Sky's No Limit - Alumna Olivia Gillingham


Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it is Grace Brethren alumna, Olivia Gillingham. Olivia graduated in 2015 from Grace Brethren High School and then continued on to the Air Force Academy.  Olivia played varsity softball for four years, volleyball her senior year, sang in the Chapel Praise Team, served on student leadership, was a member of the National Honor Society, and performed in five theatrical productions. Many people have played important roles in Olivia’s life. “ People led me to where I am today. During his commencement speech at the Air Force Academy, Vice President Michael Pence shared the lesson of a turtle on a fence post- the turtle did not get there by himself. That is the truth. I would not have graduated from the Air Force Academy without my blood family, new military family, and family from Grace Brethren.” 

Olivia had many great experiences at Grace Brethren but credits her senior year as her favorite. “I had one of the most unique and extraordinary high school experiences possible due to exceptional friends and faculty.” She explained that the closing night of the performing arts production, Les Miserables, was the culmination of her high school experience. “As the chorus echoed “One Day More” during the finale, the senior class of 2015 relished in a profound moment of celebration, farewell, and anticipation for the journeys which awaited us upon graduation.” After pushing herself at the Academy, we couldn't help but ask if the lessons she pulled from came from Grace Brethren. 

While at Grace Brethren, Olivia had a passion for biology, much of that credit could go to former teacher, Dr. Slown who is now the assistant professor of Biology and Chemistry at Cal State University, Monterey Bay.  “I loved her class because she changed how I viewed the natural world and my place in it.” She recalls the opening discussion at each class, answering questions that extracted her from the everyday struggles of high school and challenged her to think critically. Dr. Slown’s ability to explain genetics helped Olivia understand how God had perfectly fashioned my DNA to make me who we are. “At the delicate and often insecure age of 17, this knowledge encouraged me to pursue God’s purpose for my life knowing that He had created me to fulfill a purpose.” 

“Grace Brethren taught me that being uncomfortable is a healthy place for growth- a lesson that I would tap into almost every day at the Academy. I had never played volleyball or participated in a theatrical production before coming to Grace. I was unaware of my potential to be a leader until I was appointed captain of the softball team. More importantly however, Grace Brethren facilitated relationships which were rooted in Christ. Being surrounded by grounded, honest, and loving peers allowed me to make mistakes where there was accountability, forgiveness, and truth. My high school experience was unique- I had friends and faculty members that truly cared about my personal and spiritual development and that is what made all of the difference.” This passion for biology led her to earning a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology. 

Click the link below to read about Olivia and the C-130H crew flying high at the annual Sky’s No Limit - Girls Fly Too event in Abbottsford British Columbia, Canada. 

All-female C-130H crew lands at international air show


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