Student Voices: 2017 Graduate Speaker, Student Body Vice President Anna Mallery

Oregon Connections Academy

female graduate speaker

Hello friends. Family. Fellow students.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
There was one catch- the fog was thick
Just I, one traveler, long I stood

And then thought, frick! I forgot my hiking boots!

But haven’t we all forgotten our hiking boots in a non-cliché poem? We often know a journey is coming, but feel so drastically underprepared for the many things we might have to overcome. I didn’t think I could hike to where I am now. I truly didn’t think I was prepared- but here I am.

Now, I am certainly not a model student. But of course, we’re all defining what a model student looks like at a virtual high school. All of us are pioneers. All of us have forgotten our hiking boots from time to time. All of us wanted something more from our high school education, and alas, here we all are.

I came to Oregon Connections Academy as a survivor. The extreme trauma I had suffered as a child made it impossible to focus on my middle school education, which I knew would only become more demanding and important once I started high school. After years and years of family conflict, being bullied at school, and failing in the traditional system, I had found somewhere I could thrive. One can only be told so many times that you’ll find YOUR way… Well, MY way didn’t seem to exist as a fifteen-year-old kid who was fed up with the system. It was only after I found Oregon Connections Academy when life settled down, and I was able to heal from the inside out. I found people on a journey similar to mine. I came out of my shell.

Class of 2017, we have come so far. We are not here just because we live in the same school district, we are here because each and every one of us CHOSE to be here. No other graduating class can truly say that. Every single one of us has an entirely different story to tell, yet we all crossed the same finish line. And not only did we cross it, we have all single handedly reimagined what a finish line can look like. I look out at this group and am struck by what a beautifully diverse crowd we are, on the forefront of modern education, with proof—our living bodies and intelligent minds—that online education is a success! We are poised to be leaders – whether that be in our communities, our vocations, our own handmade journeys… we are all pioneers, we are all way finders, we are all taking the road less traveled!

As someone who has only existed on this earth for 18 years, the most valuable piece of information I have learned is that we must always 'do our nevers.' I always 'do my nevers,' and this, speaking in front of all of you amazing people, as student body vice president of Oregon Connections Academy, is certainly one of them. Stepping outside of comfort zones and facing fears is very hard but, it is also where the “living” happens. Our lives will never be in complete balance, with everything from eating well, to academic life, to spending time with those we love. The pendulum of our attention is always swinging. Immerse yourself in what you love to do. Always aim for achieving the once-thought ‘unachievable.’ When we do this, we will not only be lacing up those hiking boots to create a path, but changing the world as we go.

I would like to end with a quote that speaks much truth to me: 'What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us. And when we bring what is within us out into the world, miracles happen.'

Thank you.