One of our favorite graduation traditions is the return of one of our outstanding alumni to address the graduating class. This part of the ceremony is always full of inspiring words for the sixth grade class and insightful reflections on the speaker’s experiences at City Academy, their secondary schools, and beyond. This year, the Class of 2021 was honored to hear from Michael Lee, Jr. ’14 (Westminster Christian Academy ’20, University of Cincinnati ’24). Read his words for the Class of 2021 below:

City Academy’s 2021 Sixth Grade Graduation Alumni Words of Wisdom

Good evening outstanding scholars, my name is Michael Lee Jr. I graduated City Academy in 2014, and went on to Westminster Christian Academy. I am currently attending The University of Cincinnati- College Conservatory of Music, to receive a BFA in Musical Theatre. Hearing myself say those words fills me with a joy that is difficult to put into words because I have come so far from where I began, and it all started for me right here. I’d like to take a moment to personally tell you all how proud I am of you for the countless hours spent on homework, the diligence in the classroom, the knowledge gained, the fun that was had, and the lifelong memories that were made. You all made it! And you should be so proud of yourselves.

Michael Lee, Jr. ’14 (Westminster Christian Academy ’20, University of Cincinnati ’24) addressed the graduates at City Academy’s 2021 Sixth Grade Graduation

It seems like yesterday I was sitting right where you all are. Wide eyed and bushy tailed waiting for my next adventure. And although I was excited I was also petrified. I was about embark, just like you, into a whole new world filled with new people and new experiences, and as I speak today I encourage you to see me as yourself. Another young person destined for greatness after being shaped by this beautiful place. So I am here today to leave you with a couple lessons I picked up along the way so that when you leave these walls you will know that this Home called City Academy has prepared you to be amazing, wise young people that will shape this world for the better.

When you have an idea, no matter how small, pursue it. I’d like to share with you a story of a little boy who wanted to give his school a fun night of talents. City Academy instilled within me a lot of courage and creativity. And each one of my teachers and classmates pushed me to be the best version of myself that I could be. For me this means to be a creator. I love to create art in any way which is why I am currently on track to becoming a professional performer. With all this encouragement and creativity bursting inside of me I said to myself I would like to leave my mark on this place before I go, and so I thought about a lot of the different things that I could do. I could have perfect grades in every class, I could be known for sports, or the science kid. But none of those seem to resonate with me.

So one day while I was in my after school program called show choir, I realized how talented my peers were and I thought, why not create a City Academy talent show for all of our friends and family to come and enjoy. So I went to my faculty and I pitched the idea and just my luck, they were also ecstatic about it. So I got to work. We put up fliers and we had auditions, and every student could participate and show their talents. It was such a fun experience to watch everybody singing, dancing, juggling and many other things. I decided to MC the program and introduce all of the awesome talent that performed. It was truly a magical night that to my knowledge still continues, and for that I am so proud that I gave this place that I love a piece of myself that continues and brings joy to others. I tell you this so that you can know that no idea you have, no matter how big or small, is unattainable. And just because you are a young person does not mean you can’t create anything you put your mind too. Dream big! Each one of you in every field whether it’s science, sports, math, writing, performance; all of you have brilliant and beautiful minds bustling with ideas that will bring joy, assistance, and peace to others. So I encourage you to never allow your fears about something to hinder you from giving to this world because you’ll never know the impact that you’ll have on someone else and the future of your community.

Along with creating new things you must know that it is no secret that along the way you will encounter many hardships and obstacles, but I would wholeheartedly argue that City Academy has prepared you well to face anything placed in your way. So with that being said, never let anyone hold you back, and never allow yourself to become so overcome by the challenges you face. Because you come from a place that was built to see you succeed and a host of people behind you.

Alumni speaker Michael Lee, Jr. ’14 with President & Co-Founder Don Danforth III, Former Head of School Nikki Doughty, and Interim Head of School Jeff Horwitz

When I started going to Westminster it was a very scary experience because I had previously lost my grandmother, and my cousins who I had gone to school with all my life decided to attend John Burroughs. I was all alone for the first time in my life. The school was filled with people I didn’t know and although I considered myself a social butterfly, as I’m sure a couple teachers here can attest to, I found it difficult to make friends and fit in. The comfort of City Academy was no more and I had to face this new world with an open mind and excitement. But somehow I couldn’t seem to make it happen until I realized that no matter what I face, I must remember whose shoulders I stand on. By “whose shoulders I stand on” I mean all the great people that pushed me, taught me, and encouraged me along the way. These are the people that sit around you today, and no matter what you face remember their lessons, their smiles, and their love. You take all this with you. So as you go forth remember you stand on the shoulders of your parents, your grandparents, your friends, your teachers, Ms. Fennoy, Mrs. Farris, Mr. Taylor. They all hold you up, so never forget these people who helped place you where you are today and remember they always go where you go.

I hope that you take these short examples with you for the rest of your life so no matter what you face and what you desire to create in the world you can do it, and conquer it with no hesitation. For you all, just like me, stand on the shoulders of greatness. So as you go higher, remember whose shoulders you are on. And know that as you continue on in school more people filled with love will come along and be added to the masses that lift you up now. So don’t let all this good lifting be in vain, and when you get the chance you reach down and you lift someone else up so the chain continues no matter where you go. So right now I want you all to stand up. Take a step out on your right foot, a step on your left, bend your knees, look around and acknowledge all these people on which you stand. Now stand straight, roll your shoulders back and hold your head up high. This is how you will and should walk through life shoulders back and head up. Remember who you stand on and who stands on you. Thank you so much for having me and I wish you all the best this world has to offer. Welcome to the next journey in life and welcome to the Alumni club class of 2021! Thank you!

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