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This teen author found his hero right at home

One evening this past April, Jay Leno gave Aidan Colvin a call.

Granted, it wasn’t the first time the celebrity comedian and the Raleigh high school student had spoken: they’d met in Fayetteville the day before, at one of Leno’s shows, but that had been a quick chat in the autograph line. This time, though, the phone in Aidan’s Raleigh home was lighting up with a blocked caller ID. When Aidan’s mom, Liisa Ogburn, picked it up, Leno was on the other line.

He’d read Aidan’s book and wanted to talk to the author.

“We had this really long conversation,” Aidan recalls. “He actually read the entire book the night before, which I thought was really impressive.”

The book, “Looking For Heroes: One Boy, One Year, 100 Letters,” documents Aidan’s self-set mission to connect with successful people with dyslexia. He wrote letter after letter. Some, like Ozzy Osbourne and Richard Branson, didn’t write back. Others, like CNN founder Ted Turner, replied that it had been incorrectly reported that they had dyslexia. Yet people like Arctic explorer Ann Bancroft, novelist and screenwriter John Irving and, yes, Leno, responded.

Yet these luminaries aren’t the stars of “Looking For Heroes” – the members of Aidan’s family are. One of the teenage author’s major inspirations was Larry Swann Colvin, or “Pop,” his paternal grandfather. Pop, who died in January, had dyslexia as well.

“We had the rough copy that we gave to him about a week before he died, so it was kind of dedicated to him,” Aidan says.

“Honestly, it speeded up writing it because Aidan wanted to read it to his granddad before he passed away,” Ogburn says. “At that point, Jay Leno was not part of the story.”

When Pop was growing up, Aidan explains, dyslexia wasn’t as well understood and there weren’t as many mechanisms to help people with dyslexia understand their learning difference. In those years, teachers thought that Pop was stupid or that he just wasn’t trying hard enough, Aidan says, so he took classes and eventually jobs that didn’t require much reading and writing. He worked 14-hour days for 42 years as a barber in downtown Wilmington.

“He worked with his hands and he got confident doing things that didn’t require reading,” Ogburn says. “There are many other ways to shine.”

During the year that Aidan was writing letters and hoping for replies, Pop was living with the family. He was there for Aidan, and the two talked often, but he had cancer. The first draft of the book, the one that Pop and Leno read, was largely a story of a boy and his grandfather during that last year together. And while the final version added a few chapters about Aidan’s conversations with Leno, a lot of the book’s focus is still on Pop.

“He was really inspirational because he was the only person in my family who had dyslexia,” Aidan says.

Outside his family, the successful people Aidan wrote to during that year slowly began to respond, and each response seemed to be more detailed and personal. At first, they were simply writing back or answering Aidan’s questionnaires, though filmmaker Harvey Hubbell V, director of “Dislecksia: The Movie,” Facetimed with Aidan.

“I was just so grateful that the dyslexics that responded did take that time,” Ogburn says. “We all need heroes, so they were true heroes to Aidan. Maybe he can be a hero to some of the kids who are writing to him now.”

Indeed, in the months since finishing his book, Aidan has gone from asking famous people about their dyslexia to answering questions about his own. He has set up social media accounts for “Looking for Heroes” and will be featured by a number of organizations for Learning Disabilities Awareness Month in October. Still, Aidan isn’t getting ahead of himself. The book may be out, but the 11th grade at Wake STEM Early College takes precedence.

“I’m really focusing on the next week or two at this point,” Aidan says.

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Durham STEM student recognized by peers

Joshua Zhou, a student at The N.C. School of Science and Mathematics in Durham, was named one of two “Rickoids of the Year” by his peers at the Research Science Institute held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Trinity scholar named

Richard Clayton Delp of Fuquay-Varina was one of three North Carolina students to win one of Duke University’s Trinity Scholarships. He received the Beischer/Fox Trinity Scholarship.

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Student leaders in D.C.

Four Triangle students were selected to be a part of Bank of America’s Student Leaders program. They are all interns at the YMCA of the Triangle for the summer and participate in an immersive leadership development program. They are, from left, Julie Nguyen from N.C. School of Science and Math, Kwani Taylor from Enloe High School, Roy Kamineni from Green Hope High School and Lucia Lozano Robledo from Carrboro High School.

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Rising senior learning Arabic

Ryan Wallace, a rising senior in the IB program at Cedar Ridge High School in Hillsborough, has been awarded a National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) scholarship for 2016-17. The scholarship enables him to spend seven weeks this summer in Morocco learning Arabic.

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Scholarship awarded

Kylie C. Wu, of Cary, is the recipient of a Local Government Federal Credit Union Scholarship Award and will use the scholarship to study at Columbia University.

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FFA students take awards

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Hospitality scholarships go to area students

North Carolina Hospitality Education Foundation recently awarded $35,000 in scholarships and grants to a number of Triangle students. These scholarships help fund post-secondary studies in culinary arts, restaurant management, or similar fields in an effort to further advance hospitality industries in North Carolina. NC HEF is the philanthropic arm of the North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association.

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