With mixed feelings, high school seniors approach graduation with a sense of nostalgia. In his eleven years as a student at Amelia Academy, senior Wilbert Allen said as much in his Chapel Talk, delivered on March 27. “Before I started my senior year, I had thoughts of “re-classing” because I didn’t feel like leaving yet,” he joked. “But, it’s time for me to move on to the next chapter of my life.”
Wilbert said that he has been particularly influenced by three people, and he offered a reflection on their role in his life. Even though there have been a few headmasters over the past eleven years, Wilbert said that none have impacted him as much as Mr. Taylor, the Academy’s current headmaster. Admitting to some reservations about Mr. Taylor at first, Wilbert said everything changed his sophomore year.
“In my sophomore year, he just happened to be my history teacher,” Wilbert said. “I’d have to say that was probably the best class I have taken.” In fact, Wilbert said that Mr. Taylor became someone he would call a friend during that year.
In his elective with Mr. Taylor this year, Wilbert said, “I’ve learned to view things from different perspectives. I’ve also learned how important it is to stay up-to-date and know what’s going on in the world,” he added.
Growing up in a family with three brothers and two sisters meant that Wilbert has never known a dull moment. However, he also said that he wouldn’t have it any other way because they are his family. His parents have had the biggest influence on his life, Wilbert said.
He has spent a great deal of time with his Dad. “Ever since I was old enough to walk, I was always going with my Dad to work, farms, and job sites,” he said. “I quickly learned that my Dad could do just about anything, and I always looked up to him,” Wilbert said.
There was something Wilbert didn’t realize during the good times of hard work spent with his Dad. He was teaching me how to be successful, Wilbert said. “One of my favorite things he has told me is, ‘Son, ain’t nobody going to give you anything in life.’” From this advice, Wilbert said that he has learned that he will have to work hard to be successful.
Having learned the value of hard work, Wilbert said it is also important to have fun with his friends, especially Tyler Gough. Friends since kindergarten, he and Tyler can always be found working in the shop, going fishing and hunting, and having a good time. Wilbert emphasized the importance of making great memories in the good times spent with friends.
All three friends – Mr. Taylor, Tyler, and especially his Dad – have played an important role in Wilbert’s life. “They’ve prepared me for life after I leave here [the Academy],” he said.
During his years at the Academy, Wilbert has been a member of the junior varsity and varsity baseball teams.
Attending Wilbert’s Chapel Talk were his parents Karen and Victor Allen. Also present were his siblings, Wavel (class of 2017) along with Emma, Wendell, Calvin, and Rupert, all of whom are Academy students.
With so many things beyond a person’s control, three things are within our control said senior Mitchell Carey in his Chapel Talk, delivered on March 20. The first two – attitude and effort – came from Jason Morris in Mitchell’s Bible class. The third – enthusiasm – was added by Mitchell himself. These aspects of life were the subject of his speech.
Mitchell shared several moments in which he learned the value of character-building experiences. During his junior year, he earned a D grade on his first Chemistry test. “This initial grade crushed my resolve, and I felt like a failure,” he said. In fact, that one low grade among many other good grades influenced his entire attitude during his junior year.
“Interestingly, getting a D on that first test turned out to be a blessing in disguise,” Mitchell said. He changed his method of studying and received a B on the next test and, eventually, an A in the course. He learned that good outcomes may come from negative moments in life.
Having a good attitude can also be the product of helping others and cultivating gratitude. Mitchell ran for student-body president at his school last year. He and his opponent, “a very determined girl,” were stunned when her sister harassed one of Mitchell’s supporters. With the drama averted by the sister’s apology, Mitchell won a fair race. “I was humbled and grateful to have been elected to the position.” Fulfilling a campaign promise, Mitchell started a snack table for the students to enjoy since they didn’t have vending machines.
Mitchell learned in his courses that effort produces results. “It’s simple yet proven,” he said. “Studying and preparing are key components to receiving good grades.”
