8th Graders share personal insights, memories and meaningful moments

April 4, 2018
April 4, 2018

8th Graders share personal insights, memories and meaningful moments

8th Graders Share Personal Insights, Memories and Meaningful Moments

8th grade speeches are a powerful milestone in every Grymes eighth grader’s year, a moment to share a highly personalized message with the school family. Given in front of an audience of students, faculty and parents alike, the speeches are the culmination of our signature Declamations program — a moment for students to shine in the spotlight through public speaking. Yet, unlike the poetry recitations of Declamations, 8th grade speeches aren’t the memorized words of a famous poet or author; they’re a deeply personal, carefully-crafted essay that the students create themselves, written – and rewritten and then rewritten again — under the guidance of their English teacher.

And so, it’s with a deep sense of pride that we enjoyed this year’s first 8th grade speeches today:

My journey
By Sarah Sherman ’18

My castle awaits.  My fluffy dress follows me across the drawbridge as my tiara slowly slips off my head.  My clear plastic high heels dig into my toes. Long blonde curls bounce up and down. When I was four, I loved to hang out in my pop up castle.

My fascination with the life of a princess started to fade at age six.  Suddenly fluffy tutus were annoying and that is why I refused to do ballet. The princess left the castle, but my imagination never left, but rather it morphed into my next dream which was much bigger than myself.  I had my eye on becoming a super star singer.

My sister and I would jump up and down on the bed singing and preparing for our “America’s Got Talent” performance that never happened.Grace my sister  always wanted to be on the stage or on camera but I always wanted to be behind it. I have never been as comfortable being on stage as my sister. When Grace started to play piano, I wanted to try that too. I would move my fingers slowly across the piano keys hitting wrong notes left and right. Trying to learn how to play the guitar and piano was the next step on my way to stardom.  

Becoming the next Hannah Montana started to fade and Dream 3 arrived on the horizon, a karate champion.  I tied the white belt onto my oversized karate uniform. Being young I don’t remember much about karate but I was definitely not good at it.I  Once again, I gave up and opted for something very different than karate. I had my eye on becoming a master chef. I started my career with cookies. I set the timer for ten minutes after I lined the pre-mixed Betty Crocker chocolate chip cookies on the baking sheet. After that I called myself a cook. I went with that for a while but after I burned a microwavable mac-n cheese because I didn’t put the water into it, cooking was clearly not an option.

It didn’t take long before my imagination came up with idea to become a gymnast.  My mom signed me up for classes and my career began. Meanwhile, I could barely bend forward to touch the ground. I would teeter across the balance beam until I reached the end when I would squirm in the air and jump off.  A couple months later, I gave up on becoming a gymnast.

At this point, I wondered if the Universe had a place for me? While everyone around me found a passion, I was stuck. At nine, I realized that everyone in my family was doing what they liked. My sister found her place on the stage. My mom was happy as a teacher,  she always inspired me and other kids. My dad could fix any problem from a broken roof to a missing piece on a drone. I spent most of my time alone while my sister was at the theater. Meanwhile, I would set my barbies up and dress them and take photos of them. This was my world and I was in control.  This is when I really started to like to work alone. My red Nikon was my key to not being bored. I filmed my Barbies, I filmed myself singing, I filmed myself even giving house tours that are hard to watch because I shook the camera too much. Suddenly I found myself busy looking through a lens.

 At age eleven, I discovered something called YouTube. I would make videos, post them and check for views.  When I got five views, I thought I was famous even though it was probably just my sister showing her friends.  Soon social media inspired me to share my work online. I ditched my red Nikon camera when I unwrapped my first iPad. I used to it once again to take photos of my cats and make funny,  weird videos of myself. One day while perusing my iPad, I noticed a app called “iMovie,” My young mind couldn’t handle everything I could do on it. My first film was called “Agent Cat.” I found images off the internet and took videos of my cats play fighting and walking around. Work on the film became just like play.  

I think this is what most people are after- work that can be fun or similar to play. I was accomplished when I finished editing my movie and I actually had a video to share with everyone I knew, which was my family and  two friends.

I stepped up a level when my dad offered, (well I actually begged him,) to let me use his Canon Rebel camera.  Now I was in heaven. I have realized over the years that behind every endeavor to find my place in Universe, my love for photography or the camera was always there.

I feel so thankful that I have been given all these opportunities to find my passion. The road hasn’t hit a dead end yet. I’m still growing and the world has a lot for me to discover and try.

Now I wonder- should I follow this trail to the end?  Right now, I think I will. Why not follow what I love?  But will I change? Most likely, but looking through a lens seems good to me right now.  I feel so thankful that I have been given all these opportunities to find my passion. The road hasn’t hit a dead end yet. I’m still growing and the world has a lot for me to discover and try.

