Graduation Ceremony 2019 | Speech by Derek Johnson

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Good evening my name is Derek Johnson.

Short, challenging and fulfilling. Words that best summarize my time at City Academy. I started my journey at City Academy in 4th grade. I was a lost soul at first, but in a short time I have grown into the school community and was able to make friends and work diligently to meet academic expectations. At my prior school, I only learned the fundamentals, but in just my short time at City Academy, I have been immersed in an environment that challenged rather than reinforced, causing me to apply myself more and strive to be greater. I AM PROUD OF MY JOURNEY!!!!!

While teachers and my lovely parents have supported me along the way, I believe my triumph comes from the years of having to be accountable and diligent on the court. This hard work made its way from the basketball court to the classroom. I am a passionate basketball player with over 10 years of experience. For the last five years, I have played for an Elite Traveling Basketball Team. I had to be accepting of winning or losing and attending long evening practices in spite of school obligations, yet still managing my school work; ultimately demonstrating accountability. I learned how to deal with triumphs and hardships on the court. You win some and you lose some but what really matters is how you deal with your roadblocks or in the language of basketball “foul count”.

I had a few fouls at City Academy. First and foremost, I learned that I was competing against some of the most intellectual peers I had ever encountered. I thought I was the MVP on the court, but soon learned I had competition that required me to have my game face on at ALL times. I even had times when I had “techs” (which are really bad fouls) where I didn’t receive full credit on my assignments because I neglected to put forth all my effort. A few techs helped me to realize I had to invest more time into winning the game. The game has been won and Fulfilled! I now stand before you proud of the player and student I have become; awaiting my trophy and my start to a new game at JOHN BURROUGHS!!!

To my parents, thank you. You are the reason I started the game and the reason I stayed in the game. You helped me learn that there is light at the end of the tunnel all you have to do is keep working and focusing on the end goal.

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Graduation Ceremony 2019 | Poem by Zariyah Nance

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Good evening, my name is Zariyah Nance. Words are helpful in our lives. It helps us to say things, but it also helps us to express what we as human beings feel. Words can make others’ voices be heard, loud enough for the people around us to hear and maybe even the world. Before I officially leave what was once my destination, I will be reciting a poem entitled “Destination” that will allow me to express who I have become as a student of City Academy.

My route starts out like a narrow pathway,
I’m hiding in the shadows, afraid of what might happen,
I take my time to accept the world,
I only speak if my mind agrees,
Making sure that the words that come out truly matter,
Violence can impact, but words can deeply have an affect on others mentally,
New creatures swarm around me, but I dare be caught in the middle,
Knowing it’s easy to stand in the crowd, but it takes courage to stand alone,
I stride further into my expedition,
Welcoming my new environment; while forming partnerships,
Inspiring others to follow the path to destiny,
To be able to face challenges, no matter how hard they get,
I slowly tear down the walls,
Showing the world my true identity,
Not frightened of what one might say,
For their words are like grains of sand,
They simply slip through my fingers and fall to the unknown,
My mind is open to anything that comes my way,
No longer, afraid to face things unfamiliar,
No longer afraid of being judged,
For I am a stable building ready to soar yet another storm,
Yearning to find my destination.

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Graduation Ceremony 2019 | Speech by Alyssa Harris

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Good evening everyone, my name is Alyssa Harris, and I am proud to be a part of the graduating class of 2019. In my life, I have realized that there are always chains that will try and hold you back, and mountains that you will have to overcome. There are some challenges that come with growing up, like learning how to be responsible, or finding out what it really means to have integrity.

But through the chains that tried to stop me in these past seven years, there have always been people by my side who have helped me to break down barriers in order to strive. Especially my parents and grandparents, who have always taught me to set realistic goals for myself, to be well-rounded and willing to interact confidently within a diverse setting, and most importantly to be the best person that I can possibly be I have been able to get past the hard times, and I have become someone who can break down every chain in order to reach for her goals.

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Graduation Ceremony 2019 | Speech by Nashon Anthony

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Time Flies

Good evening, my name is Nashon Anthony. I am certain each of you at some point in your life have used the phrase “time flies”. This evening I will be sharing how my time has certainly flown by at City Academy. My time at City Academy has been nothing less than priceless. With every second, every minute, and every hour, I have learned to take advantage of the opportunities given to me and learned to use those times and opportunities gracefully in order to make every moment count.

With time, I lost my innocence, but gained so much knowledge. I became proficient at assembling a robot in robotics class, in my time here, I became a skilled violinist, I gained knowledge of how to be a positive influence but most of all; I learned how to be a student. Time moves quick; but time has allowed for me to grow.

