Elise Wheelock: Laurel Ridge Gave Alumna Soaring Start to Success ‣ Laurel Ridge Community College
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Elise Wheelock: Laurel Ridge Gave Alumna Soaring Start to Success

2016 Laurel Ridge graduate Elise Wheelock’s career is off to a flying start. She was recently hired by Western Aircraft, Inc. in Boise, Idaho, as the regional sales director for Piper Aircraft.

Wheelock, who is from Sperryville, began dual enrolling at Laurel Ridge when she was a junior in high school. She earned her associate of science degree from Laurel Ridge’s Fauquier Campus, and was named the Most Outstanding Graduate of 2016. She then continued her education at the University of North Dakota, where she attained a bachelor’s degree in aeronautics in 2018.

In 2017, Wheelock won first place in the primary category of the National Aerobatics Championships while on the UND Aerobatics team. She is qualified to fly all Piper models and was the youngest pilot to complete factory training on Piper’s flagship aircraft, the M600/SLS.  Wheelock is a commercially-rated pilot with instrument, multi-engine, and flight instructor ratings.

“I got a free flight when I was 15 at the Warrenton-Fauquier Airport, and I was hooked,” Wheelock said of her love of aviation. “The nice thing about being homeschooled and going to Laurel Ridge was that I could have a flight lesson and then go to the college and take classes afterwards.”

The library was a great place to get some homework done between classes, said Wheelock, who was a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the academic honor society for two-year colleges.

Wheelock values the time she spent at Laurel Ridge. She describes her favorite professors, History Professor Nicole Martin, Biology Professor Jerome “Butch” Austin, and Physics Professor Clelia LaMonica as “super-awesome.”

“Professor Martin was a big reason why I dual enrolled at Laurel Ridge,” said Wheelock, adding she knew the professor through her homeschooling network. “Professor Austin taught anatomy and physiology and was an excellent teacher, who genuinely cared about each of his students and their success. Laurel Ridge has lots of good professors. The professors at Laurel Ridge were so engaged and good, they cared, and the class sizes were small.

“Laurel Ridge gave me the chance to get ahead in my career. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree at 20, and then was able to go straight into the workforce, starting my career at Piper Aircraft a year and a half before others my age had graduated. This turned out to be especially important in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.