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Graduation Speeches: Alexandra Maycock

Tuesday, July 3, 2018
Alexandra Maycock 2018 graduation speech

Good morning and welcome to the Faculty, Staff, students, Families, and friends here today. I believe I can speak for the senior class in saying that we are extremely grateful for the time and effort you have put into helping us reach this point and for joining us in celebration on this exciting morning. We could not be here without you.

Today, I regret to inform you that my past four years at Salem have not enlightened me to the concrete definition of life that you often find projected in graduation speeches. I assure you that in matters of photosynthesis and literary classics I have learned a great deal but as far as life, in general, the conclusion I have reached is that almost no one ever has it figured out completely. So instead of subjecting you to the philosophical ramblings of someone who has not yet lived two decades, I have decided to share three stories with you today. Each is about taking chances and risks throughout my Salem career, something which has not come easily to me but always seems to produce, if not successful outcomes, then at least some noteworthy memories. So let’s begin.

The first story is from my freshman year when I joined the Robotics team. Although at the time, I was planning on becoming an architect, I really liked to build and create, so I quickly found the small group of programmers, power tool enthusiasts, and masters of organization that inhabited a small corner of the academic building. This year was still a big learning year for the team, and as such, many of us focused on tasks that no one on the team had ever dealt with before. Somehow I landed myself the assignment of setting up the WiFi router that ‘supposedly’ allowed our robot to communicate with the controllers we used to drive it. Now, If any of you have ever tried to manage a Wifi router, or have had to call your child or grandchild to come deal with it, you’ll understand what this was like. It was an intellectual risk, and I often wondered why I volunteered for a job that would determine if we could practice driving our robot before the competition. Eventually, after reading multiple device manuals, installing lots of software, and plugging USBs into the robot, then the computer, and then the robot again, the router worked about 80% of the time. I am glad I took the risk of letting my team down because I learned a lot about problem-solving, but my router knowledge was rendered useless when the robotics league decided to abandon the system we had been using altogether. 

For my second story, I will give you a brief break from robotics to talk about my adventures on stage. For those of you who know me, you might wonder how I, a through and through athlete who has played volleyball, basketball, soccer, and swam during my time at Salem, found myself singing and dancing in full man-makeup in the 2016 Spring Musical, A Little Princess. Essentially, it was one-half peer-pressure and one-half the dazzle of show-biz (you must remember that Hamilton had come out recently). And so I found myself taking a year off from soccer and way out of my comfort zone. I learned the songs, dances, my solitary line, and that theatre wasn’t really for me. I had a lot of fun and made new friends, so in a way my venture into the unknown was successful, but I was happy to return to my comfort zone by playing volleyball the following fall. 

My third story returns to my adventures in robotics, although it is more about the logistics of building a robot than anything technical. You see, at one point, my dorm room window was diagonal from the window of the robotics room and despite trying to make sure I had all of my possessions when moving from room to room, what I needed always seemed to be in the other room. To solve this, my roommate Charlotte and I, decided to make a zip line from one window to the other that could ‘theoretically’,  support a robot carrying our forgotten items across the two-story drop between the windows. This goal resulted in us, and whatever other boarders stumbled across the spectacle, tossing a string with a whisk tied on the end to make it easier to throw from window to window for the better part of three hours in the middle of the night. Was there a chance of public safety driving by and reprimanding us? Yes. Was there a slight possibility of falling out a window? Only if we were pushed. Was there a high probability of the string getting tangled in the tree just outside of our dorm room window? Absolutely, but these were risks we were willing to take. Sadly, that third scenario is exactly what happened and to this day a small piece of that string remains in that tree and will proclaim for years: “two bored engineers lived here.” 

So those are my three stories, but there is also one much bigger risk that I and the rest of my classmates have taken over this past year and that is, of course, college applications. We handed ourselves, tiny baby birds, to hundreds of admissions offices across the globe and while some tossed us into the air to fly, others did not. Nevertheless, we are all here today ready to take the next big chance of our lives and for some of us, leave home for the first time, move far away, or make friends in a place where we don’t know anyone. We must remember with gratitude to use the skills our teachers have given us, take the opportunities our parents and families have worked hard to afford us, and accept the encouragement our friends will offer us to help us step out of our comfort zones and take risks. Or in the words of Ms.Frizzle, my first science teacher and the somewhat reckless driver of the Magic School Bus: “Take chances, make mistakes, and get messy.” Thank you. 

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