year before being accepted at the academy.
Maggie Blackstun, however, does not have the comfort of experience to assess the challenge that lies ahead. As a 2006 MCHS graduate, Blackstun has little time to enjoy her high school accomplishments before heading off to the academy on June 29.
Blackstun is the first MCHS student to be accepted to the academy since Adamek.
"I found out about a month ago, at school. One of the admissions counselors walked right into my class. I cried, I was so excited," Blackstun said.
Blackstun said she was interested in the academy because of her family's military history, including an aunt who attended the academy.
She began the rigorous application process one year ago, which includes the prerequisite nomination from a member of U.S. Congress.
Blackstun's obvious well-rounded nature earned her the nominations of all three of Colorado's congressmen -- Sens. Wayne Allard and Ken Salazar and Rep. John Salazar -- to whom she sent applications.
Blackstun is not only active at school, at her church and in the community, she also ran the 100-meter leg of the Moffat girls 800-meter medley Class 4A Colorado State Track Championships in May.
Adamek was also a track star -- she was recruited by Air Force track coaches and ran sprint events at the NCAA Division 1A level for two years at the academy
But Blackstun will not be following in Adamek's footsteps in that regard.
She plans to focus on either aeronautical or astronomical engineering, but academics appear distant to a new cadet looking forward to basic cadet training -- a grueling six-week welcome to the academy often referred to as "The Beast."
"That's a big scare, the physical training. It will be hard mentally. You get yelled at a lot," Blackstun said. "There are also so many pretty severe, silly rules your first year ... becoming a follower to become a good leader. There's a purpose."
Adamek remembers how difficult that first year was.
"I was homesick," Adamek said. "They take everything away, clothes, no cell phone. They strip you of your identity -- (tell you) when to eat, where to walk."
Although the women didn't go to school together, Adamek talked to Blackstun during her application process through a shared admissions liaison.
After four challenging years, Adamek has nothing but praise for the academy, which does not require tuition in exchange for at least eight years of service after graduation.
Adamek said she believes in the academy's benefits and hopes that Blackstun survives the demanding year ahead of her.
"My advice to Maggie would be to never give up and that you can do more than you think you can," Adamek said. "I'm excited for her. It's a whole different world here. There's so many opportunities -- I've flown in aircraft I never imagined (while) living in Craig."