Grand Valley graduate thanks longtime mentor
PARACHUTE — Layn Ryden was the last Grand Valley High School senior to receive his diploma Saturday, but he was the first to give thanks to a man he feels saved his life.
Ryden, who was one of 57 members of Grand Valley’s graduating class of 2015, smiled next to the podium while Principal Ryan Frink gave public kudos to Jory Sorenson, the principal at Grand Valley Middle School. Those kudos, mind you, came from Ryden, who made sure to point out everything he had done for him in the past five years.
“I love this man,” Ryden said after the graduation ceremony. “There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for him because he’s done so much for me.”
All of that accumulated from the time that Ryden was a sixth-grader at the middle school. Sorenson had heard of the divorce between Ryden’s mom and dad, Kimberly and Conrad, and about the demons of alcoholism Ryden’s dad was dealing with.
Those traumatic experiences came to a peak when Ryden’s father lost his battle with alcoholism and died when Ryden was an eighth-grader. So at that point, Sorenson became a sort of father figure who simply took time to mentor Ryden. All Sorenson did was strike up conversations about life, about cars and anything else that served as a conversation topic. That way, Ryden could focus more on positive things rather than the negative experiences he had prior to his dad’s death.
“Unfortunately, some students turn to negative influences and bad choices in life after such a loss, but not Layn,” Sorenson said. “He has remained hard-working and responsible.”
He did his best to show his gratitude to Sorenson after he received his diploma from Frink, walking off the podium to give him a bear hug in front of a packed house at Toby LeBorgne Stadium.
“He was always there to help me get my mind off stuff,” Ryden said. “When I got to my high school graduation, that was the best way for me to repay him and thank him for what he did for me.”
Ryden’s story fit in well with the theme of what fellow graduating senior Korrie Jean Hurt called “the kindest graduating class I’ve ever known.”
Valedictorian Ben Coleman, who has done missionary and humanitarian work with his church in countries such as Mexico, Romania and Peru, spoke of his final race as a high school track athlete, the 110-meter hurdles at the Class 3A State Championships in Lakewood on May 16.
“In life, when you clear one hurdle, it’s guaranteed that there will be more hurdles in front of you,” he said. “Every hurdle takes extra focus to clear. … We can’t be afraid to fail.”
Jonathan Marbas, who graduated third in the class behind salutatorian Jori Dovey, spoke of the acronym “YOLO,” which means, “You only live once.”
“Why not work hard to achieve your dreams?” he asked the crowd during his address. “That’s certainly what YOLO means to me.”
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