On to the next level

NEW PALESTINE — It really is like a dream come true, Anna Jennings said.

A highly energetic and focused young adult, Jennings, 19, is a New Palestine native who attended Southern Hancock schools through eighth grade. She recently graduated from Cathedral High School and is about to embark on a road less traveled.

Jennings, who now lives with her family in McCordsville, has accepted an invitation to attend Yale University in the fall where she plans to study medicine and compete in gymnastics for the Bulldogs.

It’s an honor to get accepted into Yale University, she said.

University officials invite an estimated 1,500 out of about 35,000 applicants per year. The fact Jennings earned her way into Yale is something she can hardly believe.

“All my life, I’ve always tried to do the very best at everything,” she said. “It makes me feel like all of that hard work has paid off… But, I almost couldn’t believe it.”

Her parents, Ryan and Michelle Jennings, are not only proud of their daughter, they gave her the freedom to select a full-ride scholarship to the U.S. Air Force Academy or go to Yale, where they will foot the bill.

“They told me to follow my heart and not my head, so that’s what I did,” Anna said.

As an elite student who graduated from high school with a High Honors distinction maintaining a 4.3 GPA, Anna is also a member of the National Honor Society and participated in more than 15 club and volunteer organizations, her parents said.

She is also a highly accomplished gymnast who trained with the elite Jaycie Phelps Athletic Center (JPAC) team. Jennings has had attention from college coaches since she was 14, trying to convince her to attend their universities.

“Gymnastics has taught her discipline and sacrifice, but God gave her an unrelenting drive that causes her to constantly set goals and work toward achieving them,” her father, Ryan Jennings, wrote in an email to the Daily Reporter.

He said his daughter is comfortable only if she is working toward something.

“Her mother and I have been trying to teach her to slow down and enjoy life’s moments, but her wiring has made that difficult.”

After considering multiple Division I opportunities, Anna was able to narrow the field to her top choices _ Yale and the Air Force Academy. She selected Yale because she wanted to spend her college years enjoying the college atmosphere rather than being a full-time cadet and student.

After training for gymnastics four hours a day, six days a week since she was 6, Anna said its time to slow down a little bit. NCAA rules only allow for 20 hours of workouts meaning she will have more free time in college.

“I guess that is a plus,” she said with a laugh.

Anna is one of the most accomplished gymnasts to ever come out of the New Palestine area.

According to a press release showcasing her athletic accomplishments, Anna has hundreds of tournament titles to her name. One of the most significant was winning an all-around championship at the Chicago Style meet _ the largest gymnastics meet in the country. She has multiple Indiana State championships, Region 5 titles as well as being a multiple time Junior Olympic National Qualifier.

Anna plans to continue her training this summer. For the first time in a long time she’s looking forward to a family vacation to Hawaii. She plans to hang out this summer with her close friends in New Palestine along with her brother Andrew and sisters Lily and Julia.

In late August, she’ll leave for Yale, where she’ll study molecular and cellular developmental science. Jennings hopes to become a surgeon or cancer researcher.

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Kristy Deer is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3262 or kdeer@greenfieldreporter.com.