Alumni Voices: 2016 Alum Speaker Emily Martin

Arizona Connections Academy

woman in uniform at podium

Only three years ago, I took that walk down the aisle and sat right where you sit now. I can’t believe my little sister, Zoe, is already graduating. Not long ago I was an Arizona Connections Academy senior with the same sense of accomplishment you all assuredly share with each other today. Indeed, today is the day for all of us to celebrate your amazing achievements. We—your family, friends, and alumni—honor you this day! With the help of your parents, friends, instructors, and administrators, a mark in your own personal timeline has been etched. Look behind you and see the mark you have made; now look ahead and envision the mark you want to make. What mark will you make in the world on the timeline of your life?

When I was four years old, I decided that I was going to be a helicopter pilot. My parents were probably a little alarmed. As I grew, I wasn’t sure how to make that dream come true. It seemed like such an impossible task—a virtual insurmountable mountain to climb. However, every day I took a step toward the goal. For me that goal was achievable by attending the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado. I therefore worked hard to get the best grades I could; I made sure I took the right classes to best prepare me for the Academy; and I took advantage of leadership and volunteer opportunities, which not only mattered to the Academy but allowed me to grow as a person even as I gave back to our community. Arizona Connections Academy gave me the opportunity to follow all of these small steps so that I could find a path toward my big goal. And though my goal may well be different than your goal—it only matters that you have a goal and then work towards achieving it . . . one small step at a time! As overwhelming as the path might seem at first, I know you can do it, because like me you are all Connections Academy graduates.

So what happened with my dream and all those small steps I took? I am now a junior at the USAF Academy . . . and I am on my way to becoming a pilot. (I failed to mention to my mom until I was already in the air that I was piloting a small plane now—sorry mom.) In fact, at the airport recently, I told her that I am struggling with landing a little bit, so you can imagine her reaction, “What? You’re going up and having trouble coming down!” (For a change she wasn’t talking about my dreams!) I probably should have told her my little tidbit in a different way and different time, but the point is I’m flying now. And, don’t worry, my landings have really improved and I was actually able to solo in the airplane for the first time just the other day —I am reaching towards my dream, one step at a time . . . and I know mom and dad are proud, just like your parents are proud today and look forward to where your steps will take you next.

So, to change metaphors, you are the pilot of your life and it’s your turn to fly – figuratively and maybe even literally. You started high school as teenagers and leave as adults—young adults, but adults. You now have the skills that you need to begin etching the next notch in the timeline of your life. Remember that whatever goal you have, it is reachable—just take the first small step and you are on your way and in time will reach what might at first have seemed unreachable.

I am so proud to be a Connections Academy Alumni, and I am proud of all of you on this day of your graduation. Congratulations class of 2016! The next step is yours.