SHRUB OAK, N.Y. - Lakeland High School’s valedictorian Margaret Callery had no nerves about delivering her graduation speech.
“The thing I was most concerned about was keeping it short and sweet,” she said.
She added that while it is more serious in tone, she will likely ad-lib some jokes to lighten the mood.
“I’m comfortable with public speaking. I do it here a lot,” she said as she sat on a picnic bench as Muscoot Farm, where she has been a counselor for three years.
She began at Muscoot Farm as a volunteer when she was 11 and then eventually applied for a counselor position. It was somewhere she frequented she said because she really likes animals.
That nurturing quality compelled her to be involved in a variety of extracurricular activities such as working with the school’s occupational therapist to run a fitness club for developmentally delayed students in addition to assisting with a hand-writing program at an elementary school. She also volunteered with the school’s Special Olympics team.
“That was a special experience and I’m glad I did it,”Callery said. “I would say that is one of my favorite high school memories.”
In addition to doing all that volunteering, Callery danced at the Country Academy of Dance and balanced three AP classes.
Callery was so busy enjoying what she did that the news of her becoming valedictorian kind of snuck up on her. When she learned that she is this year’s valedictorian, she said it was a little bit of a shock to her and her family.
“I didn’t really expect it,” she said. It was never something that she really focused on she said, it just sort of happened.
Now, with High School almost over, she is looking forward to attending her first choice, Ithaca College, in the fall. She has already visited the campus several times and connected with other future students. She is not nervous at all and is excited to go, she said.
“I met my roommate through a Facebook group and she’s really nice,” she said. “The campus is really pretty and there are so many great places to eat. I’m looking forward to it.”
Callery is continuing with the type of work she’s already been doing and will be enrolled in the college’s five-year Occupational Therapy program.
“I want to be somebody who helps people,” she said.
Upon completion of the five-year program, Callery will graduate with her Master’s degree. Her advice to incoming freshman and to other high school students is to follow their passion.
“I really enjoyed all of the things I did,” Callery said. “Don’t just do things because it will look good on a résumé, it’s important to do things you like.”