SMILES ALL AROUND: For G-C senior, graduation will be a special milestone

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GREENFIELD — Jacob Ronick will no doubt be sporting his signature grin when he crosses the stage at Greenfield-Central High School’s commencement ceremony today.

The happy-go-lucky teen always seems to radiate positivity, despite facing a myriad of health challenges and a learning disability throughout his young life.

Graduating from high school isn’t something he takes for granted. His bright blue cap and gown has hung on his bedroom door ever since he brought it home a few weeks ago, as he’s debated just which tie to wear to the big event.

His mom will be in the bleachers today cheering him on, just as she has all his life.

Tracy Ronick has raised her only child as a single mom, after his dad left the picture when she was pregnant. They get a lot of support from their church family at Bethel Baptist Church in Greenfield.

Ronick said her son has handled all the hurdles life has thrown at him with courage and grace, not to mention his signature smile.

When he was born, doctors discovered he had a hole behind his left eye. When his heart would beat the eye would pulsate, she recalled.

The doctors did surgery, taking bone from his skull in an effort to correct it, but Jacob developed neurofibromatosis, a neurological disorder that causes tumors to grow on nerves.

Doctors went back in to remove the tumor that developed, but getting it all would have meant robbing Jacob of the vision in that eye.

He wore a patch on his good eye several hours a day until he was 5 years old, in an effort to strengthen the weaker eye. Doctors performed more surgeries to improve its physical appearance, but the young man eventually had enough of the operating room.

“After a couple more surgeries, he decided he was fine with the way it looks,” his mom said.

Jacob, 18, said he’s never been too self conscious about the physical appearance of his eye, which can sometimes draw stares from passersby. “Some people look at me differently, but I don’t really worry about it,” he said. “It doesn’t take me down. It just makes me stronger.”

When the occasional person asks him what happened to his eye, Jacob typically has a quick answer for them. “I tell them I got bit by a shark,” he said with a grin.

Determined to not let the condition hold him back, Jacob thrived until his freshman year in 2017, when doctors discovered a cancerous growth in his left leg.

A few cancer cells remained post-surgery, so Jacob underwent radiation.

Life calmed down again until his junior year, when his mom had a heart attack.

Then, his tumor started growing again in December. Jacob had another surgery to have it removed and has been undergoing radiation ever since.

Five days a week, his mom leaves her job as a machine operator at a Greenfield auto parts manufacturer to drive her son to his treatment at IU Health Methodist Hospital in downtown Indianapolis.

He’s about halfway through the 31 required 10-minute treatments.

Despite it all, the mother-and-son team radiate joy when talking about the journey they’ve shared.

Greenfield-Central staff opted to freeze Jacob’s grades due to his health condition in early May, allowing him to essentially graduate from high school one month early.

But the teen can’t wait to make it official by crossing the stage in his bright blue cap and gown alongside his classmates today.

“I’m just so proud of him. I’m excited for him to see what the future holds for him,” said his mother, beaming with pride.

Jacob hopes to attend Ivy Tech so that he can one day work with special-needs kids, possibly as a teacher’s aide.

He has nothing but respect for the teachers who supported him throughout his journey in high school.

“I’m grateful for them. They made me a better person,” he said.

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This story is part of a series about members of the Class of 2021 in Hancock County as they prepare for commencement exercises.

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Greenfield-Central High School graduation:

When: 10 a.m. today (Saturday, June 5)

Where: School gymnasium

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A special pull-out section celebrates all the members of the Class of 2021 at our schools.

Meet the Greenfield-Central High School Class of 2021. Page A7.

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