When News4 first met Tory Ridgeway in 2017, he was a teenager from Upper Marlboro on a mission.
“I want to at least help children with autism have friends,” he said back then. “I have autism myself … it was not fun to be that one kid that no one wants to talk to.”
Tory became an Eagle Scout and said his goal was to give back. That’s exactly what he did when he built Buddy Benches, providing places for kids to sit if they needed someone to play with.
Four years later, Tory is a senior in high school about to graduate with high honors. He's always kept his sights set on service.
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“It’s been through some rough times, you know. It’s caused me to not view myself as worthy, or view myself as less than others,” Tory said. “Now I can look back at said obstacles and said bullying and say, ‘Hey, I survived.’”
When he was little, Tory used to shadow his dad at work at Joint Base Andrews, playing with Navy airplanes. He always dreamed of joining the military.
“I want to help protect my friends and family. I want to give a lot to this country. This country has given so much to me,” he said.
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Last week, an important letter came in the mail. Tory’s reaction was caught on video; he let the letter fall to the floor, mouth agape, and turned to his father for an emotional hug.
He had been accepted into Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, on a full ROTC scholarship.
“Just ecstatic, proud of my boy,” his father, Troy Ridgeway, said. Sitting next to him, Tory’s mother, Vanessa, beamed.
Tory plans to study aerospace engineering. When he graduates, he will become an officer in the Navy.
“This has been my dream for like 10-plus years, and now it’s actually happening,” he said as he prepares to head into his next mission of service and success.