LURAY ― When rising Luray High School graduate Alex White headed for Cambridge, Mass., earlier this year it marked the 18-year-old's first time on a commercial jet and the farthest he'd ever ventured from home.
When he heads back to Harvard University later this summer, he'll make Cambridge his home away from home for the next four years during a full ride to the Ivy League ― a scholarship valued at more than $300,000.
Including Harvard, White was offered scholarships to eight top universities, including half of the Ivy Leagues ― New Jersey's Princeton; Cornell in Ithaca, New York; the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia; U.Va. in Charlottesville; Washington and Lee in Lexington; and the University of Richmond.
It's an accomplishment the local senior attributes not only to hard work, but to the local school division.
“We've had a lot of negative headlines and upheaval with the school system lately, but I've gotten the best education here, and it's a place where you're encouraged to pursue excellence, regardless of being in a smaller, rural division,” said White. “It's an amazing honor and I credit the good work of my teachers, counselors and administrators throughout school … They are one of the reasons I applied to so many schools.”
Based on financial benchmarks, White continued, staff members at LHS encouraged the rising graduate to apply to multiple institutions that “would provide 100 percent of the need.”
His high school records also helped. When White walks across the LHS stage on Saturday to accept his high school diploma, he'll do so three weeks after earning his associate degree through Lord Fairfax Community College's dual enrollment program. The two years of college credits won't transfer to Harvard, said White, since it doesn't accept transfer credits, but the college curriculum gave him a foot-up to his future alma mater.
During his time at LHS White has attended governor's school, served as president on the Student Council Association, served as class president for each of his four classes and been a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, FBLA and the National Honor Society. During his sophomore year he was selected to participate in the Sorensen Institute's High School Leaders Program at U.Va.
This school year as a member of the forensics team White was awarded first place in the state for his competition category, as well as named regional player of the year. White also garnered district and regional player of the year titles this year through the LHS academic team.
As a member of the varsity golf team White was named most dedicated three years in a row and qualified for regionals during his freshmen year as a distance runner in track and field.
And during what he touts as perhaps his top accomplishment, White traveled to the nation's Capitol last summer as one of 98 delegates chosen to participate in the American Legion's Boys Nation ― an annual eight-day event aimed at giving participants a hands-on approach in learning how the U.S. Senate and federal government function.
For the Luray native who aspires to a career in politics, the honor once bestowed upon the program's most famous alumnus Bill Clinton was especially meaningful.
“When I spied cable personality Chris Matthews in the congressional subway system, I doggedly approached him and introduced myself,” White recalled in his college entrance essay. “He teased me for my earnestness, going so far as to compare my politicking to that of President Bill Clinton, and he deepened my comparison after realizing why I was there.”
For a future that will take him from here to Harvard, said White ― and an opportunity to “make his mark.”
“You've got to do what you enjoy ― find the things you're good at that you enjoy and try do the best you can,” he said, noting his interest in politics. “A cornerstone of the American belief is if you work hard enough, your children will have a better life than you did.
“That's the big thing, just trying to make people's lives better,” White continued. “That's what I'd like to do through government because government affects real people in very real ways.”
This Saturday, White will join rising LHS graduate's during the school's commencement ceremony. As of press time Tuesday, the school's guidance department was unable to provide numbers for the graduating class, including the total number of graduates, scholarship totals and dual enrollment numbers. Calls to Page County High School's guidance department were not returned as of press time.
Commencement ceremonies are scheduled for 10 a.m. this Saturday, June 1, at LHS, and 3 p.m. Saturday at PCHS.