CHARACTER COUNTS

Westwood’s Elizabeth Preston building leadership experience in JROTC, softball

Jan 9, 2024, 5:00 AM

Westwood Softball...

Westwood Softball logo (Instagram Photo/Westwood Softball)

(Instagram Photo/Westwood Softball)

Westwood High School senior Elizabeth Preston is entering her fourth season as a starting catcher on the softball team, and her fingers are crossed for the opportunity to be captain. Preston appreciates the perspective she has behind the plate, particularly being able to communicate and lead her teammates playing the field.

“You’re directing your team, like, ‘Hey, we have a play at second, let’s get this out,'” Preston said. “Like you’re the hype man. You’re trying to hype everyone up. I think being catcher allows me to do that. It’s a very important part. It’s easier for me to see the play happening and I’m able to just help everyone out as much as I can.”

Preston is building a resume full of leadership experience beyond her role on the diamond, including as commander of her Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) post. She was inspired by an army doctor who spoke to her class in fifth grade and picked Westwood because of its JROTC program despite the 30-minute drive home.

She became commander as a junior and retained that position after she was chief master sergeant and Kitty Hawk Air Society president as a sophomore, the same year she earned an AFJRROTC Purple Heart.

“(The speaker) talked about all the different places he’d been in the world, all the different people he had met and it really like spoke to me,” Preston said. “I just want to help everyone and have a good impact. Then here’s this guy who’s talking about, I can go into the military and still be a doctor and still help people. That sounds like a great idea.”

As commander, Preston saw areas needing improvement with the program and mad efforts to better the drill team and add a rocket club.

“I see that there’s a need, I want to fill that spot, like, let’s try to make this better,” she said.

Preston wants to attend medical school to study neuroscience with an eye on becoming a trauma surgeon for the Air Force.

Outside her involvement in JROTC and softball, Preston is the president of school’s model United Nations. She said Westwood is the only Arizona high school that hosts its own Model UN conference, which had 400 students this year.

Last year, the group went to Madrid to participate with schools out of country, and they have another international trip coming up.

“I had to do all the bookkeeping for that, it was a lot, but we did make it to Madrid,” Preston said. “We did actually win an award for being the furthest away from home, which I found funny. … This year, we’re going to London, which is also so much fun. In model UN, you have different committees, and for Security Council, you only get two participants per school. We earned both of those seats, which was super proud, because you have to earn enough points for that. So we got the two security council seats and we’ve just been doing little mock trials every week.”

Preston’s weekly scheduled fits in softball practices, JROTC meetings, model UN meetings, National Honor Society meetings and advisor meetings to discuss her involvement in the International Baccalaureate program. Weekend are for catching up on homework, playing in tournaments or keeping score at her sister’s softball games.

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Westwood’s Elizabeth Preston building leadership experience in JROTC, softball