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Samuel Reiter of Ocean Ridge plans to study aviation and business at The Ohio State University. Photo provided

 

By Faran Fagen

A lot of high schoolers take off with their friends on their 17th birthday, but Samuel Reiter chose to spend eight hours at the airport taking the hardest test of his life.

“I knew going in that I needed to prepare for the test as much as possible in order to get my pilot’s license,” Reiter said. “I needed to do well not only to pass the test, but for it to be a good birthday.”

Not long after earning his pilot’s license last year on his 17th birthday — the age at which one is eligible to take the aviation exam — Reiter was named valedictorian of his class at Boynton Beach Community High School.

“It was definitely a risky decision to take the pilot’s exam on my 17th birthday,” said the Ocean Ridge resident.

Reiter, now 18, graduated in May from the Boynton Aerospace Science Academy (also known as BASA), a Choice Program in Palm Beach County. At Boynton Beach High, he co-founded and served as president of the BASA Student Council, an organization that was formed to build a stronger sense of community and create opportunities for students to support their Choice program.

“My friends in the BASA program are really what pushed me to reach this level,” Reiter said. “We were all working together and studying together, and we all held each other accountable.”

Reiter worked with his fellow BASA seniors, board of trustees and Parents Council to launch an SAT and college prep program last year at BASA/BBCHS. The aim was to provide students with support and guidance in college planning as BBCHS had no college advisers, something Reiter and his peers hope will change soon.

“Sam’s enthusiasm and efforts to give back not only build up the BASA community, but also the Boynton Beach High School community as well,” said Moody Fuller, BBCHS principal. “He’s very effective at bringing people together for the greater good.”

This fall, Reiter will attend The Ohio State University, where he received a Morrill Distinction Scholarship, the highest merit-based scholarship offered at OSU.

The scholarship is awarded on a competitive basis to academically talented high school seniors who the university hopes will contribute to campus diversity and academic excellence.

The award is the value of the cost to attend Ohio State, including out-of-state tuition and room/board.

Reiter also considered Purdue, Stanford and Embry-Riddle universities, but chose OSU, where he plans to pursue a degree in aviation in the College of Engineering and minor in a business field.

Reiter said he did not pursue valedictorian status, but that he achieved it because he followed his passion for aviation, which forced him to focus on his studies. He flies out of Lantana Airport every chance he gets, renting from a flight school that provides an instructor.

In addition to being a private pilot, Reiter earned his drone license certification by passing the challenging FAA Part 107 test.

He began flying at home on a simulator that he assembled when he was 14 years old, after a successful summer of saving his earnings from babysitting his twin cousins.

The simulator is a dual-monitor gaming computer with several flying instrument attachments like a yoke, throttle and pedal.

When he is actually in the air, one of his favorite destinations is the Island Gypsy Cafe at Marco Island where he, his instructor and possibly a lucky passenger can enjoy grouper sandwiches.

Reiter got his start in aviation at age 8 when his parents, Russell and Susan, moved the family to Ocean Ridge from New York. Sam has three siblings. The family loved skiing, so they took frequent plane rides for ski trips.

“I’ve always been really big on transportation,” Reiter said. “When I lived in New York, we used to take the train a lot and I developed a love for the human ability to operate such powerful machines so delicately.”

He was amazed by how many buttons planes had and how each served a different function.

“There were so many screens, and someone had to learn how to read all that,” Reiter said.

In his spare time, he enjoys 3D printing and building models of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, and watches almost every SpaceX launch either from Ocean Ridge or Cape Canaveral, or online if it’s in Texas or California.

Reiter also rock climbs, hikes, skis and travels with his family. He works at Josie’s Ristorante in Boynton Beach.

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