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Sentimental gestures touch hearts of Ripon High sweethearts

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Ripon High seniors Cole Herrin (left) and Kennedy Gonzales have been dating since their sophomore year. Their new love is framed by old-world virtues and gestures. They believe in thoughtful gifts ...

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POSTED February 13, 2013 1:23 a.m.

Romantics, rejoice.

In this age of iPads, iPhones and I’ve-got-to-have-its, the written word, a fistful of flowers and gifts of sentimentality – not price – still make the teen-aged heart skip a beat.

Write a letter.

Bake a batch of cookies.

Fill a jar full of Kisses.

It all seems to work for Ripon High senior Cole Herrin, a tenacious point guard for the boys basketball team but a softie in the hands of girlfriend Kennedy Gonzales.

The two have been dating since their sophomore year and the secret to their bond can be found on their doorsteps.

Yes, the doorstep.

It’s become their “thing.”

The two will leave each other random gifts – a Red Bull (“I hope it gives you wings for the day,” Herrin once wrote), heart-shaped notes and chocolate cookies to name a few – each tokens of their love and appreciation.

Then they’ll ring the bell or place a phone call, and then sneak off before the other can get to the door.

“I think to be romantic you have to be creative,” said Gonzales, a 17-year-old senior. “It’s your own way of expressing to the person you love just how you feel without being totally unoriginal.

“It’ll just make my night,” she said of finding a surprise at her doorstep. “It’s those little things that you know about each other. It makes you excited – even if it’s not expensive.”

Teens have no choice but to be creative and simple. They’re often limited by their budget, books and other school-related activities.

Such is the case for Sierra High senior Iyana Hughes and her Valentine of four months, Emmanuel Elijah.

The two are standout student-athletes; the First Couple of Sierra High Athletics, if you will.

Hughes is headed to the University of Virginia on a softball scholarship; she’s also student body vice president. Elijah is the defensive catalyst for the boys basketball team and one of the Sac-Joaquin Section’s top sprinters.

They’ll mark their first Valentine’s Day with a traditional celebration: a movie date.

After practice, of course.

Hughes considers herself to be a young romantic, though she hasn’t had much practice. She’s never had a boyfriend before Elijah.

No time, she says.

“I always had softball and school. (Dating) was my last priority … the last thing on my mind,” she said. “But after I signed with Virginia, it was like ‘OK, I can make this work.’ I found there was more time and less stress because the whole college thing was settled for me.”

Like Gonzales, her definition of “romance” is tied to the heart. Hughes values gifts wrapped in thought – not designer threads.

Be cliché, she says, it’s sexy on a man.

Make a blanket.

Pick a handful of flowers – all types and all colors – tie them together with string, and hide them at the small of you back.

Buy candy.

“That stuff is still in play,” Hughes said. “I like candy. I think all girls like candy. … I would want something with sentimental value, because it’s something you’ll always remember.”

For that reason alone, Herrin, no matter how hard he tries, may never top Gonzales’ list of favorite Valentine’s Day memories.

That honor may forever belong to her grandmother, Susan Denison, who would surprise her grandchildren with miniature mailboxes filled with love notes.

Gonzales was 8 when she received her first mailbox. Nine years later, the gesture still resonates with her. She’s incorporated it into her gift for Herrin.

New love.

Old-world gesture.

“It’s all about telling them how you feel,” Gonzales said.

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