- Winnetka Public Schools
D36 Alum Makes a Difference in the World Through Military Service
D36 alum Austin Welch graduated from United States Military Academy at West Point in 2015 as Cadet First Captain and Brigade Commander. In this role, he served as the senior cadet in charge of more than 4,400 cadets at West Point. Austin is currently a First Lieutenant assigned to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, was accepted to be a Special Operations Aviator and is undergoing training in the MH-47G Chinook Helicopter. In addition to his military duties and passion for aviation, Austin is also a determined athlete who completed the 2015 Boston Marathon carrying an American flag.
Reflecting on his time in D36, Austin says, “My experience in The Winnetka Public Schools was undeniably impactful and inspiring for one main reason: the teachers. I believe teachers are so uniquely positioned to leave indelible footprints on the hearts and minds of their students and I have countless examples of Winnetka educators doing so in my life...They helped to push and encourage me to become the man they knew I could be and for that I am exceedingly grateful.”
When he was a student at Hubbard Woods, he recalls developing confidence in public speaking on the World’s Greatest School Television station and studying current events under the guidance of his fourth grade teacher. “She helped me understand the importance of being a “global citizen” and of having firm awareness of what was happening around me. Undoubtedly, honing those skills were not only some of my favorite memories from my D36 experience, but they were instrumental in becoming who I am today.”
Austin’s military service is inspired by his grandfathers, who served in the Army and the Air Force during both WWII and Korea. “Their courage, integrity, and sense of duty left a significant impression on me and I knew early on those were traits I wanted to emulate. From an early age, I was inspired to wear the uniform and serve our great country. As that inspiration matured, bolstered by several teachers, I knew that I wanted also to be a leader.”
Austin shares this advice with students interested in following in his footsteps: “Having the opportunity to take part in earning the freedom enjoyed by our nation is an incredible honor. In doing so, you will experience remarkable opportunities that will help you grow exponentially as a leader, as a follower, and as a human being. Even if the military isn’t for you, find a meaningful to give back to your community. While not in uniform, I serve with the Black River Volunteer Ambulance and it’s an equally fulfilling way to serve others. There are countless ways you get involved and make a difference in your own way.”