Senior Speech: Brookie Wallace

Ethan Pender, Editor-in-Chief, Student Publications

Click above to check out our ThingLink, an interactive look at senior Brookie Wallace’s speech in assembly on Nov. 2, 2015.

Today I am going to tell you guys why I am here. Not why I am standing up here in front of you today but why I am at Darlington and how I got here and why I decided to stay these past 4 years.

I am from Vail, Colorado, which many of you probably know as the big time ski resort. I was born in the Vail Valley Medical Center and have lived in Edwards, a small town in the Vail valley, my whole life. When I say small town, I mean SMALL town. We have a population of about 10,000. I am sure many of you are thinking why would someone make the decision to move to Rome, Georgia from Vail, Colorado. Truth be told: I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked this question. Sometimes I even question my leaving myself. But when I think about this particular question, I reflect on all the opportunities and experiences that Darlington grants us.

Living in Vail, with both Vail Mountain and Beaver Creek in my backyard, possessing the opportunity to ski every weekend with my friends and family amongst the Rocky Mountains, is a blessing I do not take for granted.  However being a girl from such a small town who craves change and loves adventure, I wanted to get out and experience something new. But I didn’t exactly think I would be leaving so early. The school system in Vail does not at all mirror Darlington. I have an older sister, Haley, who attended the public high school in Edwards and didn’t exactly receive the college preparation that she needed. The school didn’t provide much supervision and there was only so much my mom could do, so my sister began to slip through the cracks a little bit. But now she’s off studying music and business in LA and enjoying her life. However my parents didn’t want to put me through the same. So they mentioned boarding school and my first reaction was “what did I do wrong?”  I also wondered how could I leave my friends and family? I hated the idea. Why would I leave home now when I would be leaving for college in 4 years? It didn’t make sense to my 8th grade mind. Although, after doing some research boarding school didn’t seem to bad. I knew I would be able to come home on breaks to ski and see my friends. And while I was at school I could play soccer. It began to feel like the best of both worlds. So we did our research on boarding schools with good soccer programs and Darlington Soccer Academy was the second to show up on Google after IMG. We hardly looked at IMG because my mom didn’t want to settle for my getting a mediocre education. So we planned a visit and flew East to Georgia for the first time.

The funny thing is, when my mom and I were on our way to the airport to go visit Darlington, Vail Pass was closed because of an avalanche so we were unable to make our initial flight. Then, after waiting hours for the pass to open up again we finally got to the Denver Airport and boarded our flight only to be told we couldn’t take off because of a Tornado in Atlanta. I swore that was some kind of sign that this was a terrible idea. While my mom was annoyed with the inconvenience, I was worried our flight was going to crash or something terrible would happen because of what I thought were “signs”. My mom told me to calm down and that we came this far; we aren’t turning around now.  After a long day and a half of traveling, we finally made it to Georgia and got to Darlington safely. I stepped foot on the campus, I practiced with the soccer academy, and my decision was made.

As any other 14 year old would be leaving home for boarding school as a freshman in high school, I was terrified. Excited but terrified. To my surprise, the first couple of days did not present to many hurdles. I quickly realized that every other girl in my dorm was in the same situation, and we immediately became friends. I am lucky enough to still be close to many of them today. However, my freshman year was not easy.  I harbored a number of self-confidence issues. I constantly tried to be like everyone else, and along the way, I kind of lost sight of who I really was.  One of these issues centered on my always needing to be around people. I lacked independence and that weighed me down considerably. Although I made many amazing friends throughout the year, I had a hard time finding “my group” or the people who I really belonged with. And towards the end of the year, I greatly considered not coming back. I never relayed my unhappiness to anyone not my coaches, not my friends, not even my family because I wanted my decision whether to stay or go back home to be mine and not influenced by anyone else.

