Answer: Reserve Officer’s Training Corps, or ROTC.
Zinser entered the Spanish Springs High ROTC and had no clue what she was in store for — or where it would lead her. Zinser was promoted to Battalion Commander this year after rising through the ranks during her first three years in the program.
“I am a high schooler leading 270 high schoolers so it is not really that I am above them, it is just the chain of command the instructors enforce,” Zinser said of her role. “If I can’t have respect for them, how are they supposed to have respect for me? I can’t just go right in and start yelling orders because I have to see them in math class, so you kind of have to recognize that.”
Zinser recently led her battalion through two Drill Meets against competing schools from across the district. Though her brigade did not perform as she had hoped during the meet at Reed High School, the meet hosted by the Cougars was the most important thus far.
“Reed is usually the toughest meet because they are Navy ROTC and we are Army ROTC, so they have different regulations that we never quite understand fully,” Zinser said. “The meet (at Spanish Springs) is the largest Drill Meet in Washoe County and we placed first overall so that really gave us a lot of motivation. There is always a huge boost in morale after a drill meet and a willingness to stay out in the freezing cold weather each day for practice.”
Zinser is currently preparing her regiment for the district meeting at Reno High School on Dec. 15. She said all groups within her battalion are “stepping up their game” because they need new, fresh routines in order to perform well.
Outside of ROTC, Zinser maintains three Advanced Placement classes including Calculus, Biology and Government. She said those classes must have good grades in order to maintain her Battalion Commander role, but she does not view those classes as anything special.
“I am one of those people who doesn’t do a lot of things, I just focus on one,” she said. “I have always kept good grades and put work into other classes but math class is math class.”
The thought process has translated to her future major in college, as she has yet to decide one, but her ROTC experience has shown through. She said a leadership position, whether it be as manager of a small business or taking over her mother’s company, will be the best fit for her.
“I am planning to attend college rather than enter the military, but it is always a possibility for me,” she said. “The only thing that is holding me back from going into the military is being away from my family and putting those stresses on them. I think I could excel at it, I just don’t want to put them through that.”
Zinser said Truckee Meadows Community College and the University of Nevada, Reno are likely to become her secondary education institutions. As she continues leading the ROTC, holding a job outside of school and working through her class schedule, she said the stress is managed “very carefully.”
“It is definitely prioritizing and a lot of early mornings,” she said. “I can’t think at night so I wake up at two or three in the morning and make sure all my homework is done. It is not the best thing in the world, but it works for me. It is just figuring out what is most important.”