There were moments I wanted to turn back time, but in retrospect, I realized my time encompassed purpose. I took each day “the good and the bad” as it was meant to be. Some of my most beautiful moments have seemed to accelerate and slip beyond my grasp but there are a few I hold near. For example being the first sixth graders to go to camp Michigan or going on field trips and singing on the bus.

Time is undoubtedly one of the greatest assets one can acquire, and City Academy, I thank you for my time well spent. You have helped me recognize that there are endless opportunities for me if I invest my time in identifying what each opportunity holds. To my parents and grandparents, Thank you for giving of your “time” to help me soar from a little boy to a young black man.

To my peers; keep this in mind: “the bad news is time flies, but the good news is you’re the pilot.” As we go our separate ways, be sure to make every moment count because time sure does fly.

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Graduation Ceremony 2019 | Poem by Daniel Rose

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Good Evening, my name is Daniel Rose. This evening I will share my adaptation of a poem entitled “Miracles” by Walt Whitman as I share my Miracles through the years!

What Makes of a Miracle?


As for me, I know there are nothing but Miracles of Moments I’ve shared as a student at City Academy.

And there has been many!

Whether a well needed Vitamin D day at Penrose Park after a bitter, frosty winter,


Swim lessons at Mathews Dickey giving me yet another tool of how to survive,


Long hikes, owl watching, and seeking unknown insects on our annual Shaw trip,


My first extended overnight trip to Miniwanca where I had the courage to climb sand dunes,


Leaving a footprint to have for my younger brother Christian to follow,


Playing kickball with my friends on the old turf field,


Volunteering by packing and sealing bags of staples for a family on World Food Day,


Being one of the first to catch a small-mouth bass on our 6th grade camping trip,


Throwing something as simple as a miniature ball around with my classmates,


Being greeted each morning by Mr. Mitchell, our principal, with a joke or slight grin,


Anticipating Friday water days on a scorching summer day at City,


Mrs. Marilyn’s chocolate chip cookies after the end of a recital,


Sharing memories with Mr. Danforth at our Sixth Grade Luncheon to Uncle Bill’s,


Awaiting Mrs. Fisher, our former principal, to read “Bud, Not Buddy” after a fun-filled recess,

And foremost

The late night support from my parents with homework.

These ALL have been just a snippet of my Miracles here at City Academy!

I would like to acknowledge the faculty and staff for all they have done to help me embrace such Miracles and most of all, thank you to my parents for being the Miracle that devoted their time and patience to me and my brother Christian!

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Graduation Ceremony 2019 | Speech by Madison Moore

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I Can

Good evening! My name is Madison Moore and I’ve been attending City
Academy since kindergarten. And, if I’m being honest, kindergarten and first grade was a blur, but what I do remember is this one time in EC, my class wrote down the phrase, “I Can’t” on paper, and we took it outside to the old garden beds and buried it. Whenever I thought I couldn’t do something those first few years, I just remembered how I buried those words in the dirt and how “I Can’t” was dead.

I’ve never been a fan of giving up. When I turned 5, my parents began teaching me how to tie shoes. And, it seemed like I just couldn’t get the hang of it. A year later, I was still determined, so I slipped on my Mom’s shoes and continued working at it, and pretty soon I could tie my own shoes. Which I was thrilled about!

It went on like that for a while, little victories that I still worked hard to earn, like learning how to distinguish my B’s and D’s, and learning how to hold a pencil. Until I learned how to read. My parents began reading to me when I was 3, but I wanted to be able to read by myself, too. So when I learned to do it in first grade, I ran with it. And, in third grade, I picked up a book that I thought would make me an official advanced reader, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. And as soon as I read that first chapter, I knew that getting into the world of capes, wizards, and little elves might have been a mistake. I remember thinking that a 300 plus page book would take me the rest of my life to read because it was so excruciatingly long and boring. But then I remembered the death of “I Can’t” and that I could finish that book, and when I finished it, I loved it and I continued it until the last book of the series. That was the first time that thinking of burying “I Can’t” gave me confidence. That perseverance lead me to many triumphs, such as getting a main part in the To Kill A Mockingbird play, or getting first in the robotics competition alongside my sister.