The main reason I decided to come back to Darlington for my sophomore year was because of one of my dearest friends, Lorena. Many of you that were here that year probably remember Lorena and how much she contributed to the liveliness of Darlington. She was, and still is for a lot of us, a friend to everyone. During our freshman year, with about 4 weeks of school left, she told me and our other close friends she wasn’t going to be coming back for reasons that didn’t seem fair. I remember how upset she was sitting on her bed crying and how badly she wished she could come back. After saying good bye to her, may I mention one of the hardest goodbyes I have had to say, it hit me. Why would I give up on a place that truly changes lives? I remember Lorena telling me you are so lucky you get to stay here. And I was. There are so many people who would kill for the chance to do what I had right at my figure tips. I easily could have taken the easy rout and just gone home and been sucked right back into where I had wanted to get out of to begin with. But instead I realized this was my chance to flourish, my chance to challenge myself and see what I become. I was handed this opportunity; I would be stupid not to take it. I look back on my life now and making the decision to come back to Darlington after my freshman year was the best decision I have ever made. There’s no doubt about it.

Many people are surprised when I tell them that I have been a boarding student here for 4 years. They ask, how do you do it? How do you live here and do the same thing every year? Yes, my days might be a little repetitive and yes, there might be some things I don’t necessarily agree with about Darlington but despite all the dumb little things, I am happy here and that’s what’s most important. Another reason, a more depressing one really, is while I have been away, a lot of my friends back home changed. A lot of my close friends that I had grown up with began experimenting with drugs (mostly smoking pot)… big surprise. It got worse as we got older and of course because of the legalization it continued to get worse. Smoking pot became a normal, everyday thing for a lot of them. It even got to the point where you could be hanging out with a group of people and no one would have anything to say to each other unless someone had a drink in their hand or was holding a joint. I do not judge them and I do not like them any less. They are my friends and I love them and I will always be there if they needed anything, but unfortunately I did grow distant from a lot of them. I have never been into all that and I am sure that’s because I left when I did. I knew I had to continue going to Darlington to avoid falling into that crowd.  It’s hard for me to think about what I would be like if I had gone home after freshman year. A big part of me thinks that I would have fallen into that group mainly because people who I NEVER thought would do drugs, did. Thank god the culture at Darlington was one of better guidance and higher expectations. The positive energy and influence here helped steer me in the right direction allowing me to become the person I am today. 

I have created more relationships being at Darlington these past 4 years than a lot of people do in a lifetime. I now have a best friend that lives in Germany, I have fallen for a Swede, I have played on a soccer team with girls from Alaska, Saudi Arabia, Canada, and England, I was able to pass my junior year Spanish class with the help from a friend from Spain, I was given a new sister from Jamaica, and I can cuss in Japanese, Chinese, Finnish, German and Russian. Tamara, Pampam, Adrianna, Helena, Kira, Amber, Sami, Chris, and Michael we have been together from day one and you guys will always hold a special place in my heart. I want to thank Mrs. Pate…you have always been a mother like figure to me while mine was far away and Mr. Holmes… you have dealt with me for 3 years and you have never failed to support me.

Being at Darlington I learned a work ethic that will carry me throughout my life and will help me overcome challenges I may face along the way. My coaches on the Academy have taught me that discipline is the link between our goals and accomplishments and you can choose to either suffer from pain of discipline or from pain of disappointment and failure. Leaving home, I learned that change can come in many forms throughout our lives. It might come on forcefully like a title wave, or creep on with us like an annoying pest. It might come in the form of devastating tragedy, broken relationships, or even new and great opportunities. But even though change is often difficult and scary, quite frequently it’s for the best. Accomplishing anything in life requires significant change that pushes us beyond our comfort zones. Coming to Darlington definitely pushed me beyond my comfort zone but it allowed me to cross over my threshold to a new and amazing world.  I have met so many people from so many cultures and it’s inspiring. It makes me want to drop everything and travel and see all the places I have been told about. I am not going to…. at least not yet. But at some point I do hope to be able to travel and see where all these amazing people come from.

Honestly, nothing that I say will ever express my appreciation and gratefulness I have for this place. It truly made me the person I am today and I am very happy with the person that I have become. It’s difficult for me to explain Darlington to others because, and I am sure many of you guys will agree with me, you never really know about all the aspects of this school until you live it. No one will ever fully understand Darlington’s true beauty and significance like we do. And I think that’s pretty cool.

I am going to leave you guys today with my favorite quote, “It doesn’t matter where you are, you are nowhere compared to where you can go.” I challenge you guys to do something you have always wanted to do or if handed an opportunity, even if its scary, to take it.  And I encourage you to take the leap with your full heart because many opportunities only come once in a lifetime. Thank you.