Graduates reflect on future through graduation speeches

Landing a speaking role at Franklin Community High School’s graduation ceremony doesn’t hinge upon class rank or any other sort of academic standing.

The honor simply comes down to whether you can write — and deliver — a great speech.

Aside from the student council president, who is automatically given a spot each year, the high school determines its graduation speakers through an audition process. Any students who want a shot can try their speeches out in front of a committee, which then selects the top two or three to be delivered at commencement.

The committee looks for unique, well-delivered speeches that the entire audience will be able to relate to, Franklin guidance counselor Jan Henderson said.

“It was an easy pick, to be quite honest,” she said of this year’s students.

The hurdler

Ally Parramore
Ally Parramore

Ally Parramore has been clearing obstacles all her life — not only in the classroom, but on the track, where she recently won a sectional championship in the 300-meter hurdles and was named to the Indiana Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches Academic All-State team.

She decided to build her speech around her athletic experiences, which have played a large part in shaping her, she said.

“In life, you’re going to have your good days and then you’re going to have days where you trip over a hurdle and fall on your face. We are defined by how we react to those difficult moments and whether we quit or get up and finish the race,” Parramore said.

“It’s about not settling when things get hard, and just pushing yourself in every aspect of your life,” she said. “I see a lot of potential in my class, so that’s why I wanted to address that.”

Next for Parramore will be Indiana University, where she will study at the Kelley School of Business.

The architect

Arden Friend
Arden Friend

Sibling rivalry fueled Arden Friend’s desire to speak at graduation. Her sister spoke at the 2012 commencement.

“As a younger sister, I always want to one-up her,” she said.

Settling on a theme was a little more difficult. Friend wanted something that would help illustrate the idea that the decisions students make today can determine their future, but she was determined to do so in a non-clichéd way.

An unattributed quote that she found in her psychology book provided the starting point: “We are both products and the architects of our environment.”

Friend has been working on her speech since December, and she credits her father with helping her fine-tune it in the days before the audition.

She is hopeful that her message will resonate with her classmates.

“We don’t think about it, but the choices that our parents made, our grandparents made, have created who we are today, and we’re in charge of making those positive choices that create the success for future generations,” she said.

Friend’s future includes following in her parents’ footsteps and attending Purdue University, where she plans to study accounting.

The baker

Daisy May
Daisy May

Daisy May found the inspiration for her graduation speech in the kitchen.

After being encouraged to try out by her speech class teacher, May spent months trying to come up with a unique idea before stumbling upon it one day after going home sick.

“I was thinking super hard about what I should compare high school to and finally I was just like, ‘I’m going to pick one thing in my house and just compare it to that,’ and find some kind of similarity,” she said.

“So I chose a stale cookie.”

While high school became stale in a way — often the same monotonous daily routine over and over — it’s still a cookie, which can never be a bad thing, she said.

“Even though it was stale, I still loved it,” May said. “I loved the memories I made and the friends that I have. It was still a pretty dang good cookie.”

After graduating, May and her classmates have the ability to go out into the world and bake their own new cookie, she said. She’s already hard at work on her recipe, having started a clothing line, Rebloomed, where she takes old college shirts and alters them to create unique tailgating attire.

May plans to study fashion design and art management at Indiana University.

The politician

Sam VanderVeen
Sam VanderVeen

As the president of the student council, Sam VanderVeen will be the last of the four speakers in the lineup. Knowing he would be the closer, VanderVeen wanted to come up with a speech that would encapsulate everything about the ceremony and the four years that led up to it.

Every topic he considered kept leading him back toward one overarching theme — community.

VanderVeen said that spending his senior year interning at the mayor’s office helped shape his ideas.

“All year I’ve been hearing from the mayor about how strong of a community we have in the city of Franklin, and that’s just something that stuck with me,” he said.

The speech touches on the celebrations that have helped bring everyone in the community together, as well as various events that could have threatened those bonds but ultimately strengthened them.

VanderVeen will be attending DePauw University, where he plans to major in political science and mathematics with a possible minor in Spanish. Eventually, he’d like to pursue a career in politics, he said.

Whether that career puts him in the mayor’s office here or takes him all the way to Washington, D.C., VanderVeen says that the Franklin community has helped lay a foundation for him and all of his classmates.

“No matter where we might go, whether it’s 5 miles down or 5,000 miles away, we’ll always be rooted in Franklin,” VanderVeen said. “It’s molded who we are today.”

If you go

What: Franklin Community High School’s 2017 commencement exercises

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: High school main gymnasium, 2600 Cumberland Drive

Author photo
Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2715.