Education propelled girlhood dreams

August 30, 2006|By GREGORY KANE

So, Alicia C. Reid, who as a little girl used to play doctor by slapping bandages and arm slings on her daddy, can now be officially called Dr. Alicia C. Reid, proud recipient of a Ph.D. from the Weill Graduate School of Cornell University.

And "Dr. Reid" is just how her family, friends and assorted well-wishers addressed her Saturday evening at a graduation party held in her honor. How Alicia Reid went from being a high school senior who had no idea how she was going to pay for college to a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University is a story akin to a gourmet chef's specialty, involving a dash of serendipity, a couple of cups of initiative, drive and smarts and a few hundred pounds of love.

Alicia Reid thanked all those involved in her achievement at the party held off of Greens Lane in Randallstown. There are many people involved in this tale, so many it's hard to know where to start. But perhaps the best place to begin is with the folks who were there from the start: Alicia's parents.

Julia H. Reid is the mother of the newly anointed Dr. Reid. She beamed with a justifiable and understandable pride last weekend as she talked about Alicia, the second of her three daughters. Julia Reid was proud, but not surprised by her middle girl's achievement. All through her life, Alicia was all about achievement.

"She was always that type of person," Julia Reid said. "From her elementary school days, I saw that in her."

When Alicia was 5, her mother said, she'd practice being a medical doctor, using her dad Norman Reid as the patient. Or, in those cases when Alicia and her younger sister, Kendra Reid, were feeling extra mischievous, sleeping dad was the target of a girly-girl makeover.

"I'd be asleep and wake up and find stuff [Alicia had] put on my face," Norman Reid recalled. "One time I woke up and rushed out to work. When I got there, my co-workers cracked up. I had fingernail polish, lipstick and rouge on me."

Alicia was the culprit. Kendra was her assistant.

"I'm very proud of her," Kendra said. "It's overwhelming. [Alicia's] the best female role model I could ever look up to."

Kendra graduated in June as valedictorian from the National Academy Foundation High School in Baltimore. (It's one of those new high schools now being formed on what seems like a monthly basis in Baltimore.) Kendra is following in her older sister's footsteps. Alicia Reid graduated from Polytechnic Institute's A course in 1997 after taking advanced placement classes in calculus, English and biology.

"In the 38 years I was at Poly, I've never met a finer student or person," said Sam Brown, who attended the graduation party. "She's a special, special lady." Brown started teaching at Poly in 1967 and served as vice principal and math department chairman before he retired.

The feelings Brown expressed about Alicia are mutual.

"I can't even put that in words," Alicia said of how she felt about Brown's attending the party. "It's just so humbling to see him. He's like a second father figure for me. He periodically kept in touch with me, always asking `How are you doing, Alicia?'"

In January 1997 Alicia had no idea how she would pay for college. Fortunately for her, she'd emceed a talent show for a man named Leamon Best, who often puts on talent shows featuring youngsters. Impressed by Alicia's talent as an emcee, Best mentioned her to Harlow Fullwood, founder and head of the Harlow Fullwood Foundation. Fullwood suggested that Best bring Alicia with him to the foundation's Annual Benefit and Recognition Breakfast.

Fullwood, who uses his foundation to, among other things, award scholarships to deserving students and present awards for outstanding community service, is a former Baltimore police officer and businessman.

He's also nobody's fool. He checked with the folks at Poly about Alicia's academic record. When she and Best arrived at the breakfast, Fullwood had a surprise for both of them: a $50,000 scholarship to Virginia Union University.

Nine other Baltimore-area high school students were similarly delighted. That year, Virginia Union put up $500,000 in scholarship money to go to 10 students.

After Virginia Union, it was on to grad school in physiology at Cornell, which Alicia attended courtesy of a five-year predoctoral fellowship. She finished her studies and her dissertation in July. Alicia C. Reid, the little girl who used to pretend to be a doctor, is now Dr. Alicia C. Reid, a research physiologist who expounds on scientific matters using words few laymen can even pronounce, much less understand.

"It's awesome," said Quinta Reid, Alicia's older sister. "It's incredible and amazing. I'm just so proud."

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