Student earns graduation speech dream

After she had spent hours watching graduation and playing the clarinet at the ceremony, she only had one thought.

That she wanted to be on the stage giving a speech at her own commencement.

Ashley McKinley told her father on the way home that in three years she would be one of the students on the stage at graduation.

She has met that goal.

McKinley will give her dream graduation speech as salutatorian at Indian Creek High School’s commencement on May 30.

“I told my dad that I would be giving one of those speeches, I just worked my butt off until I got the grades,” she said.

She studied whenever she could.

She studied in the car on three-hour drives to Evansville to see family.

A fixture in musicals at the school, McKinley studied backstage as a chorus member in “The Sound of Music” and “Carnival.” She would sometimes find a spare minute to study backstage of “Oklahoma,” when she was Aunt Eller.

“If I could study, I would,” McKinley said.

She spent hours after school at musical rehearsals, and she still had hours of homework once she got home.

“Most of the time, I wouldn’t go to bed until midnight or 1 a.m.”

The late nights were worth it, she said.

She didn’t want to sacrifice her drive to be among the top, and she wanted to continue to be in choir, play her clarinet and perform in musicals.

Performing in musicals gave her time with her father, high school music teacher Doug McKinley.

“It was nice to be able to spend more time with my dad and be more involved,” she said.

Music classes helped give her a creative outlet, she said. She loves to perform and to make art that inspires people, McKinley said.

“Musicals, I would never give up musicals,” she said.

She made time and room in her life to do what she loved.

She took on a music class most semesters, even if it meant she would have to do independent study on some classes, such as calculus, increasing her class and homework load. The decision also made her give up a study hall, which increased her workload at night.

“I know I can push myself to do things others may not think is possible,” she said.

Her next way to push herself is to become a pharmacist.

McKinley will study bio chemistry at University of Southern Indiana in the fall.

The college in Evansville gave her a full ride scholarship. She decided to attend the University of Southern Indiana rather than another school that would cost her $20,000 a year.

“It will be a cheaper way for me to get my bio chemistry degree,” she said.

Chemistry has always been one of her favorite classes. She decided that becoming a pharmacist would join two of her loves: chemistry and helping people.

Becoming a doctor would mean overcoming a big fear, she said.

“I also have a thing with needles,” McKinley said.

Until then, she is concentrating on her speech that she has dreamed of giving for years.

At a glance


Name: Ashley McKinley

School: Salutatorian at Indian Creek High School

Parents: Doug and Brenda McKinley

GPA: 4.3

College: University of Southern Indiana

Author photo
Magen Kritsch is an editorial assistant at the Daily Journal. She can be reached at or 317-736-2770.