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Keeping the faith

By TIMES STAFF
Published May 19, 2007


We continue our tribute to the best and brightest of the Class of 2007 with a look at the valedictorians and salutatorian from two more area private high schools.

Indian Rocks Christian School

Valedictorian: Samantha C. Thomas, 17.

Parents: Timothy and Catherine Thomas of Largo.

Activities: Golden Eagle Regiment, St. Jerome's Early Childhood Center volunteer.

Plans: Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill., majoring in premed/chemistry.

Hero or role model: The people who have a choice to be moderate or meaningful, and choose greatness.

Reason for my success: My parents, who have always encouraged me.

Before 30, I hope: I want to change something for the better.

Reflections: At Indian Rocks Christian, I was protected and kept safe from the outside world and its challenges. As much as I want to get out and live in the real world, I will always be grateful for what they tried so hard to do for me.

Salutatorian: Alexis J. Affleck, 17.

Parents: Dave and Terri Affleck of Seminole.

Activities: National Honor Society president, Thailand mission trip, Student Ambassadors, Praise band, Solid Rock, powder puff football, tennis.

Plans: Cedarville University, Cedarville, Ohio, majoring in global economics and international business.

Person who affected my life: My mom has shown me how to have joy in life even through trials.

Advice to freshmen: Stay focused and learn things the first time.

Reflections: God has blessed me with such amazing opportunities. I'm still surprised that the question 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' has become reality.

Favorite book: Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. It retells the story of Hosea from the Bible in a modern setting and displays unconditional love.

Lakeside Christian School

Valedictorian: Jennie Leigh Ryhal, 18.

Parents: Randy and Penelope Ryhal of Clearwater.

Activities: Senior class vice president, National Honor Society, homecoming committee, church youth group, varsity softball, Dunedin Public Library volunteer, law office receptionist.

Plans: University of South Florida St. Petersburg, majoring in accounting.

Hero or role model: My role model is my aunt, Colleen Johnson, because of her strong faith in Christ and perseverance through a very difficult time in her life.

Before 30, I hope: I would like to have a family of my own and I would like to have a music studio in my house with my own baby grand piano.

Difficulties overcome: The only difficulty I have had to overcome is being quiet and not assertive enough. The Lord has truly blessed me with a good life.

Reflections: I have attended Lakeside Christian School for 14 years and I have enjoyed my whole school experience. The best thing about Lakeside is that you build close relationships with both the students and the staff. That is what I will miss the most. I would also like to thank two of my teachers, Mrs. Miriam Brinker and Mrs. Laura Sharbaugh, for their encouragement and friendship.

Salutatorian: Trevor A. Akin, 18.

Parents: Rich and Linda Akin of Clearwater.

Activities: National Honor Society, Praise and Worship Band, Hermeneutics class.

Plans: University of South Florida St. Petersburg, majoring in science education.

Person who affected my life: Jason Bruns, my high school Bible teacher, changed the way I view the world and my faith by asking the tough "why" and "how" questions and encouraging me to examine the implications of my answers.

Change I would like to see: I wish everyone had the knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Advice to freshmen: Ask yourself this question, and take some time to contemplate it: Why do I do what I do?

Favorite book: Desiring God by John Piper is my favorite book because it holds such practical solid truth on life that I find myself referring back to it quite often.