Graduation speaker M.J. Oliver addresses misconceptions about Roughrider Academy
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is a copy of the speech M.J. Oliver, Winter 2020 Roughrider Academy graduate, gave at Thursday's commencement ceremony. We offer a special thanks to Center ISD Board President Matthew Mattauer for arranging permission to have it shared.
There are many misconceptions about the school we go to, and this evening I am going to give you all an idea of what our school really is, and how blessed we have been to be able to end our high school career at Roughrider Academy.
Roughrider Academy is usually seen as some type of alternative program for kids with behavioral issues, but we are far from that. Roughrider Academy is like a breath of fresh air, an opening for a teen's life, a way to be able to work, go to school, and start their lives earlier than most if need be.
Going to Roughrider Academy doesn't mean that a kid is bad, or that they can't function in a normal school environment. For example, I could easily function in a normal school environment, but it wasn't how I wanted to go to school.
I was always a fan of going to school, having friends, and enjoying myself, but transferring to Roughrider Academy meant I could with people who are always going to be there.
Going to school at the Academy gives teens the feeling of belonging somewhere. A lot of teens struggle outside of school and most adults don't usually see it at a bigger school. Maybe they're too busy, or maybe they just want to come to work, do their teaching, and go home.
But at the Academy, the little staff of teachers, and the staff here are all so happy to come and help students. There is one woman in particular who will do anything for any student there. Mrs. (Cindy) Tillery will come up to the school even after hours if someone needs her.
She works every day trying to make sure each and every one of her students are okay. Mrs. Fischer will talk someone’s ear off on any assignment they ask for help on. There's not a time anyone will go back to their computer not knowing every fact about a lesson...especially Hamlet. Mr. (Heath) Hagler does his best as the new principal to make sure everyone is doing well and finding their way, plus he always comes through with the candy.
Mrs. Betty, oh let me tell you about her!
She is such an amazing woman, inside and out. She may be hyper at times, but who isn't, right? She loves everyone so much, and she got so much, but who wouldn’t, we’re great. She got so upset when she realized how close I was to graduating, because she knew that means I wouldn’t be in class anymore. She sees so much in each and every student she helps.
There are others who help us also, but these are the ones who have been most instrumental in getting me to this day and made every step of it so memorable. For me, coming to the Academy was the breath of fresh air I truly needed. It was the eye-opener that most teens my age don't have, and I am beyond thankful to have had the magical people who got me here in my life.
I have had my daily battles - days where I didn't do anything except sit in Mrs. Tillery's office, and she was totally okay with that. There have been days when I got a massive amount of work done, and there was always someone to recognize it and that’s what matters!
Let me share a hopefully short story about myself to give you all a better understanding of some of the struggles teens face in high school, from my point of view, that is. High school experiences are different for all teens, but here's my story. I entered the ninth grade thinking high school would be the best years of my life because that is what so many people had told me it would be. I was clearly misled by their words.
Ninth grade started off pretty well, I never really had many friends in the normal high school environment, but the ones I did have were good friends. As ninth grade went on, things just got worse for me, not with my grades or anything, but with drama, trouble, and so much more.
There were daily problems, things that I felt like I was facing alone. At the end of my ninth grade year, I decided to move to Houston and go to a school that was dedicated strictly to careers in the field of medicine.
I was sure I’d go there until I graduated and then fulfill a career in medicine. Boy was I wrong! There were still issues I had, and things I felt were riding my shoulders, then I let my grades drop.
If any of you know me well, that usually is not something I let happen. So at the beginning of 2019, I moved back home, went back to the normal high school, but I knew I didn’t belong there. Finally, I transferred to Roughrider Academy. There, I found where I needed to be.
I am so happy that I had the opportunity to go to the Academy, and I am so happy about not only graduating early - that part is honestly scary- but to be able to have and hold the amazing experiences and amazing memories that I now do.
Before I start rambling on and on, our school is misread by so many people, as a school for bad-behaving teens, and so much more, but that's not us - “It’s DIFFERENT over here!” (Tillery) We are all just one big family, making our way with what we have. I thank you all for being here and joining us during this beautiful ceremony.
Have a good night, and to all my classmates, I wish you the best, and success in your journey through life.
For photo gallery from Thursday 2020 Winter graduation ceremony for the Roughrider Academy, please click on link below: