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Student heads for Annapolis

June 13, 1999

Heather GrossBy BRUCE HAMILTON / Staff Writer

photo: MARLA BROSE / staff photographer




Heather Gross graduates Friday with a will to study, serve and sail.

The 18-year-old Williamsport High School senior will report to the U.S. Naval Academy July 1.

"It will give me an opportunity to be more disciplined," she said. "I want to serve the country."

Service is not new to Gross. She recently completed an internship at Washington County Hospital. She also joined the Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co. last year to complete a student service learning requirement.

"I wanted to gain a skill I could take with me," she said.

Gross took courses in firefighting and hazardous materials last summer. She found going on company calls rewarding.

"A lot of times it's people you know," she said. "You can see you're making a difference."

At one vehicle accident scene, she was upset to find the victim was a friend. "My heart just sank. I was so scared," she said. Her arrival brought the distressed but unhurt friend comfort, Gross said.

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The hospital internship gave her a chance to check out a career in psychology, which she decided not pursue. "I'm too emotional to be able to handle everybody else's problems," she said.

Aside from volunteering, band and beauty pageants took up a lot of her extracurricular time. Gross plays trumpet and performed solo as well as with the Hagerstown municipal band and her high school's marching band and jazz band.

Trumpet was her talent in three pageants and her speaking platform was volunteer service through firefighting. She tried for the titles of Miss Washington County, Miss Western Maryland and Miss Greenbelt, placing as a runner-up in each competition.

Until April, Gross wasn't sure where she would continue her education. She was accepted at Penn State University, Hood College and the University of Michigan, all of which offered scholarships.

Williamsport teachers were very supportive, according to Gross. "They all told me I'm going to make it anywhere I go," she said. "The teachers actually care and they all know a little bit about you."

Until she received a letter of assurance in mid-February, she didn't think the Naval Academy was going to accept her. She then underwent a battery of tests at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Finally, she secured a nomination from Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md. She was already anxious to attend the Annapolis academy when the acceptance letter came in April. For the past two months, she has been working out to get in shape.

Established in 1845, the Naval Academy states its mission is to develop midshipmen morally, physically and mentally for service. Women comprise about 14 percent of the incoming freshmen, known as plebes.

According to the Washington County Board of Education, Gross is the county's only public school senior going on to a service academy this year. She is a member of the National Honor Society.

Ira Gross said he is proud of his daughter.

"I think she's going to love it because I know she likes challenges," he said. Heather is "very committed," he said. "If she does something, she's going to do it right."

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