Ryan Aldrich has his sights set on becoming a lawyer.
The 18-year-old Leland High School senior wants to attend the University of Wisconsin in Whitewater and major in pre-law.
“That's the goal, anyway,” he said with a smile.
When asked why he's interested in law, he said it was all because of his social studies teacher Jim Spring.
“Mr. Spring tells interesting stories, and one of the first stories I remember was about the Whitewater scandal," Ryan said. "His story got me thinking about our court system and how everything works. So, I guess I would say he inspired me to be part of the legal system.”
Ryan's parents also have served as a guiding force in his life.
“My parents (Ken and Julie) have always pushed me to do the best I could,” Ryan replied. “I accept that quality into who I am. I've takem the philosophy that grades have to come first.”
Ryan has a 3.9 grade point average and will be valedictorian of his class.
Spring said Ryan stood out as a freshman — the first time he taught him.
"He's a golden student because from the beginning, you could see that he just wanted to learn," Spring said. "I believe he will do very well with whatever career choice he makes.
“Ryan stands out for so many reasons. He has a high attendance record, which sounds simple, but it's an important thing. He's a very curious-minded person, always asking questions. He takes the next step all the time. I can't see him just sitting around playing video games or watching TV.”
While Ryan is an excellent student, he really loves soccer — an activity that takes up much of his free time.
“When I'm not in school, I play soccer,” he said with a smile. “Our school combines with Earlville High School's sports and for the last two years, I've been the team captain of the Earlville Red Raiders ... ”
He paused for a second. “Soccer is pretty much all I do.”
Given his passion for soccer, Ryan still has kept his attention balanced between the classroom and the field. Throughout his school years, the awards and honors he has compiled are astounding.
As a freshman, Ryan had perfect attendance. His sophomore school achievements include all-conference soccer, soccer offensive MVP, a La Salle County Student Excellence Award and a student of the month award.
During his junior and senior years, he won the Illinois Principal Association Good Student Award.
“Ryan has always stood out, because he is a very self-motivated, self-directed student," said his Spanish teacher Amanda Dean. "And we just don't see that kind of student very often. He's eager and you can just tell he loves learning. He turns his work in on time and always talks to me if he has any questions. I've really enjoyed having him in my class and I will most definitely miss him.”
As busy as Ryan is, he still uses his time to help others.
He is a member of the Cornerstone Church, also working for the American Red Cross Blood Drive.
He attended the Hugh O'Brian youth leadership seminar, participated in Plano Bible Church's soccer camp and served as an Illinois Boys State Representative during his sophomore year. He's volunteered with the Feed My Starving Children's organization.
“Previously I had played on a club soccer team, which took up a lot of time. So now I have some spare time, because I've actually slowed down,” he laughed. “But I've made a discovery. I really don't like having all this free time so I joined the track team which I really enjoy. I don't think I'm the kind of person that can sit around and watch TV.”
Principal Chris Bickel said Ryan takes a sense of ownership and pride in everything he does, staying organized.
“He's been a role model for his peers and just a joy to know," Bickel said. "We have been very lucky to have him in our school. I'm quite sure he will do well in whatever he chooses to do, because he is a success-minded student. We have been very lucky to have him in our school. He will be missed.”
Ryan gave a nod to his school and small community as shaping him to be who he is.
“A small school is a great learning environment," Aldrich said. "There are only 20 students in my graduating class so the teachers have more of an opportunity to help us on a one-to-one basis.”