Name: Laura Kovacs - lived in Rye for 23 years
Family info: Husband of 25 years, Steve Kovacs
Kids: Chris 23 (U of Michigan Grad living in NYC) , Colin 21 (Rising Junior at Dickinson College on the Men’s Lacrosse Team), Ryan and Owen 18
Pets: Bella, 12 year old Golden Retriever
Would you share your family's story?
I grew up in Bayside Hills, Queens and am the oldest of three children. Growing up I played lots of sports and spent summers working as a lifeguard. I went to Catholic grammar school and high school and then attended the University of Delaware and earned a BS in Education and then attended St. John’s University where I earned my MS as a Reading Specialist. I met my husband Steve in the summer at the beach in Bayhead, NJ. We married in 1997 and moved to NYC. I taught 3rd grade for 7 years before becoming a mom. Before I knew it I had 4 boys under the age of 5 so I was a stay at home mom after that. It was kind of hard to leave the house! Over the years I’ve done a little bit of everything: CCD teacher, Midland Talent Show MC, even a Home Stager. I think I’m sort of a Jack of all trades, master of none maybe? Steve and I have also bought, sold and renovated 4 houses in Rye so that kept me busy over the years but it also allowed me to learn a lot about real estate and construction. There was a stretch of 4 years (2016-2020) when Steve commuted to work and was in Virginia M-F so that was a super busy time! Most recently though it’s been all Rye Youth Council and supporting the Rye HS football, soccer, basketball and lacrosse teams the boys have been on. I’m going to really miss watching my Garnets play!
What are you currently working on?
I’ve served on the board of The Rye Youth Council for the past 5 years and find my work very rewarding. Supporting RYC and its mission to foster positive mental health and social well being for the youth in Rye is so important, now more than ever. I encourage the community to participate in the many wonderful programs RYC has to offer and to support RYC in any way they can. I’ve also been involved on the Advisory Board with SoulRyders working with the Big Batch program making healthy meals to deliver patients and families going through cancer treatment. That was very rewarding because it combines my love of cooking with a very worthwhile cause.
Your son, Ryan, just graduated from Rye High School and received an appointment to the United States Air Force Academy. Tell us about Ryan. How did Ryan first get interested in the USAFA?
Ryan has always been a disciplined, organized, driven person. He loves science, especially physics and astronomy. When researching colleges he discovered the Air Force Academy because of the STEM curriculum and the access to all the space sciences. Additionally, he’s always been interested in the stories and careers of veterans, especially my father and father-in-law, and he felt called to be part of something bigger.
My father served in the Navy and Steve’s father is a retired Army Colonel who was stationed throughout Europe until Steve was in 8th grade. One of Steve’s brothers had an ROTC scholarship and served in the Army Reserves.
I know you dropped him off last week for basic training in Colorado Springs. How are you feeling?
We are so proud of Ryan! The drop off was really tough, definitely lots of anticipation, nerves and tears (on my part!) but mixed with excitement that he achieved this goal and will be experiencing amazing things at the Air Force Academy.
What made this drop-off different from college drop-offs with your older sons?
College drop off at a service academy, otherwise known as I-Day or Inprocessing Day, is very different from a civilian college. At the Air Force Academy the drop off was on June 23rd, just a few days after RHS graduation! The other academies have Similar early drop offs: West Point was June 27th and The Naval Academy was June 29th. We met some students who had to miss their graduation. Also, there are no trips to Bed, Bath & Beyond! Ryan was given a very detailed but limited packing list, everything fit in his school backpack. Parents had to stay in the car so we drove up, we dropped him off and drove away. He was given a 10 minute phone call that night and then had to surrender his phone. The only form of communication for the next 6 weeks during BCT (Basic Cadet Training) will be through letters. We’ll make another trip to see him on August 5th for the Acceptance Day parade when the Basic Cadets are officially accepted into the Cadet wing and will be known as “Doolies” (similar to plebes). On A-Day we will be allowed two hours with him to have lunch. After that, Parents weekend is Labor Day weekend and we’ll be allowed to take him off campus for two nights.
How was the application process for the USAFA different from getting into a typical 4 year college? What steps did he have to take to apply?
