Haliburton School of Art and Design 2019 valedictorian Taylor Luecke did not expect to deliver a speech as the voice of more than 35 graduates.
The school hosted its annual commencement ceremony May 31.
The graduates of 12 different art and design programs were honoured as they received their diplomas in front of their peers and families. Luecke said graduating as her class’s valedictorian was a surreal experience.
“I love that school so much and I never thought I’d find a place as cool as that. I feel super proud to be that person,” she said. “I am one of the first in my family to graduate from post-secondary school, so I feel like it’s a big thing.”
The Millbrook native graduates with an alternative design diploma and a digital image design certificate.
Although she said she always knew she wanted to create, she did not always know she wanted to graduate from college.
“It brought me a lot of joy and it eases a lot of my anxieties,” she said about her art. “I saw lots of doctors about it (anxiety) and all they wanted to do was prescribe me medication.”
Instead, she looked inward for solutions. After high school, she travelled to British Columbia, moving from place to place and doing odd jobs to connect with herself. She found that connection through her art.
“It was kind of like my way to take a feeling, freeze it in time and explore it and understand it. Be able to work through it,” Luecke said. “That form of therapy has always come natural for me.”
She came back home and soon after accepted an offer to attend HSAD.
“The community is really my favourite thing,” Luecke said. “I was able to be completely myself and create from my soul. Be able to dance down the halls and people would dance with me. It was just amazing, the support that runs through that school.”
Fleming College president Maureen Adamson said the school’s experience leaves its mark on students.
“The relations you already made in your time in Fleming will enhance your future in ways you may not even recognize just yet,” she told graduates. “You are a part of our Fleming and our future.”
Fleming College professor of Indigenous Studies Liz Stone told students there is more to life than the pursuit of wealth.
“Oftentimes we’re asked ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’” Stone said. “Initially we think, ‘I’m going to have a big, big house. I’m going to have a big, big bank account’… We have to get out of our head. We have to be aware of what’s going on around us and we have to live within our heart.”
In her commencement speech, Luecke said for her and her classmates, art is the way they tackle tough subjects.
“It’s difficult to tell someone that art is your therapy, your drive and your passion,” Luecke said. “For us, art is a form of communication. A way to translate our ideas into reality.”