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Thursday, November 27, 2014
‘Moving on to something greater’
EMHS’s Eric Gershoff is off to the Air Force Academy
Courtesy the Gershoff family
Eric Gershoff at his first week of basic cadet training.

When some 600 graduates walked across the stage at East Meadow and W.T. Clarke high schools last Sunday to receive their diplomas, there was one notable absence. Eric Gershoff, of East Meadow High, reported to basic cadet training at the U.S. Air Force Academy, in Colorado Springs, on June 25, four days before graduation.

The mandatory reporting date not only made Gershoff miss the ceremony, it also shortened his summer vacation to a mere 10 days.

Though Gershoff, 17, said he was sad to miss it, he understood the situation. “It stinks,” he said two days before flying to Colorado. “But I have to look at the big picture. I’m missing out on this, but I’m moving on to something greater.”

As a consolation for missing graduation, school officials arranged for Gershoff to receive his diploma at the school’s senior awards night on June 24. And while dozens of awards were distributed over the course of a few hours, it was Gershoff who stole the show — his guidance counselor, Joanna Silberman, said he received lengthy, raucous applause from the 500-plus in attendance. “The whole school was behind him,” Silberman said. “The only standing ovation of the night.”

Making his own decision

Earlier this year, Eric’s parents, Walter and Carmen, wrote a full-page dedication to their son in the school yearbook. In each corner is a photo of him in a different uniform, for each of the four sports in which he took part — soccer, track, football and baseball. In the middle is an inscription, signed also by his brother, Joshua, 12, his sister, Ashley, 20, and grandparents Alvin and Trudy, that reads, “We know you will soar high and touch the clouds!” At the time, Walter said, the family did not know whether Eric would be accepted into the Air Force Academy, which has an acceptance rate of just 9.9 percent, but they were optimistic.

Eric began the application process last summer. One requirement was a nomination from a local dignitary, and he received his from U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, who interviewed him. In March the family received a phone call from McCarthy, who said Eric had been accepted.

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