From West Irvine to West Point

One of America’s best and brightest got her start in Irvine.

Lauren Drysdale’s path to leadership began at age 4 when she picked up a soccer ball for the first time in her living room in West Irvine.

Now 21 and in her senior year at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, Drysdale last month was named first captain, the top rank for a cadet. She is the eighth young woman to attain that position since the elite college in New York first opened its doors to women in 1976.

“The opportunity I got to play soccer while growing up in Irvine was huge for me,” Drysdale told the Standard. “It helped make me tough and really built up my confidence, creating the foundation for who I am today.”

Lauren Drysdale was a league MVP on the Beckman High soccer team.

Drysdale joined her first soccer club (the Orange Tigers) at age 5, before moving on to the Blades League and then the Irvine Slammers.  She was class president at Beckman High School continuously from ninth to 11th grade and was student body president as a senior. Common to both endeavors, she said, was the skill of getting to know different kinds of people and how they interact and what helps them work well together.

Now, as first captain of the U.S. Military Academy’s Corps of Cadets, she is the liaison between her approximately 4,400 fellow cadets and the college administration, while also assuming responsibility for the cadets’ overall performance. “My focus is on building cohesive, lasting teams,” she said.

Local roots led to her success

Drysdale, left, credits her parents, Michael and Michelle, and sister Hannah for inspiring her success.

Upon her graduation next spring, Drysdale intends to spend five years or more on active duty in the U.S. Army, as part of a commitment that also includes three years in the U.S. Army Reserve.

She hopes to specialize in military intelligence, after which she plans to go back to school for a master’s in business administration and then return to West Point to teach future leaders.

Drysdale credits her parents, Michael and Michelle, who first met as students at Irvine High School, for inspiring her extraordinary trajectory. She said she is  also grateful to her grandparents, who lived nearby, and to her older sister, Hannah, and the many engaged teachers who encouraged and supported her.

“A lot of people have leadership skills, but what separated Lauren was her work ethic, the way she would never let that foot off the gas pedal,” recalled Michael, the owner of a small marketing firm who was also his daughter’s first soccer coach.

Living among other well-educated, ambitious families also helped, he said: “The competitive nature of the schools and academics in Irvine kind of drove her, pushing her to be the best she could be.”

Irvine’s safe streets were yet another contributor to Drysdale’s success, according to both father and daughter. After finishing her homework in the late afternoons, she would work on her dribbling and kicking at Valencia Park off Trevino Drive, a short walk from home, Michael recalled, adding: “She wouldn’t come home until the streetlights came on – just like my wife and I did when we were growing up here.”