Overcoming Obstacles, Aiming High
Alex LeBlanc of Odenton has battled learning problems all his life, but he remains on track to fulfill his dream of becoming an Air Force pilot.
Whenever Alex LeBlanc grows weary, he turns his attention to a picture frame that sits on his desk. It’s a digital picture frame, filled with rotating images from outer space. They are meant to inspire.
LeBlanc turns to these pictures when he’s entered his sixth consecutive hour poring over the latest string of differential equations, or mentally readying himself for an all-day Air Force officers' training session.
“The way I keep myself focused is to remind myself what my motivation is,” he said.
LeBlanc, an Odenton native, is entering his fourth year as a physics major at the University of Maryland. He’s also involved in the Air Force ROTC program there.
His goal is to one day become an Air Force pilot, or perhaps even head out into space as an astronaut.
These are lofty goals for anyone, but are especially big for the redheaded LeBlanc, who was diagnosed with a speech delay and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder as a first-grader.
The diagnosis worried his mother, Michelle, who raised him as a single mom. She fought suggestions that he might need a special school, where he wouldn't attend class with his peers.
But with individualized help from teachers, Alex LeBlanc fought his way through Waugh Chapel Elementary, Arundel Middle School and Arundel High School. He excelled at sports, as they were an outlet for his energy and helped offer structure. But his classroom victories were harder to come by.
“I put in just as much effort as everyone else, and I wouldn’t get the same results,” LeBlanc said. “I wasn’t really any good at anything.”
And then somewhere in between high school and college, things clicked. He attended Anne Arundel County Community College for a year, but found himself still yearning for something to give him direction and focus. During a visit with one of his stepbrothers in Las Vegas, the two spoke deeply on topics such as dreams, motivation and personal fulfillment.
It was then when began to envision a job that he could one day brag to his kids about. Air Force pilot seemed to fit.
He left AACC and enrolled at Maryland. He majored in Physics. He joined the Air Force ROTC. Last semester, he made the Dean’s List.
“One decision led to another one, and they are all good decisions,” he said.
Michelle LeBlanc marvels and the transformation of her son from “class clown” to motivated young man.
“It’s only been the two of us for the longest time," she said. “I think you need somebody behind you pushing you, you really do. And then you get the spark lit, and they take it from there.”
In July, Alex LeBlanc endured a grueling ROTC training course in triple degree temperatures. Working in a simulated Afghan village, he sweated through seventeen-hour days, most of it spent either getting yelled at or yelling at others.
He described the experience as “fun.”
“They purposely make it really stressful,” he said. “You have to know what do to within in a split second. They put all this stress on you, and it sucks at the time, but it will pay off.”
LeBlanc credits the structure of the Air Force ROTC program for helping with time management and focus. He carves out time for fun, especially on Friday nights, when he joins his fellow members of the Theta Chi fraternity. But by Saturday, it’s back to the books.
He is motivated by the future, but also appreciative of the hard work of others in his life, especially his mother.
“She put so much work into me, and made so many sacrifices for me, that I couldn’t bear just being a complete wreck at life,” he said.