Churchey, 23, recently graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, but instead of heading to medical school, she set her course for the Navy Flight School in Pensacola, Fla.
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Her road to the Naval Academy was rocky, she said, and her years there were not without trials.
"It definitely was a roller coaster ride," said Churchey, a 2006 North Hagerstown High School graduate.
Churchey said she first became interested in attending the Naval Academy when her fourth-grade class visited it on a field trip.
"She just sparked an interest in it from the very beginning," said Churchey's mother, Patti Friend of St. Augustine, Fla. Her father, Don Churchey, lives in Hagerstown.
"I think it really matched my character," said Churchey, adding that it was the structure, rigid schedule, and athletic emphasis that appealed to her.
After a year-long application process, Churchey received a letter from the Naval Academy in April 2006 that threatened her dream.
"I didn't get into the class of 2010 because my verbal SAT scores were 20 to 30 points too low," she said. "It was crushing."
It was so crushing that Churchey said she threw the letter away without reading all of it.
She said her mom soon retrieved the letter from the trash can and explained to her the benefits of attending a preparatory school for a year.
"I have her to thank," Churchey said. "Because my mom pulled this thing out of the trash can, I graduated from the Naval Academy."
After a year at Northwestern Preparatory School in Crestline, Calif., Churchey was accepted into the Naval Academy.
"I did not want to go," Churchey said. "Looking back on it, one year isn't that much time, and it was definitely worth it."
Churchey said the preparatory school prepared her for the structure and stress of academy life and the emotional stress of leaving home.
"It definitely made the transition a lot easier," she said.
Churchey said she initially intended to major in chemistry and become a doctor, but she realized that her grade point average would not meet the rigorous standards required to study medicine.
As she approached her junior year, Churchey said she was faced with a difficult choice. All midshipmen must sign a contract before their third year that affirms their commitment to finish their studies at the Naval Academy. She said there is a large financial penalty for midshipmen who drop out after signing the contract.
"I was contemplating not signing, and therefore I would not be able to go back," she said.