When I was writing this speech and reflecting on my 7 years at City Academy, my mind was blank. So, I’d like to thank my teachers for not only helping me come up with ideas to add in my speech, but for explaining questions on pieces of homework throughout the years, and working with me after class when I asked for it. I’d especially like to thank Mrs. Laz, the teacher who took us outside to bury “I Can’t”. And most importantly, I’d like to thank my family, especially my parents and my sister, Gabrielle, for encouraging me, helping me get to where I am now, and always being by my side. I’d also like to thank my Nana and PawPaw for always showing me love, and making me laugh. I’m so lucky to have such an amazing family as I do! “I Can” is so much bigger than me. Whatever I set my mind on to accomplish, others were there to support me and my efforts. And tonight, I stand before you thankful for not only my own determination, but for the support of others. It’s that support that has helped me through City Academy, and that same support that will help me through John Burroughs in the fall!

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Graduation Ceremony 2019 | Speech by Ayomide Ajakaiye

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Good evening, my name is Ayomide Ajakaiye. At the beginning of the year, I came up with a motto for myself; to enjoy the moment. To take advantage of every drop of life. So to everyone who has ever said or done something that has left a positive impact on me, thank you. Because of you, I can enjoy my moment.

Once upon a time, I was a young girl about to start an adventure. I didn’t know where I was going, but I was ready for the journey at hand. I was ready to enjoy the moment. Through the years, I started to shed some of my innocence as I grew and developed my character and personality. In City Academy, I was able to become myself. I could be real. Be genuine. Be unique. There is an age old question that I am certain has been posed through many minds of Who am I? What am I supposed to be? What is my purpose? And perhaps, we will never know the full story. But I know I have unlocked some of it through my moments at City Academy.

It’s funny how in new stages of life, many people often think of it as unwelcoming. But I don’t think that the actual change is what people are afraid of. People want to be able to predict things. However, unpredictability is a part of change. I remember during my first day of 2nd grade being so excited because I had moved upstairs; however, I did not expect 2nd grade to come with so much homework. I learned things though and adapted. Though it always got more arduous, I still accomplished the task by the end of it. Each year a new part of me was revealed allowing me to be able to take on new challenges. The people around me who support and push me have made it conceivable for me to be hopeful for the future because I can do it. Because people believe in me, I am able to strive. From striving, I will succeed.

Over the years, I have grown fond of the color white. Maybe I like the color because of how sleek it looks. How it can go with any color and enhance the quality of both colors. White represents so many different ideas, and perhaps I have become enamored with the color because of the concept of the promise white holds. We are all born with the capacity for greatness, it is what we do with our abilities that prove if we deserve to have them to begin with.

My family was the beginning, and City Academy came through and pushed me furthermore. They made me want to strive. People from all types of places, have made me want to strive. I don’t want to disappoint them. Or myself. To my City Academy Teachers and Faculty especially to my parents, and brother, and my extended family, thank you for allowing me to enjoy my moments.

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Graduation Ceremony 2019 | Speech by Lauryn Gross

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Good evening, My name is Lauryn Gross, and today I stand before you with mixed emotions. It seems as if just last month, I was having a wrestling match with my parents in the parking lot of City Academy, pleading not to have to walk into the double doors and face once again that stamp on the floor as I walked into the foyer area. But today, I also stand before you proud and with much gratitude. “What I have, What I’ve learned” is what I call my sentimental speech that shares my experience through my years here at City Academy, and the perseverance I’ve acquired, will be the same perseverance I will take with me to Villa Duchesne in the Fall.

City Academy has been great to me. Through the years I have learned many things. But I would be remorseful if I didn’t acknowledge my parents who have also taught me, many things. For example, the little math shortcuts they used in the 80’s as children themselves that helped me tremendously with my math challenges, and the funny but confusing southern expressions passed down from the family that don’t make sense to the kids such as “Who shot John?” Leaving us to wonder, Who is John? And What does John have to do with the situation at hand?

We all learn something in life. We may learn it from our parents, teachers, siblings, or sometimes even ourselves. I always loved learning something new, because no matter what it was, I was one step closer to being a veterinarian, an interior designer, or an orthodontist. Everything I have learned, I’ve taken advantage of it, whether it was how to make slime, how to cut open the gut to a foul smelling, slimy frog, or even learning a new combat to roast that “meanie” in your class. Everything we learn today, must be taken advantage of, because those bits of knowledge and lessons that we are learning, leads to a very valuable opportunity, and no matter what I have learned, it was a key to something great.