How did I know I’d found my passion? At first I didn’t know. Picking up my camera was just something I would do and not really think much about. I spent a lot of time thinking about how I wanted to become a singer or gymnast. Perhaps I was putting too much pressure on myself. I just didn’t  know what I really wanted. Grymes has given me the chance to experiment with filming and editing. We create our own films in 7th and 8th grade. Last year the movie I made was about trying new things and having an open mind. This came naturally to me. This year my movie partner and I already have ideas  for our movie. Being behind the camera means being in control for me, and that has made me more independent.

I have learned that it doesn’t matter what I do; it matters how I travel, the journey is the most important part. Right now that means looking at the world through a lens. I hope I have stumbled on my true love, but I’m only in 8th grade. I will keep to narrow my focus. Presently, my passion for photography and film make my journey exciting.  I feel like I have a purpose and a project waiting for me at all times. The most important thing is to keep the door open. Don’t be afraid to try new things. You have no idea what life has in store for you.

Ancestry Never Forgotten
By Ben Hulsey ’18

It is the late 1600s. William Roscow is admiring the endless blue. Dolphins rise to the surface and exercise their antics. Seagulls overhead signal that land is nearby.  Suddenly, he eyes something spectacular, a smudge on the horizon that represents hope. He spies land. He spies a new life. He spies freedom.

Seventy years later – 1760 or so – John Sanders trudges through the crunchy snow, intent on a new beginning. He wanted to escape the politics and drama along the coastline between the expansive British Empire and the spirited patriots. He is aware that the farther west he walks, the more opportunities will arise. Fast forward another twenty years and you will find Thomas Leonard, a sergeant in the Continental Army and strong supporter of the Patriot cause, holding a musket and  leading soldiers into chaos against an impossible foe at the Battle of Brandywine. His grandson, William Roden Leonard, would be involved in three conflicts throughout the 1800s, each time fighting for Texas, the Texas Revolution, the Mexican-American War, and the Civil War. I am the descendant of all of these people.

I believe that everything our ancestors do leads to our personal story in the modern world.

Good morning, my name is Ben Hulsey and I believe that everything our ancestors do leads to our personal story in the modern world. I love to hunt. I love to fish and for me, the woods are my home. I am happy in the wilderness. Is this because of my ancestors?  I think so. The study of my predecessors reveals that most of them lived in the vast wilderness or in a small town. This leads me to believe that they fished, hunted, and farmed for their food, as I enjoy doing. They escaped the chaos and industrialization of the coastal cities and migrated west. When civilization mustered the courage to accompany them in these vast lands, my ancestors again fled west in pursuit of more wilderness, more wildlife, and more freedom. That’s the thing about freedom. You can only achieve it by gaining independence. And sometimes the price is loneliness.  These are concepts I ponder when I wander alone in the forest. Am I happy in the woods because of them? Again, I think so. Another example of these linear alliances is…. like my Texas Ranger ancestor who played the bugle, thanks to Mrs. Stakem, I chose the trumpet to play in our band.

Meanwhile, some of my ancestors began life in the states in Virginia which served as a foothold for settlers seeking freedom and prosperity. My ancestors lived in Virginia for most of the 1700s, but a few daring people worked their way south. By the early 1800s, after advancing through the marshlands of South Carolina and Georgia, they reached Alabama. They used the river system to trade from the Appalachian mountains to the Gulf of Mexico. Many moved to Tennessee and used Nashville as a trade center and the soil for farming. Then they evaded the inevitable crowds of a growing country by sneaking through the swamps of Mississippi and Louisiana to Texas.  After farming in the piney eastern portion, they raised livestock in the prairies of the northern part of Texas. This movement took about one-hundred and fifty years to unfold until it stalled at the beginning of the 20th century. The Hulsey-Thornburrow heritage stayed put in the Lone Star State and the majority of my extended family still inhabit the region. My father, a native west Texan, returned to Virginia in search of a valuable education and he attended WFS and now to lead it as its Headmaster. Once again an arm of the Hulsey/Thornburrow family inhabit Virginia. Were we drawn back because of our roots here? Quite possibly. Maybe, I will return to Texas to raise a family, and have a farm in the hill country, hunting deer and turkey and raising horses and cattle, just as my ancestors did.

My ancestors worked at various jobs. Most were farmers. Some were carpenters, doctors and educators. When war came, they tended to  pick up a rifle, put on their boots, and march out the door. I have had ancestors in almost every early American War, such as the Revolutionary war, the War of 1812, the Texas Revolution, the Mexican war and finally the Civil war.  Most of my ancestors joined the south in the Civil War. A few wore the Union blue, such as an infantryman from Indiana named Isaac Follick. He was in the thick of the war and his brigade suffered heavy casualties.

