Haley takes to the stage as 2023 class speaker


Kate Kelly

Senior Madelyn Haley smiles in her nursing scrubs outside of WA.

Kate Kelly, Co-Features Editor

Within the next month the class of 2023 will come together, draped in gowns and caps, to reminisce about their years at WA. No amount of time in a classroom could have prepared them for the global pandemic at the beginning of their freshman year, and yet, they persisted through it all. Four years later, there are still so many words left unsaid, sparked from the mix of emotions on such a momentous day. Senior Madelyn Haley will step up to this challenge, and the podium, microphone in hand.

On the evening of Friday, June 2, WA’s turf will fill with this year’s graduating class as Haley takes on the responsibility of class speaker. The role was not easy to obtain, but comes with a great honor.

Haley, a well-spoken, active student of WA, has spent the past four years participating in a variety of extracurriculars. From sports, to student government, to community service, she decided to live a high school career with no regrets. 

“My goal was to take part in as much as I could […] and I tried to balance out my schedule so that I could make this possible in all my classes,” Haley said. “It was really important to me to get involved in a lot [of activities] throughout high school, and I feel like I did a pretty good job.” 

The events leading up to Haley’s new role started with her decision to take a public speaking course offered by Theater Arts teacher, Michael Towers. The semester-long class is seen as a ‘must-do’ for many seniors, but because Towers took a sabbatical last year, opportunities were limited.

“When my friends and I heard [Towers] was back, we were just like, ‘we have to take this class.’ We had already heard such great things about it,” Haley said.

However, taking the class still didn’t warrant any interest in applying for class speaker. It wasn’t until Towers assigned the speech as a project that Haley began to take this opportunity into consideration. Because of his assignment, more than half of the applicants came from Towers’s class. 

“Public speaking is a course that exercises the single most important skill in every human being’s life,” Towers said. “And that is the ability to communicate through some form of speech with the world around them, on both a personal and professional level.”

The course granted students the ability to communicate and reflect, and the product was not the speeches but rather the confidence they gained. Haley decided, having to already write a speech for the project, she would give it a shot and apply.

“I actually wrote [the speech] at 5 a.m. the morning it was due. So I mentioned that in my original speech when I gave it to the class, but I cut that part when I submitted it for the actual application,” Haley said. 

Despite the last minute urgency of its production, Haley’s vision for what she wanted to include in her speech was focused. She looked for a message to encompass their four years at WA. Something that speaks to the class but also in favor of them. In the end, she came up with the theme: ‘It’s not about what you want to be, but who.’

“Maddie articulates very well the question that she is posing to her classmates. It is centered on the idea of building the person that you want to be, not allowing yourself to be defined by the ‘what’,” Towers said. “Her speech is clear. It is universal. It is important. And, Maddie shares some very nice insights.” 

Submitting her writing to Dean Dan Twomey was just the beginning to Haley’s application process. From there, the handful of seniors who applied were assigned time slots. It was during this given appointment that they were able to present their speech to an audience composed of Principal Jim Antonelli, Curriculum Coordinator Janet Keirstead, and the senior class advisors Amanda Everett and Scott Cruikshank. Once again, Haley faced this deadline at the last minute. 

“It’s actually funny because I also missed my time slot,” Haley said. “And so I ran in and asked them to let me go, and thankfully, they did.”

Haley’s late arrival did not take away from her heartfelt speech, as she was later chosen to be a finalist amongst two other seniors. In the last process of selection, applicants were encouraged to meet with a trusted staff member to revise their writing. Haley turned to both English teacher Russell Coward and Towers, keeping her message clear and persistent. 

“I feel like high school is a lot about grades, GPA, and things like that,” Haley said. “But in the real world, it is more about who you are. That is what is important.”

When the decision was finally made, Haley was excited to be the recipient of such a role. She remarks that she is not particularly scared, as she is speaking alongside her good friend, senior class president Mia Clark. 

With days slipping by in the countdown to graduation, Haley pursues dreams of majoring in nursing at the University of Rhode Island. She is taking part in a job-shadowing program with her aunt who works in hospitals, hoping to jump start her career. While Haley is no longer in courses at the Academy, she waits only to finish her high school journey with her speech. 

“I think [being class speaker] is a remarkable achievement for someone,” Towers said. “To stand there on the day of graduation and be someone who was selected to speak for [you] and to you is a very special thing.”