When Danielle Decker began attending AFA as a 6th grader, her first impression was “mostly that the people here were crazy”—in a good way. “You don’t usually go to a school and get a hug by someone you’ve never met before [Mrs. Carey], or have Hershey’s Kisses thrown at you during [Mrs. Solomon’s] Latin class,” says Decker, who goes by Danee. “It just felt like home immediately.”
Now a graduating senior who has been accepted into the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, Decker says she is leaving AFA with fond memories of the strong camaraderie between students of all grades. “At first I couldn’t figure out which people were in which grades because everyone talked to everyone,” says Decker.
Decker had come from another private school, and found AFA’s academics more challenging than she expected. “I was not completely prepared for how rigorous the academics would be, but help is always available as long as you’re willing to look for it,” she says. She describes her favorite subjects—Chemistry and Physics—as “really fun”, and plans to pursue studies in chemical and structural engineering at Virginia Tech in order to someday work with energetic materials. “It’s a nice way of saying explosives,” she explains.
In the Corps of Cadets Decker has the option of enlisting in the military, something she is considering. “I’m not sure if God is leading me to be in the military or to go the civilian track,” she says. But she knows that the leadership training she’ll receive will be invaluable for either.
Decker says her parents’ patriotism inspired her to join the Corps, as well as her mother’s background as an immigrant who served as a marine in Singapore. “Naturally I’m a defensive person, and if I love something, I want to defend it,” she says. “My Dad has always told me, ‘You never fight for fear of what’s in front of you, but for the love of what’s behind you.’”
In her spare time Decker serves as a sound tech for school and church events. She enjoys hunting and hiking, along with “building or destroying things.” She is likely to be found behind a jackhammer working on a home renovation project, or behind the barrel of her 243 Savage Arms riffle. “I’ve been hunting with my Dad since I was eight,” she says. She admits that her fascination and desire to work with explosives was aided by her hunting and by “playing with fireworks in ways I probably shouldn’t have” during various Fourth of July celebrations.
Reflecting on her years at AFA, Decker says she is particularly thankful for Dr. Schultz, her Biology and Chemistry teacher, who she describes as a “close friend”. She is also grateful for her Worldview and Ethics, and Apologetics and Discipleship classes, where she says she had the freedom to ask questions that helped her to think more deeply about her faith. “There’s no fear of asking a wrong question, or a tough question,” she says. Decker believes that this freedom to question, along with the fellowship of other Christian students has significantly impacted her Christian faith. “It’s become more real to me,” Decker says. “I’m walking, and I’ll never stop walking.”