Hillsdale College, Class of 2019

I leave for college tomorrow morning and figured it would be timely to share my graduation speech. Even as I step into this new portion of my life, I will cherish the years that have made me who I am today. Here’s to the next step.

When my mom first told me we were going to homeschool, I stomped my foot, crossed my arms, and insisted that I would be going to school with the rest of my friends and there wasn’t a thing she could do about it.

Turns out, there were a couple things she could do about it. And here I am, 12 years later, ready to go off to college.

I am so grateful to the many people who have stood by my side and walked with me.

Thank you to the friends who have always been there to laugh with me, cry with me, and occasionally fill other friend’s rooms with balloons. You have stuck it out through dumb fights, tough days, and those awful middle-school years when I thought arm warmers were cool.

Thank you to my teachers, who have inspired me to push myself, learn, and grow. You have given me the tools I need to be who I want to be, and do what I want to do. Thank you for understanding on the days I turned in late work, for helping me find joy in learning, and pushing me to give my best.

Thank you to my family. You have been there through the tears, through every Christmas, Easter, and birthday, through every tough homework assignment and broken heart.

And thank you to my parents, who have loved me through every attitude, supported me through every new obsession, and let me learn, grow, and discover at the pace I needed. All these other graduates are lying when they say they have the best parents, because I have them. Thank you. I love you.

And to the other graduates of the class of 2015, I wish the very best for you. I wish the road would rise up to meet you, the wind be always at your back, that the sun would shine warm upon your face, the rains fall soft upon your fields, and until we meet again, I wish God would hold you in the palm of His hand.

Thank you.

Young Adults

Shooting a movie was never really my idea.

I mean, it’s definitely been something I have always wanted to do, and I have been on some movie sets. But writing, producing, directing, shooting, and editing my own film? Not on my mind for the near future.

So when a friend’s and my causal jokes about turning some old nonsensical co-written stories into a movie turned semi-serious, I paused. Then plunged.

We decided to do the “movie” in a trailer format—a real trailer for a fake movie. This format allowed us to move quickly from plot point to plot point and not have to focus too much on character development (and having to find the actors able to play such roles). A coming-of-age road trip worked well with the story skeleton we had already sketched. A graduation present from my parents provided the equipment (one camera, two lenses, two lens attachments, and a collection of other items). A summer stay gave us the time to shoot.

Now all we needed was actors and a script.

Even with a skeleton to work from, script-writing is not my forte, so my friend—God bless her—handled the bulk of it. A few suggestions from me and we were on our way.

The cast she put together, too. I was visiting her that summer, and she knew who would be available and best for each role.

My off-camera role came mostly the days leading up to the shoot. While she drew up prop lists and schedules, I laid out each scene, shot by shot. A stack of index cards would be our storyboard for the day.

As shoot day rolled around, we worked to make sure everything would go smoothly. We gathered props, highlighted scripts, and made list after list. We had one day to shoot everything, and it all had to go smoothly.

We woke up early to make lunch for everyone (bagel sandwiches), finish packing (four different outfits, a home-made light reflector, two coolers, and a watermelon), and double-check everything (using roughly four different lists). The rest of the five-person cast and single-person crew arrived almost-on-time, and we were on our way.

I’ve been on sets before, but running your own is completely different. We had no mics, no lights, no professionals. Just a checklist, a stack of index cards, and a camera.

But it went beautifully.

By lunch, we were—somehow—ahead of schedule. By dinner, we were almost done. We actually had to wait around for the light to be right for one of the last evening shots.

Working from behind the camera as well as in front allowed me to wear an abundance of hats throughout the day. I played director, set up lighting, worked the camera, and even acted.

As far as self-run short films go, Young Adults was a great first experience. Not only did we get through all the shots in one day, but the everyone clicked incredibly well. It was a wonderful chance at cohesion with people who shared my interests and were willing to give themselves and their time to the project.

And did they ever give themselves.

Roughly half of the people involved had either never worked with film before, had never acted, or both. By lunch, though, they were suggesting extra scenes and improvising lines. They were having fun, and it was easy to tell.

One moment especially important to me occurred in the last half of the day. We were en route to our last location, and I was sitting in the back of the van with the actors who played Derrick and Brian. I hadn’t met either of them before the trip, and they hadn’t met each other until the day of shooting. Regardless of this, we were talking like old friends, discussing another topic close to my heart—education. It was a conversation that was more than just small talk, more than just the weather, or goofing off. It was something fulfilling, meaty. That conversation showed me how much we had gelled as a group, even in just a few hours.

Making a film, even a short one, even an amateur one, is difficult. It takes time, dedication. It requires a good team, good partnerships. When it all boils down, succeeding in anything is the result of the people who surround you, and with who you surround yourself.

I could have all the equipment in the world and it wouldn’t mean anything if I didn’t have the right people in front and behind it.

Young Adults is a project that we threw ourselves into haphazardly, wholeheartedly. It is a movie about growing up, about loss, about friendship, about youth, about us. And, although it is scripted, the friendship you see on screen is what was in the air that day.

I am incredibly thankful to the people who gave up their time to help us. This first experience with leading and managing my own set gives me the confidence to continue creating.

Enjoy, and tell us what you think.