Yours truly, proud dad Andy Hurwitz, proud mom Arlene Hurwitz and Aleah! Arle. Courtesy image.

I’ve known 17-year-old Aleah Reese Hurwitz her entire life. (Actually, I “met” her four days after her birth but her parents said she hadn’t changed much.) Aleah is a quintessential child of Santa Monica as in her very first week her mom took her to the beach and her grandmother took her shopping on Montana. In preschool she enjoyed sports and the arts at Joslyn, Marine and Douglas Parks and, later, surfing lessons through the Santa Monica Recreation Department. She also volunteered at Heal The Bay Aquarium and Teen Council for the Santa Monica Public Library.

Her parents, Andy, a cardiac surgeon, and Arlene, an occupational therapist, have been my friends for twenty-five years. Both are very athletic so it was no surprise Aleah would be. (As would her younger sister, Adi.) As an infant Aleah was so remarkably agile she would climb out of her crib and apparently, when bored, climb back in. (Leaving her parents wondering how items had moved in the house until they finally figured it out.)

Ever bright, Aleah was four when I had to review an educational TV show for kids so I watched it with her. Afterwards Aleah “critiqued” it. That’s how, perhaps the youngest ever, she got a co-byline in the Daily Press.

As a UCLA alumnus, I’m delighted Aleah is also a genuine Bruin, having attended the UCLA Lab School beginning in kindergarten. The Lab School is the oldest elementary school in L.A. founded in 1882. It’s bisected by the Bel-Air Creek, surrounded by a redwood forest and the buildings were designed by the famed modernist architect, Richard Neutra.

Seemingly overnight, Aleah was suddenly turning 13 and prepping for her Bat Mitzvah. Evidently she heard from her dad that my Bar Mitzvah had been on TV. (Go to smdp.com “Lights, Camera and Uncle Benny”) so I wound up helping her write her speech. As I put in my column back then, Aleah breezed through the Bat Mitzvah with maturity beyond her years.

In middle school, Aleah excelled in numerous sports, such as squash where she won junior trophies, including second place in the L.A. Open. She also played basketball and volleyball. It was obvious, once in high school, she would wind up in the highly competitive world of club volleyball. The question was which high school.

After exhaustive research, her parents agreed on the newly opened Geffen Academy of UCLA. (Which was Aleah’s first choice!) The Geffen Academy was founded with a $100 million dollar donation from philanthropist David Geffen who has donated over $400 million to UCLA. (Now if he could only do something about the football team.)

Andy and Arlene were smitten with the Geffen because of the quality of the teachers, the high teacher to student ratio, the unique diversity of students and the proposed school architecture. But the clincher was the passionate Head of School, Dr. Sibyll Carnochan Catalan. Once enrolled, Aleah tried out for the volleyball team and ended up captain. Then came a life-changer.

Aleah was introduced to the sport of rowing through a UCLA extension program and took to it immediately. But her coaches stressed it was a full-time job and she would need to drop volleyball. Her parents were concerned but Aleah was confident it was the right decision and she has been proven prescient. (Not exactly typical for a teenager, Aleah leaves the house so early she’s on the water by 6:30 a.m. and trains twenty hours a week!)

At the California Yacht Club Aleah came under the tutelage of legendary coach Craig Leeds whose teams historically are the best on the West Coast. Aleah’s four girl team won medals from the jump. They garnered Gold at regattas in Long Beach, Marine Park (site for Olympic rowing Los Angeles in 1932), San Diego, and Lake Perris (expected venue for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics). Their greatest triumph was the U.S. rowing Southwest Youth Regional Championship in Sacramento.

It’s joyful to remember Aleah at four days old and see her now. (That said, it also makes me feel really old!) She’ll soon be in Geffen Academy’s first high school graduating class, and is currently deciding which college to attend. (For those who’ll get this hint, Aleah hopes to be rowing on the Connecticut River.)

Aleah has always wanted to go to college in New England, as she puts it, “To challenge myself and be out of my comfort zone.” Not coincidentally universities in that region is where rowing, the oldest college sport, is most revered.

In fact, I was going to title this column “Rowing To New England” but with all the land between Santa Monica and Boston “rowing there” seemed an odd metaphor. And yet, it’s essentially what my dedicated, beautiful and talented young friend, Aleah Reese Hurwitz, is about to do.

If he’s not napping, Jack can be reached at: jackdailypress@aol.com.