WHEELING - The Linsly School's Alec Reed remembers having an immense fascination for aviation from a very early age. Maybe it was his fifth birthday, celebrated with a party at the Wheeling-Ohio County Airport, that prompted Reed's interest in aviation. Today, the 18-year-old high school senior is a licensed private pilot.
"Flying and aviation in general has been a passion of mine since I was just a little kid," said Reed, who has been named one of more than 3,000 candidates in the 2014 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program and has distinguished himself with a long list of academic and artistic achievements.
"It's almost indescribable," Reed said about his flying experiences. "I just loved learning as much as I could about airplanes."
Alec Reed stands in front of a small Cessna plane at the Wheeling-Ohio County Airport.
Reed is the son of Scott and Laura Reed of Wheeling.
Following his freshman year, Reed arranged to take private flying instructions at the Wheeling-Ohio County Airport with the full support of his parents. "They were very incredibly supportive," he said.
His mother Laura said, "It is very rewarding to watch your child pursue their passion no matter what it may be, and to witness them learning that any dream worth achieving must be earned with a great deal of planning, time and hard work. Yes, there are certainly great risks involved in flying; but, this pursuit was so important and fulfilling for him, so that was my focus."
Over the next couple of years in the midst of continuing with his numerous studies and extracurricular activities, Reed put in nearly 50 hours of training to become a licensed private pilot.
Reed, who is also the recent recipient of the 2013 Basil G. Lockhart award - distinguishing him as Head Prefect, the leader of Linsly's merit-based form of student government for the 2013-14 academic year - said initially he trained in a Cessna 152, a small, two-seater, one engine propeller plane. But following the sudden death of his instructor, he eventually traveled to the Washington, Pa. airport on a regular basis for flying lessons. It was there he earned his pilot's license while training with a larger four-seater Cessna 172 SP. He now flys a Pipper Warrior, a slightly different style plane from the Cessna.
With his formal training over, Reed continues to fly out of the Washington airport on what he calls a more "casual basis."
While he admits balancing academics and his social life can be a bit "challenging at times," he said being involved with the activities he truly enjoys, makes everything much more manageable.
"I don't think that one thing is a burden over others and I kind of think that helps," he said.
While Reed admits flying is his greatest passion, he plans to pursue medicine in college. He aims to become a surgeon and has recently learned he has been accepted into Harvard University.
"Simply put, I have loved my eight years here (at Linsly), I feel that the relationships that I've built with teachers and faculty members have been an incredible experience, and they have made my school experience that much better. I don't know if I would have had that at a public school and that's what makes Linsly stand out," Reed said.
His father Scott said they are extremely proud of their son.
"As parents, we are most proud of his effort to pursue his dreams, not the results. Linsly's educational process is very conducive to helping kids realize they should not limit themselves to their perceived potential, but to push the boundaries of what they believe they can achieve. It's a philosophy that we support and encourage with both of our sons," Scott said.
In addition to being named a candidate for the 2014 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, which is selected on the basis of of superior academic and artistic achievements, leadership qualities, strong character and involvement in community and school activities, Reed earned first honors through every grading quarter, received Headmaster's Performance List distinction, and accumulated 15 First in Class awards for various courses. He is a member of the National Honor Society, National Junior Classical League Latin Honor Society, the Linsly Ski Club and has served as vice-president of the Linsly Key Club, secretary of the varsity forensics team and as the editor of The Linsly Line student newspaper.