When Ironwood Ridge High School's first class of seniors accepted their diplomas on May 18, some of the graduates felt strange that the juniors weren't there by their sides.

After all, the two classes arrived at the school together in the fall of 2001, when the campus was so new that parts of it were still under construction.

A third class of students joined the initial feeder freshmen and sophomores in 2002, and then another batch of students this year made Ironwood Ridge a complete school.

But this year's juniors will always have a tie with the seniors that transcends class seniority - they founded the school together.

"It was awkward being in this together and then them not being around," said graduating senior Lindsay Stefferson. "The junior underclassmen have always been around."

As Ironwood Ridge's first seniors reached the end of an all-night graduation party on their campus, some took a moment to reflect on what it meant to be their school's trailblazers.

For one thing, it meant they were the oldest students in the school for three full years.

"I don't think we got the full high school experience, because part of the experience is having upperclassmen," graduating senior Jeff Dauenhaur said.

That lack of older role models made the first students stronger, though, by requiring leadership from them, Dauenhaur said.

"It forced me into a role I might have been too young for, but I stepped up," he said.

As a sophomore, Dauenhaur became the high school's first student body president.

"I have no idea if I'd be the same person I am today if there had been upperclassmen," he said.

Corey Macgorman said the title "senior" held less intrigue than it might have if he hadn't perpetually been one of Ironwood Ridge's leaders.

"It was neat being older than everybody else," he said. "But at the same time, it made the senior year a little less special because we've always been the oldest."

Also, Macgorman had to accept a lesser rank in sports when he arrived at Ironwood Ridge. As a freshman at Canyon del Oro High School, he played varsity soccer. But Ironwood Ridge only had a junior varsity team that first year.

Still, he said he's proud to belong to the batch of students that set the ground rules for his school's student government and Connect Four freshman orientation program.

"It's good knowing we were kind of responsible for choosing the path the school took," he said.

Kati Griffis, a graduating senior, said she attributes the feeling of kinship between juniors and seniors to their joint efforts to shape school policies.

This year, students collected 596 signatures to let teachers and principals know they expected to be able to use their generation's dance moves - moves that alarmed some adults.

"We overcame obstacles together and because of that we were united," she said. "When you walk into the cafeteria you don't see segregation between classes."

Stefferson credited the school's first batch with jumpstarting school spirit. Few people attended sports events the first year, she said, but then students began attending and even making their own spirit shirts.

"We wanted to leave a legacy as we realized our time here was getting shorter," she said.

The all-in-this-together spirit diminished class hierarchy, Stefferson said.

"We're less typical than other schools in that way," she said.

So it seemed strange to Stefferson to say "goodbye" on May 18 to the juniors - but not too strange.

"It's weird we are moving on and they are still here," she said, but then added, "Don't get me wrong - we still have seniority over them.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.