The application itself is similar to a regular college app with essays, activities, recommendations etc. However, there are also several supplemental components which include a medical and eye exam and a physical fitness test. Additionally, an applicant to a service academy must obtain a nomination from a congressperson or senator. That process requires its own set of applications, essays and recommendations. A student can meet all the criteria for admission but without the nomination their application is not considered complete. There are strict rules surrounding the nomination process as well and there are limited slots each year.
How did he ultimately decide?
Ryan was accepted into the Naval Academy early in the college process. For a while we thought that was his choice. When he was accepted into the Air Force Academy in January we took him to Colorado Springs for a tour. He also had the chance to spend the day with a junior Cadet. He ended up loving the campus, the mountains and the overall atmosphere. As May 1st got closer he would drop hints that he was leaning towards planes over boats and accepted his appointment to USAFA!
Ryan’s twin, Owen, is going to play lacrosse at Bucknell. How are they handling this new stage in life? How are their experiences differing?
We are thrilled for Owen to have achieved his goal of playing Division I lacrosse. He will for sure have a very different college experience than Ryan, especially socially, but he’ll also have a very structured schedule of workouts, practices and team commitments as well as a rigorous course load in the business school. The boys are each other's biggest fans. I know they’ll definitely miss each other - it was very tough watching them say goodbye. Thank goodness for Facetime, once Ryan gets his phone back!
Most people on the East coast don’t know much about the Air Force Academy, what can you share?
USAFA is one of the 4 service academies and is located in Colorado Springs which is a 75 minute drive south of Denver. There are approximately 4,000 cadets representing every state in the US. The curriculum is similar to that of a research university with a focus on STEM, along with arts/humanities courses and of course military and physical training. There are Division I teams as well as club and intramural sports. Cadets also participate in airmanship training and have the opportunity to fly gliders and do solo parachute jumps- not your typical extracurricular activities! The cadets are very busy 6 days a week and on Sundays they have personal time. Upon graduating they will be commissioned as 2nd Lieutenants in the Air Force or Space Force. They will be required to give back 5 years of service in the military and if they become pilots (about 40% of graduates) they will give back 10 years. The mission of the Air Force Academy is to educate, train and inspire men and women to become officers of character motivated to lead the United States Air Force and Space Force in service to our Nation.
What are your expectations for his experiences at USAFA? Training?
Freshman year of college often comes with some struggles along the way. Steve and I are expecting the first year at Air Force to be very challenging. Rigorous academics, being far from home, adjusting to military life, challenging physical demands, it’s a lot! But Ryan chose this life to serve our country and be the best he can be as he goes through the process so we’re very proud of him.
What are some things you did as a mom to prepare?
We joined the parent Facebook group which has been amazingly helpful. It’s a lot different than other college groups I’ve been in. People don’t ask, what kind of dorm fridge should we buy! The military community is so supportive and the experienced parents offer tons of helpful tips and advice. I even got Steve to join and he wasn’t on social media. I’d be lost without that because a service academy is such a new experience. I also organized an event where many of the appointees and their parents from the NY area were able to get together and get to know each other which was great. They’ve been a huge source of support because we’re all going through the same adjustment. There’s also a great documentary that we watched that’s available on Amazon Prime video called “A Year in the Blue”. It follows cadets in their first year at the Air Force Academy. It was definitely eye opening.
How will you stay connected?
For now, only letters but once Ryan has his phone back we’ll hopefully do lots of Facetime and the family group chat will help us all remain connected. We’d like to bring family out to parents weekend and at other times of the year because Colorado Springs is beautiful and has so many fun year round outdoor activities.
Is there a small piece of advice you can share with other moms?
The mom community in Rye is amazing. You’re all Ryemarkable in my eyes. I’ve learned so much from all of you. I made a sign from a quote I came across and taped it on our fridge that says: The 4 things you control everyday: 1. Attitude 2. Effort 3. Behavior 4. Actions
I try to remember this every day and remind the boys too, even if it gets an eye roll once in a while I think it’s a pretty good philosophy.
Over the years our family has had so much support from extended family, friends, teachers, and coaches. Just living in the Rye community gives you a feeling that people have your back. It sounds cliche but it truly does take a village. It’s amazing how fast 23 years flew by. There are a lot of new families in Rye now and my hope is that they give back to the community, to each other and build a life as full as we have here in Rye.