17-year-old freshman welcomes stresses of college life and ROTC

Megan Dunick

Freshman thrives under stress.

With a double major in pre-med and psychology, along with a minor in geography, Amanda Gentry breathes stress.

A sweet 16 usually consists of an over-the-top birthday party and a flashy driver’s license; however, Amanda Gentry celebrated her 16th birthday applying to colleges.

“I guess I have always been more mature for my age, so I like to think of myself as any other college student,” says Gentry, the now 17-year-old ROTC Army cadet freshman.

Gentry’s tall, lean frame is dressed casually in a red hooded sweatshirt and a pair of blue jeans. Her auburn hair is tied back in a bun and a camouflage backpack is slung over her shoulders as she sits down to talk about what it’s like to be the youngest cadet Kent State has ever seen.

Growing up, Gentry was always surrounded by the military lifestyle. Having her mother, who served for 10 years, her father, a disabled veteran, and her brother, who is currently in the military, it was almost destined for Gentry to keep the family ‘tradition’ alive.

“She knows what the military is like and it has made it easier,” says her mother, Melissa Gentry. “She’s a baby and I’ve given her wings and let her fly, but I have a safety net there for her in case she wants to fall back.”

Before college, Gentry, an Alliance native, skipped both 8th grade and her junior year of high school, permitting her to graduate at the age of 15. With a double major in pre-med and psychology, along with a minor in geography, Gentry breathes stress.

“My workload is extremely stressful,” Gentry says. “But I (thrive) on stress well, and I work the best when I am stressed, so it all works out.”

Each semester, Gentry plans on taking a full course load with total credit hours ranging from 17 to 21. By the time she is 20, when most students are in their second year of college, she will be eligible to graduate.

On top of the ROTC and schoolwork, Gentry involves herself in Kappa Phi, a service group for Christian university women. She also makes time for other activities, such as physical training and shooting at the rifle range.

“If I get five hours of sleep, I’m lucky,” Gentry says. “My life is very busy, but I can get the most out of my college experience that way.”

Not only does Gentry’s age set her apart from the rest of the ROTC program, but her sense of maturity does as well.

“You would think that for a 16-year-old in a world where everybody else is 18 years old or older, she would be swallowed up and intimidated,” says Master Sgt. Wesley Gilmore. “But she wasn’t, and she is very aggressive and outgoing, and that is a good thing.”

Gentry, who holds a four-year, tuition-free scholarship, applied for colleges nationally, with Kent State being one of her top choices. After reviewing her application, The Kent State ROTC program called Gentry back for an interview.

“I was definitely a little surprised when I found out about her age,” says admissions officer Lt. Col. Joe Paydock. “And I was concerned and I still am concerned.”

Even though Gentry is very aggressive and mature, Paydock believes there is a lot of living to do between the ages of 16 and 18.

“It is more of a concern about her development than it is for our program,” Paydock says. “I’ve seen a lot of growth over the past year, but that is because she had to.”

Gentry says she was intimidated at first and everything was a big wake-up call, but she has really been taught to build leadership skills, which is what the ROTC program strives for. She says she understood she had to grow up and she understands no one will walk her through each step, holding her hand.

“The ROTC has taught me a lot about the real world,” she says. “You are taught what it is like to be an adult. They give you adult responsibilities, and what you do with them will affect you for the rest of your life.”

Already gaining some strong and everlasting connections, Gentry values the friendships she has made so far. While she is still a minor, her friends acknowledge her maturity and intelligence levels.

“She is at the same maturity level as any other freshman I have met,” says sophomore nursing major and ROTC Army cadet Maria Strawn. “She’s not behind the game for a freshman, she is actually ahead of it.”

Gentry believes everyone, male or female, is treated exactly the same. She encourages females to join, mainly because the ROTC offers a lot of opportunities and can really help students adapt to the college life.

“The program has done a lot for me,” Gentry says. “They helped me with school, leadership skills and have shown me the physical strengths that I never thought I was capable of.”

After college graduation, Gentry has an eight-year commitment with the Army. She would like to go to medical school and become a surgeon, but she is more than satisfied with any job in the Army and is looking forward to all the opportunities.

“She has adapted better than I thought she would, being a minor and all,” Melissa says. “It will be so strange when she turns 18, that is for sure.”

Gentry recommends everyone at least try a semester with the ROTC program, for some people may find that it is new path for their lives that they would have never expected.

“Mainly, I will definitely gain leadership, and I have already gained a lot of confidence from the short time I have been in the program,” Gentry says. “I will gain experiences that I could have never had without being in the program.”

Contact ROTC reporter Megan Dunick at [email protected].