Douglas grad takes flight in career goals

Jeff, Audrey and Heather Topp at the Silver Springs airport in September 2023 after Audrey had completed her first airplane solo flight.

Jeff, Audrey and Heather Topp at the Silver Springs airport in September 2023 after Audrey had completed her first airplane solo flight.
Shane Smith | Special to the R-C

Since before graduating high school, Gardnerville resident Audrey Topp has reached for the sky, earning a glider pilot’s license at 18 years old and a bachelors degree by the age of 20.

As a sophomore, the 2021 Douglas High School graduate participated in the Jump Start program through Western Nevada College and received a 4.0 GPA and summa cum laude.

Now at the University of Nevada Reno, achieving a science in geology and a GIS certificate in May, Topp plans to combine aviation and geology.

“I want to pursue a career in flying, maybe as an instructor in the area,” she said. “I’d love to find a way to combine geology and flying and pursue both passions, but I want to get my feet ‘dirty’ and ‘off the ground’ first and get some experience before I decide.” 

Topp became interested in aviation in the summer of 2021 through her WNC chemistry teacher and attended the Aviation Round-up where she watched Navy Blue Angeles and the Air Force Thunderbirds.

That’s how she decided to learn how to fly gliders. She soon became a valued cadet and mentors young pilot enthusiasts.

Topp earned her glider’s license in October and in January, a commercial glider pilot’s license.

By June she plans to obtain an instructor glider’s license and work out of Minden-Tahoe and Truckee Airports.

Her interest in geology was also sparked from a class she took at Western Nevada College.

“I took one class, and I just thought it was so interesting and I wanted to purse geology from that point on,” she said. “There’s so much to it; from mining oil and gas, hydrology, government and environmental work. I love that you can apply your knowledge to so much around you, especially here in Nevada and my office would basically be outside, which sounds pretty cool.”

She has been awarded several scholarships to support herself at the UNR and throughout her journey, including the Presidential Scholarship in Spring of 2021 and a $10,000 aviation scholarship from the Reno Air Races in 2023.

“We thank the Great Basin Aviation for taking Audrey under their wing as well,” said Topp’s parents Jeff and Heather. “We are truly happy and thankful for all of Audrey’s success and from everyone in our communities who have contributed to her success as well.”

Topp said she is honored to have been a part of many programs that drove her passions and interests, from being on the Douglas High School Rodeo team, experiencing the Reno Air Races, to taking a geology class at WNC and is looking forward to graduating from UNR and finishing her flight training.

Topp thanked her parents, friends and mentors for their support and guidance.

“I want to thank my parents for getting me to where I am today. I wouldn’t be where I am without their support and encouragement throughout it all.”

She also encourages others to pursue their passions and take advantage of any opportunity that comes their way.

“The Jump Start program was great,” she said. “Anyone I know who did it with me said it got them ahead and are much more well off.  I also think it’s good to just go for what interests you. The sky is the limit.”


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