Senior Speeches, Steeped in Tradition


Academy at the Lakes’ 12th graders experience a defining moment when they present their Senior Speeches. As they take their places at the podium and look their peers in the eyes, they reach an Academy student milestone. For sure, it’s an I Have Arrived moment.

Each year, seniors are required to present a culminating “Senior Speech” to Upper Division students and faculty.

As part of the school’s core curriculum, which includes communication, public speaking is an integral part of the Academy experience beginning in preschool.


Wildcats as young as three years old help lead the weekly Lower Division assembly, allowing students to build confidence by speaking in front of their peers and teachers.

Beginning in fourth grade, students participate in Academy’s public speaking competition with the grade-level winners presenting to the entire Wildcat community.

To Academy students on the cusp of graduation, the senior speech is more than the culmination of years of public speaking practice; it’s a moment that reflects years of hard work rooted in diligence and devotion to their educational experience. Some seniors offer advice, some reflect on their own journey, some share fond memories.
All have arrived.


Kenny Quayle – Senior Speech

Luck, the basic yet somewhat irrational principle that we use to define the happenings of life.
Got stung by a bee? Bad luck.
Found a penny? Good luck.

The Quayle family has had quite the experience with luck. Being the fickle mistress she is, luck has given us and those near us both blessings and curses.
We lost a million dollar shipping lane due to the fact it was World War Two and we were Polish.
Generations of both Quayle and Taylor family men have participated in and survived every war since the French and Indian up till Afghanistan.
My grandfather was struck by lightning.
My grandmother won the lottery….twice.
My cousin was attacked by a shark.
He only survived because the head of the pediatric trauma ward had just pulled into the parking lot with his family, and the shark was beaten off, his leg pried out of the shark’s mouth, by my fast-acting uncle.
The trend seems to be good and bad luck evenly acting upon our family and the people around us. Yet, sometimes the bad is what we truly notice.
My cousin was born with a rare form of childhood cancer and died at the age of eleven.
Two family friends were both killed in their prime, one shot in the face while being a peacemaker between two fighting brothers and the other lost in a tragic Jet Ski accident.
My grandfather was diagnosed with lung cancer even though he quit smoking over 40 years ago.
Every day I wake up and ask “what random occurrence will befall me today?”
Will it be good or bad?
Will I win some sweepstakes and embark on a trip to Tahiti, or will I become the first casualty in the war against an alien menace?

Then I ask myself if I were to die in a power struggle against alien overlords, would I be happy with the life I have lived?
From childhood, I have watched my friends and family struggle with various forms of adversity that we attribute it to the so called Quayle family curse or the “smoothness gene,” as my family ironically calls it.
Essentially, if there is a flat piece of ground and we are carrying a carton if eggs, we will trip and we will land in a puddle of cracked eggs and dirtied yolks.
I have let all the occurrences, good and bad, influence me equally, coming to a head in the seventh grade when the ever-wise Mrs. Aimee Nadow-Campell explained a very common Latin phrase to me – Carpe diem or “Seize the day” as translated into English, resonated with me at a spiritual level.
This maxim motivated me to find my passion in life. Now don’t get me wrong, this is not YOLO.
Carpe Diem does not mean to live foolishly, to do idiotic things simply for the sake of doing them.
For example, doing doughnuts and flipping your jeep in a vacant lot, not Carpe diem.
Carpe Diem is doing what you love and loving what you do.

I found what makes me happy in two very different places.
One was discovered in the bottom room of McCormick hall under the tutelage of the previously mentioned Ms. Nadow.
It was the desire to share with others the things that I experience.

The fantastical worlds my wild imagination conjures from the depths of my consciousness

Or the memories of events witnessed by myself or others.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but in my opinion a story is worth a billion pictures.

The other made itself known very far away from home.

Somewhere along the road, I fell in love with traveling.
The icy mountains of Utah.
The urban metropolis of New York.
The awesome beauty of the Grand Canyon.
My visits to the jungles of Peru are among the greatest experiences of my life.
I made new friends, helped people, and did some of the most amazing and fun things I have ever done.
I saw the true beauty in nature and the true nature of people.
I was up close to some of the most awe inspiring landscapes and endangered creatures to ever exist on this giant blue sphere.
Traveling has changed my life.
And this is just the beginning.

I mashed these two passions together to create a monstrous task of employment that I wish to undertake. The task that would make every day worth it to me, employment at National Geographic Magazine.
Sharing the experiences I undergo with National Geographic and their various expeditions perfectly combines my two interests and allows me to share with others what I felt when going abroad.
I have begun to work toward the achievement of this goal and constantly drive to be able to do what I love, and living every day to the fullest along the way.
Because, let’s be honest, what is the purpose if you don’t live every day to its maximum potential and truly achieve Carpe Diem?

So go ahead.
Shake that man’s hand for his service.
Make that ridiculous pun and give yourself a chuckle.
Pick up that hitchhiker because so what there is only like a 70% percent change he will murder you.
Eat that last doughnut and don’t even feel the slightest bit of shame.
Do things for yourself, not because of what people expect from you.
So you see, this simple two word phrase was the answer to my question of how I should live my life. When I live every day to the fullest, I know that no matter when some absolutely ridiculous one-in-a-million event does me in, I will be happy with the life I have lived. I will die with a smile on my face and happiness in my heart.


The question is, will you?


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