Pinkerton junior pursuing her dream to become pilotBy HUNTER McGEE
Union Leader Correspondent
June 11. 2014 9:26PM
DERRY — With aspirations of becoming a U.S. Air Force pilot, the sky is the limit for Pinkerton Academy junior Shawn Grinnell.
Grinnell has become the first female JROTC commander in the school’s 14-year history.
She is also one of three people in New Hampshire selected to participate in a summer flight program where she’ll fly solo by the end of summer before returning to school as a senior next year.
Grinnell recently left for the U.S. Air Force Academy to attend a summer seminar. When she’s done with that, she’ll attend a U.S. Naval Academy seminar for about two weeks.
And, there will be no time to rest as she’ll begin taking flying lessons after she returns later in the summer.
Grinnell grew up in Derry and knew at an early age that she wanted to become a pilot. Her father is a private pilot, and the family is related astronaut Alan Shepard Jr., the first American in space.
“I have had these dreams and goals ever since late elementary school,” Grinnell said.
She began participating in JROTC as a freshman at Pinkerton. When speaking to program administrators, she told them of her ambition to become a pilot. They recognized that she had leadership qualities and told her that if she worked hard, she could eventually become the program’s commander.
“They said, ‘There’s never been a girl before, just so you know,’’’ Grinnell said.
I decided right there that was something I wanted to do.
She earned good grades and decided to become more active in the program when she became a junior. Grinnell began coming after school to participate in the drill team and color guard and was placed in charge of two classes, she said.
“I really developed my leadership,” she said. “I kind of showed them I had what it took to lead next year, which I’m very thankful to have the opportunity to do because it means everything to me to see the corps be successful.”
Along the way, Grinnell said she has overcome some adversity as she became the first female commander for JROTC. She said some people have the perception that girls can’t take on and succeed in such roles.
Since being named commander, she feels like she has the ability to change those perceptions, adding that isn’t her first priority.
“I’ve made it this far, and hopefully if I successfully lead next year, then everything they’ve ever said will just fly back in their faces.”