Ridgeview Graduates Shine; $3 Million in Financial Aid Is Theirs

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Byline: Stephen Kindland, Clay County Line staff writer

From Dr. Seuss to Winston Churchill, from Monty Python to Mark Twain, it was a night of quotes, clever lines and an emotional tribute to a fallen comrade as 425 Ridgeview High School seniors received their diplomas Friday at Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville.

Perhaps most striking about them is their awareness of the state of today's world, and the way they remain undaunted by life's fragility as they step closer to adulthood.

Along the way, they have kept pace in the world of academics. Twenty-four percent of this Ridgeview senior class carried weighted grade point averages of 3.75 or higher, and their academic achievements resulted in $3 million worth of financial aid through scholarships and other forms of post-secondary training.

Three students delivered brief yet poignant speeches, using anecdotes and humor to inspire and encourage their classmates to persevere despite the violence and uncertainty that has marked the past four years of their lives.

Jason Decker, chosen to speak by 32 of his peers who graduated cum laude, told his audience that "life is just an art of learning to draw without an eraser."

Jonathan Sydenstricker, selected by 31 fellow magna cum laude grads, urged his classmates to grasp a bigger view of the world as they travel through life.

Whatever path you choose, he said, "Seek it with passion and an open mind."

He then left them with a simple message: "Go . . . live . . . and love," he said, pausing between each word.

Allen Williams, who represented 34 summa cum laude graduates, presented a fantasy recollection of his childhood and an equally fantastic high school career.

"Dance to the beat of your own glockenspiel," he advised. "When life throws you a fur ball, throw it right back."

He closed by reiterating his opening line. …