Kiya Cockrell ’20, a four-year boarding student from Chicago, recently gave her senior presentation at All-School where the Fountain Valley community comes together once a week for announcements, performances, speeches, “funky facts”—just about anything goes! In her emotional presentation, Kiya focused on the strong bonds she has made with faculty and friends at FVS. Laughter and tears came from both Kiya and the audience, culminating in a boisterous and extended standing ovation. Following are excerpts.
Graduation is in exactly 100 days. It’s all happening so fast. I hope that in these next 10 minutes I can give you some idea of what I’m about and what FVS has brought me. Coming to Fountain Valley meant a lot of new things for me; independence and opportunity. Freshman-year Interim had an incredible impact on me. Backpacking in sunny colorado with long hikes and grits in the morning, and ending the trip with pancakes at the Gustke house is something I will never forget.
With that, Ms. Davie and Mr. Gutske, here we go. First of all, I want to say thank you and say I’m sorry. Both of you were faced with the awful challenge of taking a city girl who'd never been on a hike in her life, on a seven-day backpacking trip. I slowed the group down, tripped on flat surfaces, rolled my ankles and probably anything else a nightmare kid could do on a backpacking trip. Both of you deserve some sort of award for dealing with me and my weak ankles.
If I was on that trip now, I probably would only slow the group down a quarter as much as before. I would look up to see the nature moments Ms. Davie told me about instead of staring at the ground, and I would enjoy the suffering. My mind has opened up a lot since that first trip. Ms. Davie, you taught me how much better cursing is when you don't curse. “Mother of Pearl!” will always have a place in my heart because of you. You’ve helped my writing so much, and AP Lit is always fun, even when we cry about writing three essays in two hours.
Mr. Gutske, you’ve given me a larger understanding of everything around me. Taking the class Poet and the Scientist gave me a sense of awareness I didn’t have before, and I will always be grateful to have had you as a teacher twice.
My junior year I got to go to Guanajuato, Mexico, with Mrs. Harrison and Mrs. Alley. Although most of the time we joked about it being one big fever dream, it was the most fun interim I’ve been on. Bonds and inside jokes were made that still remain today.
Mrs. Harrison, I’ve had the pleasure to travel with you twice, both times for a cultural immersion. Your passion and excitement for everything you do inspires me to look at what I want to do and to work harder. The Student Diversity Leadership Conference was the most beautiful experience — being surrounded by love and hope.You took me there, to a place of beauty and support. I cannot express how much that means to me.
Mrs. Alley, you’ve been a second adviser to me. You helped me through so many stressful nights in Penrose, encouraged me in Spanish and inspired me. I know that anything is possible because of you.
Mr. Alford, thank you for indulging in every stupid thing you hear when you pass by our lunch table, and for writing me a recommendation despite the weird things you’ve heard from my table. Thank you for helping me laugh, and I used you in my senior yearbook quote.
Mr. Bru, you must have made someone angry, because you ended up having me in your math class twice. I am in constant admiration of you caring about my learning and will forever be grateful for your patience with my general incompetence with math. If I could have you as I teacher again I would, but lucky for you I can’t.
Ms. Green, there are two things that I will always have because of your class, and that is the importance of basic shapes and negative space. Negative space helped me observe not only what was around me, but what wasn’t too. I hate to be the person to quote Kanye in their senior presentation, but everything I’m not made me everything I am. You also taught me to trust the process. Anytime I felt so inexperienced in wanting to draw, you always reminded me to start off with basic shapes. A lot of the obstacles I went through at Fountain Valley could have been boiled down to basic shapes.
Basic shapes has become my new mantra, and I’ll always have that because of you.
Last but not least, Mr. Eberhart. I am so happy to have the adviser and advisory that I do. You’ve helped me develop my voice countless times, stood behind me in everything I’ve tried to accomplish, and have been the most helpful person I’ve ever met. So much of who I am today couldn’t exist without you. I will always be thankful for you letting me pet your dogs, taking photos of me crying, and then telling me they must go in my senior presentation.
Emma, you taught me to laugh. You were my partner on the first day of biology.You’ve welcomed me to your home multiple times, and I’ll always thank you for the funny videos you show me to cheer me up.
We made the most sour, inedible pickles and became good friends from there.
