By Mary-Justine Lanyon
They are four young men who have grown up for most of their lives on the mountain. Four young men who became friends, who have shared memories, who point to some of the same teachers as having inspired them.
These four young men are at the top of the Class of 2021 at Rim of the World High School as valedictorian and co-salutatorians.
Valedictorian Nathan Hidajat moved to Lake Arrowhead from Iowa in 2012 and entered fourth grade at Lake Arrowhead Elementary School. His family soon grew to love the mountain community.
Nathan points to several teachers who inspired him throughout his Rim journey. His sixth-grade teacher, Mr. Soderholm, “was a really great teacher. He encouraged us to think independently and taught us many different subject to help us find things that interested us.
Other teachers who Nathan looked up to include Mr. Parker, his seventh-grade science teacher; Mr. Miller, his seventh- and eighth-grade woodshop teacher; Dr. Crofoot, his physics and chemistry teacher; Mr. Williams, his AP biology and AP computer science teacher; and Mr. H, his ninth- and tenth-grade English teacher.
Nathan will make good use of their teaching and their inspiration as he attends Stanford, where he says he “will most likely be majoring in human biology but I also want to explore more of my options during my first year of college and learn about new subjects.”
While at Rim High, Nathan participated in the debate team and mock trial “where we got to exercise our argumentation and public speaking skills while also having a lot of fun talking about interesting topics.” He has been a member of the National Honor Society where he enjoyed getting to give back to the community.
The three salutatorians are Donald Clarke, Owen Kelly and Ryan Whitty.
Donnie Clarke also moved to the mountain in fourth grade, attending Lake Arrowhead Elementary School.
Like Nathan, he points to Mr. Soderholm and Dr. Crofoot as having truly impacted his life. “Mr. Soderholm made it his mission to make every single day of sixth grade the most enjoyable it could be. I look fondly upon the memories made in that class, whether it was eating and doing a project on In-N-Out or playing kickball at recess with the class or solving Einstein’s riddles. I appreciate the love and support that Mr. Soderholm showed us kids every single day.”
As for Dr. Crofoot, Donnie had him as a teacher for three years, for chemistry and AP physics. “Dr. Crofoot has made my interest in the STEM field skyrocket through his teaching. He gave me a glimpse of what it’s like to be an engineer and I can’t thank him enough for all he has done for me the past three years.”
Donnie plans to attend UCLA, where he will study aerospace engineering. “I hope to take my degree into motorsports, something I have been passionate about from a very young age,” he said.
While at Rim, Donnie was a member of the Chess Club for four years, serving as secretary for three. He was also a member of Interact, serving as secretary for one year; National Honor Society; and the tennis team for three years, playing on the varsity team for two years and serving as co-captain this past year.
In addition, Donnie was in the marching band for three years, playing baritone saxophone and serving as the section leader for two years. He also played in the jazz band, serving as the low brass section leader for one year, and in the wind ensemble for two years, serving as the baritone saxophone section leader for a year.
Owen Kelly moved to the mountain at an earlier age than Nathan and Donnie, arriving halfway through first grade. He started his education at Grandview Elementary School but then “moved around schools pretty heavily.” His educational path took him to Sky Mountain Charter School and then Lake Arrowhead Christian School for the remaining years of elementary school. He transferred to Redlands Christian School for middle school and then returned to the Rim district for high school.
While at Rim High, Owen played football all four years. He also participated in track and field for three years and has been a member of the National Honor Society.
He names his coach, Coach Jurado, as being his biggest mentor during his high school years. “Through the many years spent with Coach Jurado, he has taught me many valuable lessons including discipline, responsibility, respect and hard work. Overall, he has played a large role in helping to shape me into the person I am today,” Owen said.
Owen will be heading out of state to attend Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. He has been accepted directly into the Cox School of Business, where he will be studying finance.
Ryan Whitty came to the mountain at the earliest age of the four top students, moving here with his family from New York when he was 2 years old.
“My teachers have definitely been essential in helping me find a direction,” Ryan said. “I’m happy with my education. I’d say particularly Mr. Hartranft and Dr. Crofoot served as inspirations or mentors for me.”
Ryan will be attending UC Berkeley where he plans to major in physics. After his undergraduate studies, Ryan will either get a graduate degree or get a job working for NASA or SpaceX, doing astrophysics research.
“I definitely plan on continuing my music,” Ryan said, adding his minor in college may be related to that. At Rim High, Ryan was part of both the marching band and the jazz band.
He also participated in the debate team, mock trial, Science Club, Odyssey of the Mind and Boy Scouts.
The four families will all participate in the traditional graduation ceremony as they will be seated on the field, where they will listen to their sons give their speeches.
There is talk of these scholars joining together to give one speech at graduation on June 9.
The Alpine Mountaineer congratulates Nathan, Donnie, Owen and Ryan on their achievements and wishes them the best of luck in their future endeavors.