The sky is the limit for teen

VIRGINIA CITY -- As a little boy, Jef Ross dreamed of flying planes in the U.S. Navy. As his eyesight diminished, he knew it couldn't come true.

At 17, he has a new twist to his dream -- to make the machines instead of fly them.

"I'd really like to design space ships and build them," he said. "I'd love to go up in a shuttle."

The moon may seem like a lofty aspiration for a kid from Virginia City, but both a senator and congressman -- not to mention friends and family -- believe he can do it.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., endorsed Ross for the U.S. Air Force Academy and Congressman Jim Gibbons, D-Nev., nominated Ross for the U.S. Naval Academy.

Ross' excitement was compounded by the excitement of school and community officials.

"I was delighted," said VHS principal Todd Hess. "It was a very joyous occasion for me and for the town as well."

Ross has worked to maintain a straight-A average but said his involvement in basketball and baseball have been equally important to developing his character.

"You learn a lot of things playing sports," he said. "You learn teamwork and you learn to trust in yourself. If you think you're going to play good you will but if you're nervous, you won't do as well."

Ross plans to apply to both academies but would prefer to attend the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Although it is what he wants to do, he can't help but be nervous about leaving Virginia City, where he's lived since he was 8 years old.

"I'm going from this little town and this little school of about 160 kids to this huge academy of over 10,000 people," he said. "It's a little overwhelming. I just try to take it a little bit at a time."

Reluctant to count his eggs before they hatch, however, he has also compiled a short list of universities he would also like to attend and major in aerospace engineering.

His brother, Nick, is a chemistry student at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Ross credits his teachers and parents -- mom and stepdad Chris and John Senko -- for pushing him to always achieve more, which he hopes to apply to space exploration.

"There's so much of it we don't know about," he said. "It's so big, there's just got to be stuff out there that's waiting to be found."


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