Aspen, you’ve taught me to enjoy simplicity and to do what makes me happy. I’m really going to miss your drawings that Ms. Green called “borderline bullying” and all of the monsters you put on whiteboards. I’m going to miss the sleeves of smiley faces you would leave on my arms after tech, and the stories you told about ping-pong paddles and bears named Tim.
Maddy, you taught me how to stop taking myself so seriously. Although I thought our friendship would soon end after you learned that I was from Chicago and liked the Blackhawks, we’ve remained close. I’ll always remember goofing off with you since freshman year and your ridiculously crazy love of the Avalanche.
Bea, I really don’t know where to start. You’ve been such an incredible friend, and I can’t even begin to count the times you’ve listened to me vent about nothing of actual importance. I’m so lucky to have grown up with you over four years.
Aaron, I’ve clicked with you like no other person at Fountain Valley. It feels like you've always been there for me, that every late-night facetime call I needed always led to you picking up to make me feel better. You have always been there when I needed a hug, or to cry, or to just watch horror movies. I remember when I was sick, and I asked if you could grab me a bagel. You brought me three bagels, ramen, two oranges, and told me to go to the health center.
Katie Prantl, my traveling buddy. You taught me to be strong. You always push me to work harder and never give up.
I doubt I will ever meet someone who drinks as much milk as you do, which explains why you're practically indestructible.
Sarita, roomie, I'm going to miss having someone next year to make an impulsive pact with, whether it’s quitting pork, going on morning runs, or refusing to watch a show unless the other is present. You’ve taught me to work on trust, to truly be with someone through thick and thin. You’ve probably seen my weirdest moments, and I’m glad to have someone like you.
To the boys: Luke, Makena, Mitch, and Brayden. All of you have helped me realize my tolerance scale. Despite the constant bullying for teasing me for falling out of my chair, being clumsy, being short—and anything really—all of you have made me laugh at moments I needed them most. I’m glad that if I had to be teased by anybody or given a giant packet of mayonnaise when I asked for water, it would be you four.
I decided to do my senior presentation now, not because I am doing the best I've ever done in school, not because I’m the most accomplished I’ve ever felt, and not even because I’m the happiest. I’m doing this now because this has been the year a million challenges were thrown at me and for the first time in a while, I didn’t grow catatonic over them. I’ve never felt more ready to push myself to my full potential.
I’ve gone out of my comfort zone to do things I never thought I would.
This year, I submitted to the Athenaea [FVS’s literary magazine], willingly took three APs and one honors, applied to 10 colleges, competed in Poetry Out Loud, wrote poetry and allowed myself to be sensitive. I’ve allowed myself to have different parts of an identity the same way I change my hair every once in a while. I have been able to look at everything I’ve done to be more proud of myself than ever.
To my general friend group: I could thank you for all of the exciting times—all of the sleepovers and movie marathons, the mass ordering of Domino's pizza and Taco Bell, the off-campus adventures ranging from North Powers to Park Meadows. I could thank you for that and more, but I want to focus on thanking you for the boring times.
I want to thank each of you for the moments where we studied in silence next to each other during free blocks because we knew we had work to accomplish. I want to thank you guys for the longevity of our relationships, that none of you quit when we didn’t have the time or patience to spend every single moment together. I want to thank you guys for showing up for me, for always reaching out, even when I pulled away, on helping me develop an identity and sticking with me. I’m thankful for vulnerability, and that I never had to be my strongest or happiest to still be around you. Each one of you has accepted me fully and loved me unconditionally. I have no clue what college will be like, where I’m going yet, or how I’ll make it, but I have absolute faith that I will find you again. You’ve broken down the walls of me that felt like they could’ve lasted forever, talked me through persistent panic attacks, and fed me when I didn’t have an appetite. hank you for the exciting moments, but most of all, thank you for the routine ones. I love you.
Find your group and learn to lean. It’s so much harder doing anything alone, so find the people who make the most difficult things worthwhile. Take in everything around you, the positive space and the negative space. Appreciate what seems to be a given or routine now, because highschool really does fly by. Love the stability just as much as the spontaneity. Remember that everything happens for a reason, and as long as you have your support, you’ll come out victorious.
Find your group and learn to lean.
To go from this—
—to a place where you can actually see the stars at night, where if you're quiet enough, you can hear the ants crawling on the ground—to FVS, I thank you.