Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Ridgewood grads rejoice

NEW PORT RICHEY — She wore no cap and no gown. But when she held the diploma above her head, the crowd gave its loudest roar of the night.

Debbie Harrigan was not surprised. Ridgewood High School's Class of 2008 has a special place in its heart for the classmate who didn't make it to Friday night's graduation: her son Jonathan.

He died Nov. 1 at the age of 17 when, authorities say, a driver pulled her car across U.S. 19 and into the path of his motorcycle.

The mother believes her son may have saved the life of his girlfriend, Krystale Fernandez, who was riding on the back, by swerving and trying to push her off before the collision.

Friday night, the mother beamed with pride over her son — and his classmates, and his school.

"If this is what's going out into the world," she said, "I'm proud."

• • •

There's this old saying by an old Georgia politician named Zell Miller: If you walk down a country road and see a turtle sitting on a fence post, know this for sure:

He didn't get up there by himself.

Ridgewood High School valedictorian Matthew Chauncey shared that bit of wisdom Friday. He looked out at a sea of blue graduation caps and robes before him and saw, well, turtles.

"I would say we are all turtles," he said, "although some of us are very smart turtles."

It was supposed to be a night to honor the Class of 2008. But really, it was their night to honor, and thank, everyone else who had helped put them there.

Imagine, then, how much help it took for these 362 seniors to become the largest graduating class in Ridgewood High School's 30-year history.

• • •

It's an annual rite of graduation: quoting someone else, someone famous and most likely dead.

But perhaps in future commencements, someone will quote Ridgewood class president Johnny Voss Jr.:

"High school's like your first girlfriend. At first you're excited about the new beginnings. Then halfway through, you're stuck. You want to escape. There's no way out. Complaint after complaint. Command after command. And when you least expect it … it ends. So you're depressed, you're sad, for three or four months.

"Until one day, you see her, the new woman of your dreams. And her name? College.

"She may be a bit expensive to take care of, but boy, oh boy, is she worth it."

• • •

One by one they stood, the graduates of 2008, as principal Randall Koenigsfeld called their names.

There was running back Byronell Arline, who graduated as Pasco County's all-time rushing leader with 5,279 career yards.

There were Brittany Houser and Anne Correa, who earned high school diplomas at the same time they earned their associate's degrees in fine arts.

There was pole-vaulter Keari Brink, who won a state championship with a vault of 11 feet.

And there was, of course, Jonathan Harrigan.

"Jonathan's life has and continues to motivate us to succeed," the principal said. "He is with us at peace, and may God give us all peace."

Jamal Thalji can be reached at or (727) 869-6236.

>>Class of 2008

Ridgewood High School

Number of graduates: 362

Number of Bright Futures Scholars: 85

Amount of scholarship money: More than $1-million

Two things about Ridgewood High School graduates:

• The Ridgewood High School ROTC unit graduated 22 cadets; 16 will enter military service, and five will go to college.

• Ridgewood's football team has traditionally been one of the county's most hard-luck programs. But the 26 senior football players led the Rams to the greatest season in school history: a 9-2 record and the playoffs.

Ridgewood grads rejoice 06/07/08 [Last modified: Monday, June 9, 2008 2:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Scalise discharged from hospital, beginning rehabilitation


    WASHINGTON — House Majority Whip Steve Scalise — who was critically wounded in a shooting at a baseball practice last month — has been discharged from a Washington hospital.

    House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise of La., speaks with the media on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 17, 2017. Scalise, critically wounded in a shooting at a baseball practice last month, has been discharged from a Washington hospital. [Associated Press]
  2. FWC identifies boaters seen dragging shark in viral video


    Officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have identified the individuals shown on a viral video dragging a shark behind a boat on a rope as men laugh each time its body slams the water.

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating a viral video that shows a shark being dragged behind a boat on a rope as men laugh each time its body slams the water. [Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission]
  3. Steve Schale: Democrats and Republicans chose wisely for Miami senate race


    Democratic strategist Steve Schale breaks down the Florida Senate District 40 special election contest between Republican  Jose Felix 'Pepi' Diaz and Democrat  Annette Taddeo, saying primary voters chose right and that either could win. Diaz and Taddeo

  4. Atomic Blonde does not live up to its giant movie poster hype


    Beware of movies spending money selling one scene, like the Atomic Blonde poster big enough to block a restroom entry, as it has for a while at AMC Westshore 14.

    Charlize Theron, left, and Sofia Boutella in "Atomic Blonde." (Jonathan Prime/Focus Features via AP)
  5. Devastated at the death of daughter Katie from a heroin overdose, Cliff and Dawn Golden have gotten busy to turn the tragedy to good. Among their causes is aiding a new organization that works to make teens comfortable seeking help for mental health problems. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times]