Student Voices: 2017 Graduate Speaker, Student Body President Taylor Hampton

Oregon Connections Academy


female graduate

It is such an honor to be standing in front of you all today, honestly, I don’t think my family would have imagined I would make it this far.

I was a wild child growing up. I had a hard time sitting still and—as I’ve been told—I wasn’t the best “listener.” At age six, I made it through my first day of kindergarten and excitedly marched outside with our teacher to wait for our parents to come pick us up. Instead of waiting patiently for my ride, I decided to just walk home myself, running past my peers, teachers and the fence surrounding our school. In Kindergarten we got half days, and I figured if I made it back in time I could still watch the morning cartoons. I didn’t make it too far, and after that my grandma had to bring me into the classroom each day and pass me off to my teacher in the morning and again when class was over.

This trend continued throughout my adolescent life. Not being disobedient, but wanting to do things my own way. When it came to education, the traditional system wasn’t working for me. I didn’t fit the mold and I needed an education to match.

When I began writing this speech I had no idea what I was going to talk about. What makes our Class of 2017 so great? After a lot of contemplating, early morning cartoons, and wasted scratch paper, I had it. What makes us so great? Well, it's:

Where we came from,
Where we are now,
And where we go from here.

We’ve all come from different places and different learning environments—and we’ve all decided that for whatever reason, we needed a change. Oregon Connections Academy (ORCA) gave us that opportunity.

Education has no boundaries, and each student here has their own story to tell. I remember all my first-day-of-class experiences, seeing some kids jumping with joy to see their friends they missed over the summer, some kids dragging their feet with some summertime sadness not being happy to be awake so early, and other kids like me making a run for the exit. But deep-down, whether any of us would like to admit it or not, we all like to learn new ideas and facts, and have an understanding for the places education can take us. When we were kids, everything was new and interesting, and there were constant sparks flying in our heads about what we would learn next.

But as you grow up, your interests change, so does your ability to learn.

In 2007, Sir Ken Robinson gave a speech in which he explains the dynamics of intelligence, how education is “beginning to shift beneath our feet” and with that so are different means of education. He goes on to say that education opens the door to an unknown future in which children are given hope. If you look around this room, every single student here made a very hard choice at some point in their lives to leave a brick and mortar school to come to ORCA. By moving to ORCA, we all were given hope and the education we all very well deserve.

Education is not about memorizing textbooks but instead should be about creating ideas of your own.

For me, ORCA was my way to higher education, and an expansion into a world larger than my little town. Four years ago if you asked me if I was going to college I would have told you, yes definitely, being excited for high school, a new adventure, and all the possibilities a higher education could bring me. If you asked me two years ago, I would have told you, I don't know, maybe. Not from lack of motivation, but because my passion for education had begun to run thin, something that had never happened before. Since moving schools I felt a challenge, and a spark of hope that this wasn’t the end. I was going to do whatever it takes to have the education I felt could lead me to success, and now if you asked me, are you ready for the next step in your life? I would say yes with as much confidence that I believe each student at ORCA now holds.

The students of ORCA are where they are at today because of self-drive, and that spark of hope. The students who are here today are here because like me they believed their education was worth pursuing further.

We each had our first day experiences, and here we are now in cap and gown ready for a new adventure into a world largely unknown. Where are we going from here?

We're a little scared, very excited and all of us are ready to make a run for the exit.

Whether we have a clue what lies ahead or are undecided about our future, the Class of 2017 can guarantee you that, because we chose to pursue our education further and took the step towards higher education, we will be successful. Thank you.