Graham Neely gives the Senior Speech at the CA Class of 2024 Commencement.

Graham Neely: 2024 Senior Commencement Speech

So there I was, the only new kid in the Eighth Grade class, entering a community that had started together in preschool. Naturally, on my first day I was pretty nervous, and struggling to open my new locker, because nobody is smart enough to figure those things out. When I finally figured it out, opened the thing, and raised my arms in triumph, one of my new classmates, who had been quietly observing my struggles, “accidentally” slammed it back shut. “Welcome to CA new kid!”

I saw immediately that the locker closer was more interested in humor than malice, so we struck up a conversation and headed outside with a small group, when, as if the day could get no better, a wasp nest dropped out of a tree above our heads and cracked open—sending angry wasps to attack me and my new friends. What a first day!

As we walked to the nurse’s office, laughing about our fate, I didn’t realize then that I was talking to some of my future best friends. Their good humor, their ability to roll with the punches, and their welcoming nature helped make what could have been a nightmare first day into one I will always remember fondly. 

And on that first day, I immediately understood that this was a place that wasn’t just supportive, but a place where your fellow students actively cheer you on, rooting for your successes and commiserating with your failures. An environment where we could all forge our own paths, try new things, and learn about ourselves and from each other. To go to school every day in such an atmosphere is, unquestionably, a great gift.

Throughout our time together at Town Halls and meetings, we have learned from our Principal, Mr. Delgado, that any speech or presentation is lacking without a poem. So, it’s only fitting that my classmates and I experience one final poetic moment, and as such I would like to take a moment to share the following:

In the vast expanse where stars align,

We find connection, a bond divine.

Through galaxies, we chart our way,

Building bridges to a brighter day.

Those wise, inspiring words are courtesy of ChatGPT. And though the robot author of those words probably does not understand the journey we have all traveled to get here today, the sentiment still holds true. It is worth remembering that our high school careers started in the midst of a pandemic, a challenge that certainly defined the start of our four years together. 

Looking out onto this stage, it’s hard to imagine the expanses that we all crossed, bridging

the gap between the two flex groups and the impersonality of starting high school and welcoming a ton of new members to our community while wearing masks. From struggling to attend classes on Zoom, to our community watching CA beat Kent at DU this year, we have all come a long way.

But we didn’t just survive high school—this class thrived in it—passionately pursuing individual and combined interests and experiences. The theater productions crafted from hundreds of hours of rehearsals, the portfolio shows we poured our hearts into, the instruments we have mastered, and the sports we have practiced and played for years. We have seized our opportunities and lifted each other up and ourselves, doing what we love, and daring to try new things. 

But let’s be honest—we did not do all of this by ourselves. It is truly humbling to consider how much effort, how many resources, and how much time and talent have been poured in to give us this opportunity in the first place.

First, we must thank our parents, who recognized that this school was a place we could truly flourish—and did everything they could to make sure that we could be part of the CA community.

We must acknowledge and thank the CA faculty. I can’t tell you the number of times I have seen CA teachers field random questions from their students, always engaged, and eager to learn where the questions and conversations would lead. Our teachers’ intellectual curiosity—their willingness to listen and challenge their students’ understanding or assumptions—is what truly distinguishes Colorado Academy and has laid the foundation for all of us to be lifelong


We must thank our coaches, who challenged us physically and mentally—helping us learn and grow from adverse circumstances—teaching us that there will be wins and losses—and how important it is to properly deal with both.

We must thank the housekeeping and kitchen crews, the bus drivers, and the security team, all of whom dedicate their time and labor to help build this dynamic environment. The operations team that keeps our campus looking the best in the state. And of course, our innovative administration, led by Dr. Mike Davis and Chairman of the Board Kevin Reidy. Thank you all. 

We could not be here, nor have accomplished what we have, without each and every one of you.

So now, as our time at Colorado Academy draws to a close, let’s pause to take stock of our own accomplishments, as individuals and as a Class. Let’s cherish the relationships we have formed, and the experiences—both new and long taken for granted—and go out into the world, stronger for what we have done and learned the past four years, and, perhaps most importantly, for the friends surrounding us.

Thank you.