Without Laurel Ridge Community College, Elayna Caron doesn’t think she would be attending the U.S. Air Force Academy right now.
Caron graduated with her associate degree in general studies with a specialization in administration of justice in 2022 at the same time that she graduated from high school. The Warrenton resident was homeschooled and took Laurel Ridge classes through dual enrollment. At the 2022 commencement ceremony, she was named the Outstanding Graduate for the Fauquier Campus.
Caron’s older sister, Olivia Caron Jones, was also a dual-enrollment student. She transferred to Virginia Tech from Laurel Ridge and is now an engineer. Her experience inspired Elayna Caron.
“My sister had done it before me, and I thought, why not get your associate degree while in high school,” she said. “It’s such a great program.”
During her final year at Laurel Ridge, Caron was president of the Alpha Psi Iota chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, an academic honor society for two-year colleges.
“I feel like Laurel Ridge helped me become an adult a little bit faster,” she said. “I thought the classes were really good. They were challenging enough so I wasn’t shocked when I came to the academy, or overwhelmed with my schoolwork like I know some of my peers were. The transition from high school to here was so much smoother for me.”
Caron even credits Laurel Ridge’s academics and her experience with PTK in helping her get accepted into the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Caron’s mother had done Air Force ROTC at Virginia Tech, and she had planned to follow in her footsteps, but changed her plans when she heard about the Air Force Academy.
Caron described her first year at the academy as “life changing.”
“It was tough,” she said. “As freshmen, we were getting developed to be officers, so the time was spent challenging us in ways that I never thought I would be challenged. It was a long year, but I’m really grateful for it, and I’m happy that I’m here.”
Earlier this summer, she participated in jump training.
“That was insane,” she said. “My first jump was a solo jump out of the plane, 5,000 feet in the air, 10 seconds of free fall and pulling my own parachute. It was wild, but I really, really liked it.”
She is majoring in foreign area studies with a political science emphasis and minoring in Russian. She hopes to work in the intelligence field.
In addition to the physical and academic work Caron is putting in at the Air Force Academy, she is also involved in the Bluebards theater group.
“We have a pretty strong theater program here, which I wasn’t really expecting,” she said.
The group puts on two shows in the fall and two in the spring, which is enjoyable for Caron whose family has been involved with Fauquier Community Theatre.
And, a third Caron sister is continuing the Laurel Ridge tradition. Isabelle Caron is enrolled in the college’s nursing program.
Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.