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Where roars greet pomp and praise

Published May 22, 2005

NEW PORT RICHEY - It's Friday night - graduation night - and Ridgewood High's Class of 2005 is neatly arranged in alphabetical order in a long line that stretches through a dark hall back into the cafeteria.

Yousef Mahmoud Abdel-Halim is first out of the darkness into the bright orange and blue gymnasium, greeted by the cheers of eager families and smiling school staffers. One by one they file out.

Ridgewood health assistant Diane Sheridan gets misty-eyed before the A's even make it to their seats. Another year. Another broken heart.

"Every time," Sheridan said. "It's hard to believe. It's hard. I get to know a lot of the kids. I've known some of them since they were babies."

Babies no more, they are now the biggest senior class in Ridgewood High's 20-year history.

"I've done the research. Crunched the numbers. There's a machine in my house," class president James Hibbs tells the assembled graduates. "Best class ever? Guess who?"

The crowd cheers.

"It's a good group, both academically and achievement-wise," Ridgewood Principal Randy Koenigsfeld said. "This has probably been the best group of kids as far as everyone getting along and graduating. They are a fun-loving group of kids."

That paternal pride is more than just a principal talking. Koenigsfeld's son, Jonathan, is the Class of 2005's valedictorian. Jonathan's best friend, Matthew DeSantis, is the salutatorian.

Ridgewood High's Class of 2005 by the numbers:

Graduating class size: 357 students

Graduates who arrived after the ceremony started: One, who shall remain nameless due to an already severe case of mortal embarrassment.

Scholarship money earned: More than $1.5-million.

Students graduating with a 3.8 or higher GPA: 53.

Hurricanes weathered: 4

Students commended by the National Merit Scholarship Program: three, Vlades Mazelis, Ronald Baker and Andrew Groves. The honor puts them among America's top 5 percent of students who took the preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT).

Number of minutes earlier the Class of 2006 will have to report to class than the Class of 2005: 20.

[Last modified May 22, 2005, 01:07:21]

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