Chelsea senior looks forward to a great education and serving her country

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Riley Thorburn accepting and signing her appointment. photo provided by the Thorburn family.

Chelsea High School senior Riley Thorburn recently reached a major milestone moment in her life when she accepted her appointment into the United States Coast Guard Academy for the fall of 2021.

The announcement of her acceptance into this military academy came late this past month.

The Sun Times News followed up with her about the good news.

“I am beyond excited to accept my appointment to the Coast Guard Academy,” Thorburn said. “Right now, I’m feeling a mix of nerves and anticipation as I prepare for swab summer (the seven weeks of initial training).”

Her parents, Tara and Loren Thorburn, are also excited and proud.

“She has been focused on serving her country through the military since her visit in 8th grade to the Naval Academy through a summer STEM course,” they both said through an email interview. “Since that experience, she has researched, visited other military academies, and similar military camp experiences to pursue her interest in serving her country and studying engineering.”

They describe their daughter as “a determined soul with leadership qualities who cares about her community.”

“She wants to push herself and others to do better. She looks for adventure, while learning more about herself and the world around her,” they said. “The Coast Guard Academy seems like a natural fit for her.”

The Coast Guard Academy is in New London, Connecticut. It’s an accredited college educating future Coast Guard officers.

Admission to it is highly competitive. According to the academy, fewer than 400 appointments are offered annually from a pool of over 2,000 applicants. Cadets receive a full tuition scholarship and monthly stipend for a five years service commitment upon graduation.

All grads earn a Bachelor of Science degree and are guaranteed a position of leadership as a commissioned officer.

She will be sworn in on June 25, as cadet in the Class of 2025.

In looking at Riley’s resume, it’s apparent she’s made a number of contributions to the Chelsea School District and community through her leadership in SRSLY, the FIRST Robotics club, as well as on the cross country and track and field teams.

SRSLY is a community coalition of youth, parents, neighbors, teachers, librarians, healthcare professionals, law enforcement, religious leaders, local businesses, civic group members, and anyone else who wants to prevent youth substance use in Chelsea.

Riley said becoming an officer in the military and attending a service academy has been one of her big life goals since middle school.

“Subsequently, I’ve spent most of high school preparing myself morally, physically, and mentally,” she said. “The actual application process took me over four months, so I was thrilled to receive my acceptance phone call.”

Her motivation and inspiration to work hard to get to this point all started when she said she fell in love with the Coast Guard after researching its humanitarian mission and how she was struck by its tight-knit community.

The academy itself is actually the smallest service academy, so she said she’s looking forward to developing personal relationships with her classmates and teachers. She will also continue to run cross country and track while at the academy.

Another important part of her journey to get here was what she called an amazing opportunity to talk to another Chelsea alumnus who attended the Coast Guard Academy.

“He gave me perspective on what life is like after commissioning, and emphasized how most graduates decide to stay in after their five years of mandatory service,” she said. “The Coast Guard Academy is the perfect combination of what I wanted in a school and a future career.”

Her main goal going into swab summer and the following academic year, “is to be open to change and adaptable.”

“The academic and military schedule is rigorous and I want to learn how to balance it all effectively,” she said looking forward.

It’s not too far away now as the school year winds down in Chelsea and for her. These last weeks are giving her the time to think about how she got here and the support that helped her.

“Chelsea has given me endless opportunities to improve myself as a student and a leader,” she said. “The district and teachers truly emphasize teaching the whole person, rather than just a name on a sheet.”

She was able to take a wide range of AP and honors classes that she said she believes will set her up for success at the Coast Guard Academy. She’s also been able to follow her passion for engineering by taking all of the tech and consortium classes offered through the school district.

“I love being a part of all of the clubs as well. One particular one, FIRST Robotics, is what inspired me to pursue electrical engineering,” she said. “Other clubs like SRSLY gave me the chance to hone my public speaking and communication skills. I can’t thank Chelsea enough for shaping me as a student.”

This appreciation goes even further when she’s asked about her family and their support.

“My parents have encouraged me every step of the way,” Riley said. “They made it clear from the beginning that they were going to be hands off in the application process, so all my research and motivation was driven by me. Nonetheless, they have been instrumental to my success. They helped me learn essential time management skills, how to channel stress, and many more lessons. My dad is my track coach and has always pushed me beyond what even I think is possible. I am blessed to have such a great support system (and siblings who make me laugh when I get too serious!).”

It’s this support system, even from afar, that will continue to help her as she moves into the next stage of life, but she will miss them.

“I think that one of the harder parts of this journey will be being so far away from my friends and family," she said. “Connecticut is a long way from Michigan! From this, I think I will grow even more as a person.”

photo by Jacqueline Taylor
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