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Senior spotlight: Orange Park High’s Luke Rykalsky

College best therapy for ailing father in Orange Park

Don Coble
Posted 5/9/24

ORANGE PARK – His father can’t physically tell him, but Luke Rykalsky knows he’s supposed to leave home for college next year. It won’t ease his worries, especially since his father counts on …

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Senior spotlight: Orange Park High’s Luke Rykalsky

College best therapy for ailing father in Orange Park


Posted

ORANGE PARK – His father can’t physically tell him, but Luke Rykalsky knows he’s supposed to leave home for college next year.

It won’t ease his worries, especially since his father counts on the Orange Park High senior for so much since suffering two strokes that left him with aphasia and paralysis on his right side.

There is an unspoken bond between a father and his son, and Luke understands the father wants his son to go to the University of Florida and earn his computer science degree. Knowing his son is moving toward success is probably the best therapy for the father’s long-term recovery.

“He takes it really hard on himself, and it’s hard on the whole family,” Luke said. “We work through it. My mom is really sort of the backbone, keeping everything together. This has inspired me to work harder. But you feel helpless at times. They’re just things you can’t expect. You could be just going about your life, and then your whole life changes.”

Now, he wants to stay home with his mother to help care for his father, but he knows that may cost him his future. He’s been accepted in Florida, and his mother wants him to attend school. Deep down, he knows that’s what his father wants, too.

“I wouldn’t be in a position where I am without him and my mom,” Luke said. “It’s like they’ve supported me throughout my entire life. I want to be able to be in a position to help them.”

Which means going away.

Florida was an easy choice. First, Luke loves the Gators. He is also attracted to the university’s computer science program, and he can drive home in a little more than an hour in an emergency.

He’s already helped his parents by earning the Benacquisto Scholarship, a national merit scholarship based on academic achievement.

Luke also knows his father will get plenty of support while he’s away. The family received an electric wheelchair, so he isn’t tied down.

“He’s able to move around the house, and we’ve had a very supportive community that has helped us in the initial stages with the necessities like food,” Luke said. “And throughout the journey, we have some friends helping outfit our car to hold it better in the wheelchair.”

Graduation on May 23 and college in the fall is supposed to be an exciting time for high school seniors. Luke Rykalsky isn’t sure what to make of the next step of his life.

“I’m excited to go, but I hope it won’t impact my family negatively,” he said.