Since the beginning

For the past 11 years, at least one child of the Ray family has walked the halls of the high school


Courtesy of the Ray Family

The entire Ray family dressed up for Lovejoy Elementary’s 50’s Sock Hop Family Night in 2002.

Lily Hager, Staff Reporter

After watching the choir multiply and the volleyball team develop into a state championship powerhouse, the last Ray family member is saying goodbye to the district and leaving behind the family legacy.

Senior Madison Ray is the youngest of five children. For 11 years since the school’s opening, her family watched as the high school built a reputation across the state. Members of the family have agreed that Lovejoy has positively affected their lives, and they may be saying goodbye to some long lived connections.

When the family moved into the district, they weren’t anticipating staying. However, when they found out they were able to stay longer, and the district opened the high school with all of their children able to attend, Cheryl Ray, Madison’s mother, said they were “thrilled.” People like their first principal, Dr. Mike Goddard, made the children’s experiences “special.”

“I don’t know if I would’ve stayed here if they were going to go to [another] high school,” Cheryl said. “When they first started here we had Dr. Goddard and people with a lot of high expectations and love for the kids, and it made it special. Everything is just the best.”

Cheryl described the district in its early years as ”exciting” and “different.” At the time, the high school was one small freshman class, including the oldest Ray child, Courtney, in the first graduating class, and middle school was in the same building with them.

The sports teams were undeveloped, and the choir was made up of about 12 students, one of whom was Courtney, Madison’s sister. Audiences thought cheers saying “Lovejoy Leopards” was “Lovejoy lovebirds,” according to Cheryl.

“It wasn’t until we won state that first time with volleyball that everyone went, ‘Oh, this is a serious place called Lovejoy, and they’ve got some good athletes,’” Cheryl said.

Cheryl used her experience from her husband’s football team to help the school find a nickname still used today.

“I actually started the whole “LOJO” thing,” Cheryl said. “My husband played football for Odessa Permian which was ‘MOJO,’ and we would go to games, and nobody knew who Lovejoy was yet.”

Cheryl has volunteered in the school store every Wednesday since 2006. Being involved in her children’s’ lives has become a passion, and after 11 years, with her children gone next year, her future investment in the school and volleyball team is uncertain.

“This year it’s been really weird because it’s my first year not to be involved in volleyball since 2006,” Cheryl said. “I can’t stay away.”

Biology and Student Council teacher Theresa Dollinger is one of the few staff members who  has worked here since the school opened. She said Cheryl and Russell, her husband, played huge roles in building identity and school spirit when the school first opened as they depended on parent involvement.

“It’s really hard to think of Cheryl and Russell not being involved,” Dollinger said. “It would be really quiet [if they stopped visiting.] I think they were so instrumental in starting Lovejoy and the Lovejoy way.”

She also had Ray children as students several years and has developed friendships with them reaching beyond school.

“We’ve seen so many [teachers] come and go,” Cheryl said. “Mrs. Dollinger is probably one of our favorites.”

Dollinger said her kids love the Rays, and she loves to talk with Cheryl as a friend and as a parent.

“They’re just kind, kind people, and they’ve always been so nice to me and my kids and my family,” Dollinger said. “I hope we never lose that connection.”

Cheryl said she loves that the teachers invest in their students inside and outside of the classroom, like how Dollinger watches the girls’ volleyball games and attended Courtney’s wedding. Dollinger said their success brings her joy because she invested herself into their academic lives, and she thinks they’ll always stay in touch.

“I don’t see them as my students anymore, but they’re my kids that I have invested a lot of time into,” Dollinger said.

The Ray children credit their experience at Lovejoy with helping shape them into hard workers.

“[The school] allowed my older siblings to get the correct education that they needed, for sure,” Madison said. “By making the school a little bit harder and having all of the pre-AP and AP classes, it really did prepare them. It definitely pushed us and pushed them a lot more and allowed them to be a little bit more prepared for college.”

Madison said she loves the district’s “clean environment” and nice people. Cheryl said the school offered opportunities for all of her children to excel.

“Their experiences, I’m sure would’ve been completely different [had they gone to another school] because everything you go through shapes you,” Cheryl said. “I think all of the high academics has caused [all five of them to] graduate with very good GPAs, and they were all five in National Honor Society.”

However, above all of the academic accomplishments, Cheryl taught her children something she said is “far more important than all the state championships [they] have been fortunate enough to be a part of.”

“I hope my children will be remembered at Lovejoy for exemplifying the six pillars of the graduate profile,” Cheryl said. “Intellectually equipped, open to the challenges of learning, well-rounded, engaged in a healthy lifestyle and fair and respectful to others.”

Madison said being a student here has helped her to build those qualities and a community atmosphere at the school.

“You get more close to your grade level, and also the school,” Madison said. “I know everyone in my grade; I love it. It allows you to expand a little bit more and to know people other than your grade level, but it builds character for sure.”