Springstead grad is perseverance personified

Hard work and support help Ray Principe on his journey from hopelessness to Springstead High's Turnaround Student of the Year.

Published May 31, 2007

SPRING HILL - Seniors work hard, but one Springstead senior particularly personifies that work ethic. Ray Principe was so tired one morning he was fast asleep, leaning against a post in front of school.

Ray known as a good student who cares about school, began high school on track, but had a rough sophomore year. Distracted by personal issues, Ray watched his grades slip while a feeling of hopelessness grew.

The year ended with Ray far behind his classmates, in danger of not being able to graduate in 2007 with the kids he grew up alongside.

"I was kind of scared about my academics," said Ray, 18 said. "It was a tough situation."

His guidance counselor, Dr. Joanne Brue, told him if he were going to make it, he would have to apply himself. It would take, she said, maintaining a high level of motivation and dedication to goals, as well as perseverance over an extended period of time.

She said she'll never forget a day two years ago when she and Ray were mapping out a road to graduating on time. "He looked depressed and overwhelmed as we talked," she remembers. "But by the time he left, he perked up. I could see the commitment on his face.

"It's one thing to know what needs to be done and quite another to do it," Brue said. "Many students start on such a path, but quickly become discouraged. His tremendous effort and dedication raised his GPA to 2.375, and he completed all his courses. All the while, he maintained a positive attitude and encouraged other students as well."

"When he puts his mind to something, he gets it done," said band director Richard Dasher, who has known Ray and his family for six years. Ray plays trumpet in the Springstead band program.

That program is a big part of why Ray succeeded, Dasher said. The students in the program rallied around him and cheered him on. They made sure he had someone to talk to. They supported his efforts. They cared.

Dasher watched Ray keep his commitment to the band program. He played at football games, home and away. He traveled to events when the band needed him. He competed with the marching band in contests and attended band camp each summer.

All this, said Brue, while conscientiously raising his grades.

That's not the whole story. Ray also attended night classes, and he enrolled in Florida's virtual online school program to earn more needed credits.

He worked with his dad's house-painting business on weekends. His grades kept going up.

Ray's advisers and peers were impressed, but not surprised. They describe him as just plain hard-working. He's good-hearted, they say. Very outgoing. Doesn't dwell on stuff, just digs in and gets it done.

During his academic odyssey, Ray encouraged fellow students, especially band members, to climb over their own stumbling blocks. Dasher said Ray's good-natured pranks and friendly approach kept band camp moving along and motivated the whole group.

Now, Ray will graduate with his class, on time, with respectable grades and all of his needed credits. He was chosen this month as Springstead's Turnaround Student of the Year and honored at an award luncheon.

"I'm very happy about that. It's a weight off my shoulders. My family helped me get it done -- they've been totally supportive," Ray said.

Like many area seniors, Ray will begin college at Pasco-Hernando Community College. He wants to pursue an e-business degree.

Brue says she's sure he'll get wherever he wants to go and set an example for others.

Says Dasher: "With his tons of energy, he'll definitely succeed at whatever he takes on."