In other pursuits outside of school, Mitchell has also learned the benefit of effort. Three years ago, he began taking ukulele lessons. “Learning to play the ukulele was hard at first but, with practice, I began to play songs I knew,” he said. One of those was the Star Wars theme. “Because I’m a huge Star Wars fan, I put an immense amount of effort in order to learn the tune,” he said.
Mitchell’s efforts also paid off, literally, when he began taking care of his neighbor’s animals while they were on vacation. He was rewarded when they were impressed with his effort. For the past five years, Mitchell has cared for their animals. “I am proud to be known as a trustworthy worker,” he said.
Enthusiasm is the key component in maintaining a good attitude and putting forth effort, according to Mitchell. Metaphorically, it is the spark that lights the oven of attitude and effort, he said.
Mitchell learned this on the job as a volunteer at Sailor’s Creek Battlefield, beginning in the summer of 2017. “At the time I faked enthusiasm [for the Civil War battle]. However, as I learned about the stories and battles, my faked enthusiasm became real,” he said. In fact, his new-found enthusiasm created a more positive work experience.
Mitchell acknowledged that controlling attitude, effort, and enthusiasm is a “journey not a destination.” Nevertheless, the journey is worthwhile despite inevitable mistakes and setback, he said. He encouraged his fellow students to pursue their own journey toward success.
Attending his Chapel Talk were his parents, Patti and Sam Carey, along with his grandparents, Betty and Don Bowman, and cousin, Gloria Kuykendall. Also present were neighbors Susan and Ronnie Cole. Other guests included Amelia Academy’s former headmaster, James D. Grizzard, and Mitchell’s former teachers, Laura Birdsong, Walter Duncan, LeeAnn Arnett, Wanda Boyles, and Robin Settle.
Amelia Academy seniors are beginning the countdown to graduation on May 23. It was therefore an appropriate time for Amari Hicks to speak about the inevitability of change in her Chapel Talk, delivered on March 13.
“Change is not necessarily a good thing; nor is it a bad thing,” she said. “Change is simply a thing that happens to each of us during certain times in our lives.”
Amari offered several examples of change that many teens experience, such as evolving choices in fashion, music, and sports teams. Other intentional changes may lead to becoming a better person or achieving goals, she said.
Since arriving at the Academy in the second grade, Amari has emerged from the admittedly shy newcomer. “I didn’t really talk to anyone except my teachers and maybe two other classmates,” she said. During that first year, she eventually got to know the rest of her class and came out of her “comfort zone.” She said that this was an example of a good change. “It was a wonderful decision,” she said.
All went well until Middle School when Amari said she began to retreat again. “It was a crazy time full of change . . . the lovely time of hitting puberty,” Amari said. However, just as she did in Lower School, Amari persevered and pursued new adventures, including playing volleyball.
She also decided to participate in Forensics, an annual public speaking competition of the Association of Virginia Academies (AVA). This experience led to an interest in “reading for fun” and creative writing.
Once again, in Upper School, Amari continued to step out of her comfort zone and pursue new opportunities. She joined the local chapter of Young Life, a positive experience that helped her confidence. “I made lots of new friends who never fail to make me smile,” she said.
Despite the difficult of overcoming fear, Amari said she is grateful for the changes she has made. “Don’t be afraid to do it,” she told her audience. “It could possibly make your life much better.”
In her closing, Amari quoted the Dalai Lama, “Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.”
Attending her Chapel Talk were her parents Juliane and Boyce Hicks, along with her sister Meagan. Also present were her grandparents, Viola and James Booker, and her grandmother, Ann Hicks. Other special guests included her aunts, Lofonda Booker, Jennifer Cooper, and Lowonda Craft, along with her cousin, Chelsey Poe.
Virginia Delegate, Tommy Wright, of the 61stdistrict visited the 3rdand 4thgrade classes at Amelia Academy. He gave them a coloring book about the House of Delegates and another one titled “Right This Very Minute: A Table to Farm Book about Food and Family” by Lisl Detlefsen. Pictured left to right is (front) Virginia Flippin, Emilynn Roberts, Jeremiah Bollinger, Austin Ison, (back) librarian, Karen Berry, Delegate Tommy Wright, and headmaster, Rodney Taylor.
