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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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It's one night that they'll remember
By THOMAS LAKE
Published May 27, 2007
NEW PORT RICHEY - Many years from now, when they are not so young, when they are gray at the temples and sagging at the hips, when they have scattered up the coast and into the heartland, when they are climbing the ladder or walking the streets, when they are wounded from battle or selling used cars, when they are mothers and fathers and Hollywood stars, the 302 members of Ridgewood High School's Class of 2007 will remember their days in orange and blue.
No two will see the same thing. But if you could take each memory from each mind like the film from a camera and take it to the one-hour photo, and you mixed up a multisensory album as thick as a room and then you opened to some random page near the middle, here is what you would find.
Three girls stealing out to the parking lot for one last Camel Light. Royal blue gowns rippling in the breeze. A cigarette crushed on the heel of a shiny black pump.
Some kid doing splits on the gym floor, some other kid mooning the whole school, that time T.J. wore the sexy little Speedo.
The smiling face of John Reppert, the charisma of Freddie Quijano. Principal Randy Koenigsfeld crowd-surfing during Senior Countdown. Alex Papadopoulos whaling on his trombone.
Dangerous chemical experiments. Flights from campus for early lunch. Clandestine text messages. Girls in ball gowns and boys doing sit-ups. That time what's-her-name went on stage wearing a whale's tail. Jarred Caputo pushing 50.
Riotous hand-clapping in the cafeteria.
Stephany Nunez leading the pledge. Steven Galatolo's mom doling out orange-pink roses. Samantha Suriano riding on a speedway with someone somehow related to NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon. Benjamin Koenigsfeld thanking his beautiful girlfriend and his devoted mother and especially Jesus Christ.
The walls of the gym. So blue. So very blue. A hairline fracture in the glass of the fire-extinguisher case. Chairs geometric on the hardwood. Rows of white lights. The woman in the fourth row with the low-cut top.
Marching in two lines of brilliant blue. Whooping and hollering. Turning the lockers into steel drums. Somebody flicking the light switch. Instant discotheque.
"The lights are gonna give me a seizure!"
Narrow hallway. Hot. Smell of perfume wafting through the dark. Distant strains Friday evening of Pomp and Circumstance.
Thomas Lake can be reached at email@example.com or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6245.
Ridgewood High School
Bright Futures Scholars: 66
Scholarships awarded: More than $2-million
Pasco County's Outstanding Senior: Ridgewood's Stephany Nunez, who already has an associate's degree along with her high school diploma.
Girl power: Meghan Seltman broke a state record in weightlifting.
Milestone: Led by a strong group of seniors, baseball coach Larry Beets won his 500th game.