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Ti graduates meet challenges

TICONDEROGA - When Karissa and Ryan Cook were seniors at Ticonderoga High School in 2005, neither would have been able to envision where they are today.

Based in Monterey, Calif., for the second time in their married life, Ryan, now an E-5 staff sergeant, is enrolled in a two year intensive language course studying Pashtu with the Air Force as well as working on a bachelor's in mathematics online with Empire State College. After he receives his degree in April, 2011 he plans to work towards a master's in physics as he finishes his first six-year enlistment and enters his new four-year commitment.

Ryan already speaks Persian Farsi and Dari, and he is a blue belt in Jui Jitsu. He has already finished three deployments overseas in 2007, 2008 and 2009, and he knows that several more will come when he finishes his current language program.

However, he explained, "The Air Force gave me structure in my life and set my priorities to family and duty. My decision my senior year was that I needed a job that was reliable with good benefits and steady pay for my family. That is exactly what it has been."

Karissa is both an online student and an artist. She finished her associate's degree in business with the University of Phoenix in 2009 and has just begun a bachelor's program in photography at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. She has begun her own business, Karissa Cook Photography, and just had her first cover with the Offutt AFB magazine.

While she began by taking pictures of friends and neighbors after her husband bought her a camera of her own, today Karissa said, "I have liked moving around with my photography. I feel like it gives me a great opportunity to get out there and show the world what I've got. Many photographers dream of traveling around for a living, and I can."

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