Amelia Academy juniors and seniors (left to right: Mikayla Stables, Madison Barnard, Lexi Easter, Ellie Taylor, Jolin Fox, and Ryan Anderson) participated in the Donkey Basketball on March 9, 2019. The Donkey Basketball was a fundraiser held for Amelia Academy and it helped raise money for the school. The stands in the Amelia Academy gym were packed with about 300 people. The Amelia Academy juniors and seniors went up against the Sheriff’s Office of Amelia County, the Celebrity Team of Amelia County, and another team of Amelia County members.
During halftime at the Donkey Basketball Game Fundraiser at Amelia Academy, kids got the chance to ride on donkeys! Mikayla Stables, a senior at Amelia Academy, helped walk the donkey around while her nephew Tatum Jones rode. Junior Lexi Easter helped. This game was held on March 9, 2019 and helped raise money for the school.
Senior of Amelia Academy Ellie Taylor participates in the Donkey Basketball Game Fundraiser on March 9, 2019. The fundraiser was held in the Amelia Academy gymnasium and helped raise money for the school. The Amelia Academy juniors and seniors competed against the Sheriff’s Office of Amelia County, the Celebrity Team of Amelia County, and another team of Amelia County members.
“Make new friends and keep the old; One is silver and the other gold,” are lyrics from an old song. Hannah King expressed this sentiment in her Chapel Talk, delivered on March 6. She has pursued experiences that led to new friendships over the past year. Hannah has come to value the differing viewpoints and backgrounds of these friends. Just as important, however, are the family relationships and life-long friendships that have sustained her.
Referring to the high school experience as a “roller coaster,” Hannah expressed appreciation to the teachers and friends who have helped her. “Thank you for helping me recognize that good can come from adversity and for helping me through the hardships,” she said.
The important role of her family support has been foremost and essential, Hannah said. “Their love is unconditional,” she said. Without being judgmental, she said that her family have encouraged and even pushed her when needed. “I didn’t have to win first place or be the best player. I just have to be me,” she said.
Hannah also paid a special tribute to her younger sisters, Emily and Julia. “They make me want to be a better person,” she said. She holds herself accountable to them as a role model and hopes they will learn from her mistakes. “I know that they love and appreciate me, especially since I am their Uber driver each day,” she joked.
A lifelong friend, Cassie Brenner, has had almost as great a role as a family member. “Our moms were great friends so, of course, we had to be best friends.” They were in the church nursery together as babies and remain friends today.
Another friendship was developed after a chance meeting at the Virginia Girls State convention last summer. “We might have said two words to each other the whole week,” Hannah said of her contact with a fellow attendee, Skylar Brement. However, through social media, the two later reconnected and have become good friends.
Other new friendships emerged when Hannah attended a summer program at Flagler University in St. Augustine, Florida. Just making the decision to participate required overcoming “pointless anxiety” about being alone far from home. “When I do take the chance, it always turns out to be amazing, and my experience at Flagler was no different,” she said.
As the participants got to know each other, Hannah connected with a group whose interests and opinions were widely varied. They formed a bond that has remained strong. “I loved how, even though we had different backgrounds, we could talk and participate in thought-provoking discussions.”
Hannah expressed a sense of accomplishment in overcoming her fear of attending the Flagler summer program. “I would never have met these amazing and diverse people who are now some of my closest friends,” she said. She advised her fellow students to do the things that frighten them. “Gain the strength and confidence that you can by just having faith. Just like I have, you have the people to support you” she said.
As a student at the Academy, Hannah has been recognized for her academic excellence. She is a member of the National Honor Society and the Beta Club. In addition, she has participated in the Association of Virginia Academies (AVA) Scholastic Bowl and Forensics competitions. She was a member of the team representing the Academy at the Model United Nations. As a student-athlete, Hannah has played junior varsity basketball and volleyball and varsity volleyball.
Attending her Chapel Talk were her mother, Alison King and her father, Nathan King, along with her sisters Julia and Emily and cousin Grace Wilson. Also present were her grandparents, Gail and Ron Wilson and Teka and Buddy King. Other guests included her friends Cassie Brenner and Skylar Brement.