Cardinal Newman High School graduate Katie Rettig will be going to college this fall in Fort Worth, Texas. Press Democrat photo by Crista Jeremiason


Ballet and acting proved the ideal preparation for Katie Rettig’s two-year turn as a cheerleader at Cardinal Newman High School.
“I love performing,” said Rettig, who was cheerleading captain her senior year and graduated in May, a day after she turned 18. “I like being able to put myself out there.”
But Rettig, who lives along the Russian River on Healdsburg’s Fitch Mountain, got more out of cheerleading than rooting for the Newman boys’ football and basketball teams, with trips as far afield as San Jose and Salinas.
For her senior year community service project, Rettig trained 10 developmentally disabled young women, late teens to mid-30s, as cheerleaders at weekly practices starting last September.
“It took a while, a lot of repetition,” said Rettig, who also raised money at a St. John the Baptist Church dinner event to buy uniforms for her squad.
In March, they performed two cheers and a dance in front of 500 people during the opening ceremony of a Northern California Special Olympics basketball tournament at Santa Rosa Junior College.
Sure, Rettig said, cheerleaders still get some razzing for their trade, but she found it a perfect fit after playing water polo and competing on the swim team, along with performing in school plays and participating in student government at Newman.
“It was me, it was fun,” said Rettig, an outgoing brunette who posted a 3.98 academic average over four years, spoiled only by a lone B in chemistry.
Her last local cheerleading performance will be at the Kiwanis All-Star football game July 21 at Santa Rosa High.
Bernie Viripaeff, a kindergarten teacher at St. John the Baptist Catholic School, said Rettig was a shy, quiet, little girl in her classroom 12 years ago who blossomed into a confident and caring young woman.
“Katie would help anybody in time of need,” Viripaeff said.
Accepted by about a dozen colleges, Rettig picked Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, because she liked the feeling of the campus and got a generous scholarship from the private school with about 9,500 students.
TCU also guaranteed enrollment in all the classes Rettig needs for a major in apparel merchandizing and a minor in journalism — and no tuition increase over four years.
Rettig hopes to parlay that training into a job with a fashion magazine like Vogue in New York City.
That would be a world apart from her family’s riverside home, shaded by a giant bay tree just downstream from the Eagle Rock swimming hole. In dry weather, Rettig sleeps outside in an tree fort built by her father.
An old television got ruined by the rain. Rettig now relies on a laptop for entertainment in her open-air bedroom.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or

Katie Rettig
Age: 18
Birthplace: Oakland
Lives with: Parents John and Cheryl Rettig, 15-year-old brother Zack and cat named Summer in Healdsburg.
Favorite movie: “Snow White”
Favorite music: Country, including Taylor Swift and Brad Paisley
Cooking ability: “I always burn things.”
Career goal: Fashion magazine writer