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Air Force Academy awaits 2 seniors

Both students, who will graduate tonight from Citrus High School, want to fly.

By PAULETTE LASH RITCHIE
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 24, 2002


INVERNESS -- Two top Citrus High School students have received Air Force Academy appointments. Christina Fifer, 17, and James Baker, 18, will graduate from Citrus High tonight and later this summer will leave for Colorado Springs, Colo. The educations are estimated to be worth $280,000 each. Christina has a 4.002 grade point average and is in the Air Force Junior ROTC. She was offered a $50,000 ROTC scholarship, but declined in favor of the academy.

James has a 4.22 GPA and was not in JROTC. Both students want to fly.

"I want to be a pilot," said Christina, but she is a little worried she may not fulfill the height requirement. So she is keeping her options open.

That decision can wait for a couple of years. She definitely wants to be a career officer, she said. "There's plenty to do there. My grandparents, my uncle, my father all served in the military at one time or another."

Joining ROTC wasn't one of Christina's plans at the beginning of high school. She said she joined by accident. She was intrigued by the drama and color of the flag corps. It turned out, though, to be nothing like the flag corps in the band. But it did turn out to be something she liked.

"It's organized," she said. "You have some kind of ranking system."

And a future with the Air Force, she said, will help her concentrate on a job that will do some good in the world. "I'd rather be flying to some foreign country to save lives than flying a cargo plane delivering snake food to pet stores," she said.

"It's a challenging job," she said. "I'll get to go places and I'll get to see the world."

James said he got into the academy through hard work.

"All my life I've worked hard to achieve my goals," he said. Once he was set on trying to get an academy appointment, he said he decided the Air Force would be an excellent choice for him.

Like Christina, James wants to fly. "I want to be a pilot and fly fighter jets," he said. "It's exciting."

Neither student is very worried about leaving home. Christina says she will miss her family and anticipates her mother calling every day.

James said, "I anticipate the challenges of Basic Cadet Training, commonly known as "Beast,' to be pretty rough, and in some ways it's going to be fun, also."

He said he doesn't expect to be homesick, but he does expect the "academic load will be a great opportunity and pretty difficult."

Christina is the daughter of Audrey and Frank Duncan, and James is the son of Ken Baker.

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