Randolph High School Senior Earns Appointment to West Point

By Henry M. Holden   

Larissa (in the red) at a recent TKD match

Larissa Donohue, a product of Randolph Schools, is an honor student in Randolph High School. She is about to embark on a challenge that will determine her future. In June she heads off to West Point to begin a challenging career in the U.S. Army. 

But facing challenges is not new to Larissa. She has faced the challenges of Taekwondo (TKD) for several years.  It’s the discipline/sport that she enjoys and excels in.

“I started when I was really young, about five years old,” she said. “I had no particular reason; I was just trying every sport possible such as gymnastics and soccer.  My dad had some experience in the martial arts as a kid so I think that was one of the reasons I pursued it. By the end of the fourth grade, I was slowing down on the other sports and focused on Taekwondo. I was going to Apex Tiger Martial Arts, in Florham Park, and they first introduced me to the sport aspect of TKD. I went to a few competitions and in the seventh grade I switched to just the competitive aspect with Rich deGeorge, at Invictus Taekwondo in Union.” 

Larissa has won several awards; Second Place at the Pan American Open in Oregon in 2019, and in 2021 she won first place in the Regional Grand Prix in the Senior Division, and she placed second at the Atu Nationals, in Georgia.

All her friends are very proud of Larissa and supportive of her, she said.

“In the TKD sport of Olympic Sparring, you score points by hitting your opponent in the head and torso area, primarily by kicking,” she said.  “A sparring match is three rounds.  You ultimately fight your way through multiple matches to get to the podium.

In TKD we wear chest protectors and special socks with magnets. There are tension wires that measure how hard you are kicking. You get two points for a body kick and three to the helmet head gear. We are graded on how hard we kick through the electronic system.”

But there is more to Larissa’s martial arts successes. In 2020 She earned her Third-Degree Black Belt. She was also invited to the USA National Academy in Colorado Springs at the Olympic Training Center.

In the eighth grade Larissa had a close family friend who was familiar with West Point. “He was telling me about all his experiences, and I found it intriguing. That’s when my dad and I began to do our own research and I began to think of West Point as being an option for college. I heard other people’s experiences and I began to get really excited about it.  I began to realize that my strength as a person would really work best how I would fit in and fit my lifestyle. I thought about career choices after graduation from West Point.”

In October 2021, she went to West Point and spent a day with a current Plebe, she got to talk with some people, and walk around for a day and see some of the classes. She has a friend who graduated and another who is a plebe (freshman) so, she has some information on what to expect.

From that point, Larissa began the application process which was simple things like writing essays and short answers to questions. But also, the first step to getting an appointment was getting a recommendation from a Congressional Representative or a Senator. “So, for me, that was either Senators Bob Menendez or Cory Booker, or Mikie Sherrill my Congressional Representative. So, for each of them I had to write answers to short questions and handle Zoom interviews.”  

She had two panel interviews — one with “representatives” from House Representative, Mikie Sherrill’s office, and another with “representatives” from both Senators Menendez’s and Booker’s office.  All the interviews were over Zoom. She was also interviewed with a West Point ‘Field Force’ representative.

Larissa ultimately received her Appointment from Mikie Sherrill.  (In NJ, appointments are coordinated across all NJ members of Congress.) 

“In late January I was notified I would be getting my nomination from Mikie Sherrill, so that was for me the final step in the application process. Then in February, I got my actual appointment in writing.”

Larissa plans on majoring in Organizational Psychology and Leadership at West Point. After the four years of academics, as a newly minted Second Lieutenant, she will spend five years on active duty, and then three years in the Reserves. There is also a Taekwondo team at West Point, and she hopes to be part of that team.

Larissa will report for duty on June 27, roughly a month past her 18th birthday as a Plebe. Academics begin in early August.

“There is a lot of emotion,” said Kathleen Donohue, Larissa’s mother. “We are incredibly proud of our daughter. Larissa has always worked hard, and she has wanted to do West Point for so long, and to see her dream come true, we could not be prouder. We are also a bit apprehensive because there is a lot she is going to go through. We are trying to prepare ourselves to be West Point parents and do everything we can to support her in her journey.  

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