Then, about eighty years later, my ancestors joined the military to counter the oppressive powers of Germany, Japan, and Italy. Many of them went to the Pacific theatre, like my great grandpa. He was a doctor named Sim Hulsey, a Fort Worth, Texas native. He wasn’t drafted; he volunteered. He cared for the wounded in the Philippines and Guam. Mr. McLeod’s father was on those same islands during that war, serving his country as a 2nd Lieutenant. Maybe they met in the jungle under the watchful eye of General MacArthur, but they would never imagine that their son and great-grandson would ever meet in here at Grymes. Like my ancestors,  this propensity for service runs fiercely in my veins and is a big part of who I am.

Once one learns of his or her ancestry, he can feel a deep connection with the land. My grandfather owns a stretch of property just west of Fort Worth, Texas. We fondly call it Selby Hill. Some of my best memories of happiness and family have occurred on that land. I watched my mom chase off a sounder of hogs and eventually run from a boar. Luckily, she escaped the swine; she is a Paris native. Oh, make that Paris, Texas, where a red cowboy hat is seated on the Eiffel Tower and croissants are served with barbeque. Anyway, Selby Hill represents my happiness. You may be asking what this has to do with ancestry. Well, when we gather in our log cabin that housed my ancestors for over one hundred years, I can feel my ancestors.   The cabin is filled memories. In the morning, deer and turkeys peacefully come from the Texas brush to feed in its overgrown garden as infamous rattlesnakes attempt to colonize the wooden jewel. Whenever, I go there I run my finger along the gash in the table. The story of the gash goes like this. My great aunt and her family were having supper in the cabin as coyotes barked their song and mockingbirds sang a tune. Suddenly, a copperhead fell from the ceiling of the cabin and landed on the table. My great aunt, without hesitation, grabbed a hatchet and beheaded the snake creating the deep scar in the table. The cabin has provided much for my family, and it is a reminder of the importance of my roots.

The stories of my family flood my mind when I explore Selby Hill, whether I am tracking the whitetails or climbing the cottonwoods. The land once belonged to the Comanche Indians. I feel guilt when I remember that the Comanche were forced out when  my ancestors advanced west. Although my Texas ranger and settler ancestors probably ducked arrows and lost family to the Comanche, I will never forget who thrived there first. This personal view of history has granted me the ability to see both sides of the story. My ancestors were not as cautious as the Comanche when it came to preserving land. If we invest in the study of ancestry, it will in turn help us be a steward of the land, of the past and of all things natural.  I believe that mankind can learn the art of preservation as well as the art of adaptation so that we do right thing with a changing world.

Connecting with one’s ancestors provides strength and insight. I am part of something much bigger than I imagined.

Connecting with one’s ancestors provides strength and insight. In my opinion, finding something that you believe in gives your life meaning. I am part of something much bigger than I imagined. I imagine William in Texas riding on his thoroughbred alongside me, inspiring courage, for if he can fight at Buena Vista, I can speak in front of a crowd. I imagine Sim Hulsey, the WWII doctor, in his suit with his Texas drawl, thoroughly encouraging compassion and service, even when the world seems intent on tearing itself apart. From these distant ancestors to my sister dancing in my room, my family makes me happy. This knowledge makes me content with my place in the world. Being part of a bigger plan gives my life meaning.  So as you maneuver through a rough day, keep in mind that you stand on the broad shoulders of brave men and women who deserve your respect. Without their sacrifice, you wouldn’t exist.

Transcending the Digital World
By Ronan Boyarski ’18

If somebody had asked me one year ago what I wanted to do with my life, I would have immediately responded: “I want to be a game designer.” Ever since I was eight years old, I have been learning to create games, and learning even more from my mistakes in programming. And somehow, even though I have been coding for over five years, and I was convinced that it was my future, this September I ignored coding as I discovered something new about myself. Hi, my name is Ronan Boyarski, and I have been transformed by Engineering.

It all began with the first Engineering Club meet this year. Every Friday Mrs. Sherman hosts the club at Grymes. The meets consist of various science-related activities that range from disassembling robots to fashioning artificial hands to creating toy cars.

This school year, I have expanded as a person. Now, my favorite thing in this world is not just creating games, it is the Joy of Creation.

When I went to the first Engineering Club meet, I realized how much I enjoy creating physical things. I got an affinity for tools and was able to bring the other half of my ideas, my plans for the physical world rather than the digital world, to life. Before, I didn’t venture out of my comfort zone: the digital world. Programming costs no money, requires no tools, and (comparatively) requires little time. However, Engineering Club helped me overcome my fear of building in the physical world by teaching me everything I wanted to know to start my projects, thanks to Mrs. Sherman. This school year, I have expanded as a person. Now, my favorite thing in this world is not just creating games, it is the Joy of Creation.

