Student Voices: 2016 Graduate Speaker Abby Paul

Iowa Connections Academy

female student at podium

Congratulations! We’ve made it. High school graduation is here. For me personally, I feel like high school flew by. I still walk into stores to see the graduation party stuff with 2016 on it, and I still am in denial that I’m actually graduating! I feel like I’m not ready yet! This is a huge accomplishment for all of us, but this isn’t the end of the road. In more ways than one, it is the beginning. The few weeks before standing before you all today, I sat at my desk as I tried to come up with what I should actually say today and how to make the most of this moment. After a lot of contemplation, I finally decided what needed to be said.

“If you're trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. I've had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles don't have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don't turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” This quote was said by none other than the great Michael Jordan. Although all of you might not be sports fans, I’m pretty sure most if not all of you know who he is. It is what has made him arguably the greatest basketball player of all time. His influence in society in general has been huge. From Space Jam, to the “Be Like Mike” Gatorade commercial, or even his own shoe line, he is well known off the court as much as he is on it. But that guy is the same high school kid that was cut from his Sophomore Varsity basketball team. Even though he has achieved a lot in life, it doesn’t mean he never experienced bumps in the road. He never gave up on his dream, and pushed forward to be one of the greats in basketball. He never could’ve achieved that by giving up.

I know for me personally, I’ve experienced tons of obstacles in my life. However, it hasn’t stopped me from accomplishing what I want to do in life. In fact, to help myself find success is why I joined Iowa Connections Academy in the first place. I suffer with several severe medical issues, which kept me from attending school all the time. Although I pushed hard to stay caught up in school while taking advanced courses, my teachers and staff members didn’t think I could do it. I was told in my sophomore year of high school that I should just try to do the bare minimum to graduate, because he thought there was no point in trying when he thought for sure I’d fail. After my sophomore year had finished, I was frustrated. My school wasn’t going to allow me to take any honors courses or college classes the following year, despite doing well in school that last year. That is when I did an internet search and stumbled upon Iowa Connections Academy. I went from being told by teachers and staff that I couldn’t do it, to getting encouragement and support even when my health wasn’t doing well. Without the support of Connections, my high school story could’ve looked a lot different. I still had to work hard to get where I am today, but now am being rewarded by getting a large scholarship offer to the University of Northern Iowa where I can continue my education and chase my dreams.

The biggest reason I wanted to discuss different barriers in life is because I know everyone struggles with adversity in life. Whether you’ve dealt with it already or not, there will be plenty more of it as you go through life. You’ll lose friendships or relationships, go through changes in plans when in college, have economic troubles, or deal with different struggles in the workplace. The important thing is to rise above it, and push through it. Because all that can do is make you a stronger person and know how to deal with it next time. The road begins here, the question is how will you go forward? Go out these doors and achieve greatness. This is only the first step. Once again, Congrats Class of 2016! We made it!