Student Voices: 2016 Graduate Speaker MaKayla Smith

Oregon Connections Academy

female student at podium

Dear friends, family, peers and teachers,

First of all, I would like to thank all of the wonderful teachers I had this past year, and the entire faculty at Oregon Connections Academy that make virtual education possible. I also want to thank all of the other teachers that had an impact on my education. I want to thank my friends and family for supporting me and encouraging me to do well in school and to always pursue greatness.

Online education has prepared me for the future in more ways than one. It has taught me values that I couldn’t have learned going to a traditional public school. As a shy person, traditional public school was hard for me. Virtual education made it possible for me to participate in class discussions without being embarrassed for speaking up. Virtual school has also taught me to be more focused in school and has allowed me to concentrate better.

Attending Oregon Connections Academy (ORCA) has also given me many opportunities. I have been able to maintain a part time job over the last several months because of the flexibility of online public school. It has allowed me to gain computer and work force skills that I didn’t have before. Being able to stay at home to get an education has been a great opportunity for me.

I decided to enroll in ORCA because I moved to a new town over the last summer. I didn’t want to go to a new public school, where I had no friends. ORCA made it possible for me to go to school and not have to worry about being an outcast at a new school. Oregon Connections Academy was a wonderful opportunity and I’m so glad I got to have the experience of attending a virtual public school.

I remember when I first started kindergarten and being so oblivious to all the problems in the world. The only thing I really worried about was what time recess started. But as I got older, I began to worry about more and more things. I worried about getting all of my chores done so I could hang out with friends, getting a good grade on a test, getting my driver’s license, maintaining good grades so that I could get into a decent college, and getting a job so that I could start saving up for college and a new car. My point is, as we get older, we tend to worry about things we never thought we would worry about. But, as Sandra Bullock said in an inspirational speech in 2014, “Stop worrying so much. Stop being scared of the unknown. …The unknown we can’t do anything about.” And she’s right. We need to take things as they come and pursue our dreams without a worry holding us back.

I’m sure that there are many of us that have been looking forward to this day for a very long time and others of us that have been dreading it. Graduating from high school is one of the biggest things we could ever hope to accomplish. It’s scary to think that our high school years are over and that it’s time for us to be adults and venture out into the world. But it’s also exciting. We finally get to pursue our passions and dreams and be whoever we want to be. In the process of pursuing those dreams and passions, we are going to fail at somethings and make some mistakes. But there is only one person paying very close attention to your mistakes and failures. That person is you. So learn from your mistakes and failures and move on. We can’t linger on our weaknesses, because they will only hold us back. We also have to remember to never let the opinions of others hold us back. In order to be successful, you have to try to resist distractions and when you are led astray, guide your mind back to what you were focused on. And on your path to success, always take the high road. David McCollough Jr., the son of the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, once said “Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.”

Congratulations Class of 2016! We made it!