Engineering club places me in an environment filled with empowering tools, like-minded students, and encouragement. That experience transformed me from someone who was only a programmer into an engineer with the mindset of a programmer, which means I tend to look at the world through the lens of: What is the most efficient way to do X? Engineering club is always interesting, and is the perfect mix of teaching and self-guided learning through experience. Through Mrs. Sherman’s suggested projects I have learned woodworking, basic soldering, and safety with various tools. Mrs. Sherman is always ready each meeting with material she found over the week. She inspires us with a can-do attitude and begins each meet with a new topic we have not yet covered. She strongly supports students’ engineering endeavors and believes in us.

Mrs. Sherman couldn’t help but get emotional while listening to Ronan’s speech

Of course, my explanation for loving engineering club must start at the beginning. For me, the beginning was programming. The digital world is wonderful, of course. The digital world is just as hard to build in (if not harder) because things like gravity or physics do not exist, which usually means you have to write the laws of the universe before you can proceed with creating a game. However, that can also be helpful because you are not limited by “the real world”. My only issue with the digital world is how people are prejudiced against it. For me, none of that prejudice is true. Video games provide inspiration. The internet is, for me, a land of near-infinite knowledge.

I love programming, but I love the skills it gave me even more: it re-taught me how to think, showed me how to plan and execute a project, and most of all, gave me an incredibly high frustration tolerance. However, one of the most dangerous things that can happen to us is to not know what it is that we don’t know. In this case, I did not know of the physical world. I had dismissed my dreams and potential passions as “impossible for someone like me.”

Now to engineering club, I learned this year that the physical world is just as wonderful as the digital world. Last year, I had a way to interface with the digital world. Now, I have a way to interface with the physical world in the same way. It is a bit more expensive, and there are consequences associated with failure, but it ultimately feels more satisfying to hold your actual creation than to play a video game based around your idea. I am admittedly new to engineering, and am still nowhere near as skilled at it compared to programming (I have five years of coding experience and six months of engineering experience). The point of me showing how much I enjoy the physical world is to show, not only what I have discovered about myself, but how much I appreciate Engineering Club.

There is nothing more saddening than dreaming, and knowing your limits enough to know that you alone cannot make your own dreams come true. That said, nothing is more enjoyable than being assisted with making those dreams come true. This year I was given that ability. Engineering club has taught me how to build useful things. For example, Grymes is planning to build an outdoor classroom. Before Christmas break, I created, with little instruction, a 1/24 scale wooden model of the outdoor classroom based off of the actual plans for the building. Hands-on work like that inspired me to do more at home. For my thirteenth birthday, I got a dremel. For christmas, a soldering iron.

One of the most important things about Engineering club is the positive environment.

It inspires us to work and keeps us interested in what we are doing. Mrs. Sherman will research things we are intrigued by, like magnets, and teach us about them in addition to supporting our efforts. She finds new material on her own time, remembers what Engineering Club members are doing, and is genuinely invested in our success. The common thread with all of these things is that we have an amazing teacher who supports us and our ideas and keeps us motivated, supported, and curious about engineering. Mrs. Sherman is most responsible for transforming me into an engineer.

That said, having an experience with like-minded students is almost as important. Even though ages range from 5th grade to 8th grade, Engineering Club members tend to think similarly. However, we are unique enough to approach a problem from a variety of angles and preferences. For example, when we were constructing hydraulic cranes, some people built simple push mechanisms, Reese and Seth built a hydraulic pulley, and I constructed a superstructure on my crane to make it incredibly sturdy.

Again, projects like that couldn’t happen without the wood, the glue, the saws, the paint, the clay, the rulers, and the many, many other things required to build a monstrosity like that. Another thing I love about Engineering Club is that our interests are always economically supported. Mrs. Sherman won’t just purchase a soldering iron; she’ll buy the best one available and encourage us to use it. She has kept the Rad Lab bursting at the seams with new tools, materials, and more. She invests time and money into students’ interests.

I hope that everyone in the audience can one day experience how liberating it is to have someone show you not what you are, but what you could be.

The point of all of these examples is to show how much somebody who really cares can change your life. Mrs. Sherman is truly believes in us, and I know I sound like a broken record but I cannot get across how important and enriching it is to have somebody who not only cares about us, but is willing to expend time and money to support us and our ideas. This experience simply would not be the same without a dedicated teacher, and I hope that everyone in the audience can one day experience how liberating it is to have someone show you not what you are, but what you could be.

Engineering Club caused some self-discovery and some broadening of my horizons. I think that my passion changed from enjoying game design to the general Joy of Creation. Before Engineering Club, I used to daydream about “Well if I had money and the skills to do X…” and now I have money and the support and the only thing holding me back is myself and learning the skills. Engineering club teaches me those skills upon my request or even proactively.

At Engineering Club, it’s always about making it better in some way. “It” is usually the project we are working on. Members are always focusing on building or improving things. Engineering Club really has transformed me in the best ways possible. What I really mean to say here is: “Thank you, Mrs. Sherman, for making me better.”