From a high school algebra teacher to a commissioned officer, Ensign Lynk Downing prepares himself for his next class, Navy flight school.

For Downing, a teacher and prior student of Zimmerman High School, joining the Navy fulfilled an aspiration of his.

"I've always had dreams about being a pilot," said Downing, as he prepared to deliver the commencement speech at Zimmerman High School.

As a teacher, Downing had the opportunity to change the lives of his students.

"I loved being a teacher, I am really glad I had the opportunity to impact the students' lives," he said.

Zimmerman High School was excited at the opportunity to hire Lynk to teach.

"We hired him because we knew about him: we knew his character, we knew his intelligence, and we knew about the positive impact he would make on our kids," said Marco Voce, the principal of Zimmerman High School, Zimmerman, Minnesota.

Those same characteristics are what made him a quality aviation candidate for Naval Air Crewman (Operator) 1st Class Nathan Boss, a Navy recruiter assigned to Navy Recruiting District (NRD) Minneapolis.

"I thought that he was a very intelligent and confident person," said Boss. "I knew right away that he would be a great candidate for all Navy advanced programs, and eligible for an officer program."

Downing met with Boss multiple times, discussing all of the possibilities that the Navy offered. In that time, they identified two great opportunities.

"I had two career paths in mind when joining the Navy: enlist as a nuclear engineer or become a pilot," said Downing.

He soon made the decision and had to tell his old alma mater that he was following his dream. His administration, students and friends were surprised at Downing's decision to join, but they knew that it was a way for him to achieve his lifelong dream of becoming a pilot.

"That's what we are all about, having your graduates fulfill their dreams. Sometimes it's right after high school, and sometimes they come back and we can still facilitate that. We were happy to help Lynk along so that he could fulfill his dreams,' said Voce.

'I am extremely excited about the new opportunities the Navy has provided me," said Downing.

Downing is now currently on Officer Hometown Area Recruiting Assistance Program, (OHARP) duty at NRD Minneapolis awaiting Navy flight school.

"The biggest thing for me about being back on OHARP duty is that I am working with the recruiters who helped me. It's been a great experience to work with them again, and it's been great to get back into the high schools and talk with the students about all the different opportunities that the Navy has," said Downing.

The senior class at Zimmerman High School voted for him to give their commencement speech. "Well liked and respected, the classmates here elected him to be the staff speaker: quite an honor for someone who didn't spend all four years with them," said Voce.

Downing describes his feeling as "grateful, proud, and happy" for this opportunity to give back. The school gave him a home for his time in high school and as a teacher as well.

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Updated March 1, 2017 (kbh)