May 14—Editor's note: This is the fourth in a longstanding annual series in the MDJ spotlighting the county's best and brightest as they graduate high school.
KENNESAW — Gaining acceptance to one of the country's five military academies is an achievement few can say they've earned. But 18-year-old Mallory Jordan didn't stop there.
Jordan, a graduating senior at Mount Paran Christian School, was accepted to three. She ultimately chose the U.S. Naval Academy, her dream school.
"I actually got the Navy appointment first, and because that was my No. 1, I was like, 'I know I'm going to accept this no matter what,'" she said.
Jordan was later accepted to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, for which she feels blessed. She said she was shocked when the acceptance letters continued to come in. But, Jordan said, "I was definitely most excited when I got the Navy appointment in the mail."
The graduating senior said she's had her mind made up that she'd attend a military academy beginning in her freshman year, when she watched three seniors in particular head to service academies.
"They were just great athletes, great leaders, very smart and just overall the best people that have come through Mount Paran, and so those were kind of the people that I looked up to," she said.
A program called "Awaken the Hero Within" during a freshman year mission trip to Guatemala also instilled in her an appreciation for the privileges she'd been given, Jordan said.
"(The leader) was saying these kids that we were serving, they don't have the opportunities that we have ... so there's no excuse to not be the hero. And that really stuck with me all four years (of high school)," she said.
Jordan described herself as "goal-oriented" and said her love of learning made it easier for her to excel in school than it might have been for others caught up in just getting good grades.
"I want to actually learn the information so I can carry it into life," she said.
Jordan wasn't sure yet what exact GPA she'd graduate with, but she knew it would rise from the more than 4.3 she'd earned by the end of her junior year. She plans to major in government and politics and follow a career as a military jet pilot or in the JAG Corps.
She served as vice president of her school's student government association, played lacrosse for the school all four years and participated in various honor societies, academic clubs and service projects. Her favorite, she said, was serving at Calvary Children's Home, a home for children in metro Atlanta who are orphaned or have to live apart from their families.
She said she and others would paint, garden, make food and bake cookies for the children there.
Martha Troutman taught Jordan Spanish through her high school years and said, in the 10 years she's been teaching at the school, few students have rivaled Jordan in intelligence and "seriousness of purpose."
"And she is the opposite of ... braggy," Troutman said. "She has a very quiet strength — I've never quite known a young lady like her. She's soft-spoken, without being meek."
Troutman called her student "incredibly thoughtful," "ridiculously well-rounded," kind and humble. And the reason Jordan was such a joy to have as a student, she said, was because she "relishes the challenge" of learning and values knowledge.
"I could just see her ... something like president," Troutman said. "She's going to be somebody influential. I've honestly never known a student like her. She is one in a million in my mind."
Jordan's father said he and her mother never really had to push their daughter to get involved, excel academically and athletically and to make it in to her first choice of school.
He said he even believed his daughter could try out and walk on to the Navy lacrosse team, ranked among the top teams in the nation. He said he'd known early she'd had a desire to achieve great things.
"We're just proud of her. It's been a wonderful experience to watch her, and we know it's going to be difficult ... but I'm excited for her and excited for the opportunities and to watch her continue to grow," said Mitch Jordan, Mallory Jordan's father and athletic director at the school his daughter has attended since she was 5. "She's always had a drive, from an early age, to be the best."
And beyond her competitiveness and desire to succeed, Mallory Jordan said something else drives her. Her faith, she said, pushed her to keep going at times when she felt she may have wanted to do just a little less.
"God calls people that he's given a lot to great things," Mallory Jordan said. "He's given me a lot and blessed me with a lot. I have an amazing community, teachers and mentors that care about me, parents that have invested in me and encouraged me, and so I think that there's no option but to work as hard as I can."
Follow Thomas Hartwell on Twitter at twitter.com/MDJThomas.