Name: Ryan Graves

Hometown: Munising, Mich.

Title: 2nd Lt.

Business: U.S. Marine Corps

When he was a little boy, Ryan boarded a Cessna 172 aircraft for a family tour of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan. He was immediately captivated, not by the brilliant display of nature unspooling below him, but by this amazing new sensation of dashing across the sky.

Ryan’s love affair with flying never waned. And now, nearly two decades after that maiden flight and less than a year after graduating from Lakeland with a criminal justice major and an aviation minor, he’s about to take that love to a new level.

Following six months of school in Virginia for newly commissioned officers, Ryan will enter the U.S. Marine Corps flight school, after which he’ll begin a career built on flying.

Ryan initially enrolled in Michigan Tech, but didn’t like how big the school was.

“And I wanted to fly,” he recalls. “Lakeland’s (aviation program) was a great way to earn credits, learn about aviation and fly. It worked out great for me. I’m close to 100 hours of flight time and almost have my instrument rating.”

Ryan holds a private license, and needless to say, he’ll have an edge over his fellow marines when he gets to flight school.

“It’s a great program,” Ryan says of Lakeland’s aviation minor. “People with an interest in aviation will really enjoy it. It’s one thing to be in the back of a plane learning about flying. But to actually fly is a unique experience.”