I’ve learned that when you worry about something, it usually never turns out as bad as you expected. I have learned that using quizlet to study for a vocabulary test is a guaranteed gateway to being able to celebrate an 80% average or higher. I’ve learned that reading a novel like “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”, is easier than reading the “Hunger Games”, so I was sure to get my hands on that Six Flags ticket. I’ve learned that spreading the peas out on your plate appears as if you’ve eaten more and brings you one step closer to getting dessert. I’ve learned that adults make algebra sound harder than it actually is. I’ve learned that when getting in trouble with your parents, crying doesn’t make them empathize with you, it just makes the situation worse. I’m learning that your friends will be with you no matter how far away they seem. And most importantly, I’ve learned you can learn something from everybody.

What I have, what I’ve learned, is what I have shared with you this evening. I can’t wait to see how all that I have learned thus far will bring me one step closer to triumph.

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Graduation Ceremony 2019 | Martin Mathews Awards

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Martin Mathews Award Recipients | Ayomide Ajakaiye and Isaac Taylor

Mr. Martin Mathews, the founder of Mathews-Dickey Boys’ and Girls’ Club and a wonderful friend of City Academy, has spent his life serving others. Mr. Mathews always espouses his three R’s: respect, restraint, and responsibility. His philosophy of high expectations inspired the vision for City Academy, and he has been behind us every step of the way.

Every year at graduation, City Academy honors Mr. Mathews by recognizing one or more students in the graduating class who reflect his values and who have demonstrated exceptional citizenship and academic integrity. This year, two students received the Martin Mathews Award.

City Academy Principal, Milton Mitchell, presented the awards:

Ayomide Ajakaiye

“Resilient, passionate and full of integrity – these are just a few descriptors of Ayomide. She embodies the very essence of the word integrity. It is no surprise that she is true to her word and intolerant of those who cannot be trusted for theirs. Her keen intellectual and interpersonal skills allow her to be respectful and congenial with her peers and adults, which has afforded her opportunities to facilitate several rich literature discussions, as well as spearhead a mini economics class for her fellow peers; all while exuding poise and confidence.

Simply put, this scholar is something like a pioneer; she’s fierce, she’s innovative, she’s risky and most of all, she’s destined for greatness far beyond her years at City Academy. One only has to witness her walk the halls to see these very qualities and the dramatic impact she has on the world around her. She is an invaluable leader of today, tomorrow and our future and we look forward to her esteem title as President of Nigeria in years to come.”

Isaac Taylor

“Any positive adjective that describes a hard-working, respectful young man should be ascribed to this student. Simply stated, he is excellent.

Embodying honor, humility and dedication, this scholar stands out because high academic achievement and exemplary citizenship are not just goals but rather a lifestyle. Involved in the life of the school, this young man speaks to adults in the hallways, enjoys his friends and demonstrates leadership by way of taking care of business first before all else. Teachers comment on his commitment to learning, high level of respect and conscientious nature. He is a top achiever, a sincere rule follower and simply a good-natured human being. He is one of the first to arrive to class and has a great sense of humor.

Of the many things for which he will be remembered, one of the most enjoyable is his love of baseball. We look forward to hearing of this scholar’s many future achievements, two of which are becoming an Eagle Scout and winning an award in mathematics.”

Congratulations Ayomide and Isaac!

Previous Martin Mathews Award Recipients

Lauren Robinson, 2008
Michael Strawbridge, 2009
Madeleine Johnson & Ronald Smith, 2010
Lailah Elliott, 2011
Kendall McLemore & Madelyn Wansong, 2012
Alvin Hamilton & Natalie Smith, 2013
Alysha Ford, 2014
Malachi Chunn & Alexandra Lane, 2015
Sydney Williams, 2016
Steven Hall & Camille Smith, 2017
Taniyah Whalen & Ameenah Abdul-Rasheed, 2018

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Graduation Ceremony 2019 | Oliver Langenberg Award

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The David Steward Family

Graduation is also a time to reflect on the importance of philanthropy: Making an active effort to promote the welfare of others. We are all here today because of the generosity and support of those in our community who believe in our school and in you, our students.

At our first graduation in 2005, we established the Oliver Langenberg Award to annually honor a St. Louisan whose contributions have made City Academy and our broader community better. Oliver Langenberg was City Academy’s first donor in 1998, a year before we opened! He invested in a school with no students or teachers. Think about that. Mr. Langenberg believed in our vision for a school of excellence for all families. He had faith that we would get it done. We did! And I will always be grateful.

David Steward II and Don Danforth

This year’s Langenberg Award goes to the David Steward Family. I am honored to have Dave Steward II here tonight, as well as Mina, from the Steward Family Foundation. Mr. Steward is the Co­-Founder of Lion Forge, which publishes comics and graphic novels. Their motto is “Comics for Everyone,” and their characters reflect the diversity of our world. Additionally, Dave is the Founder and CEO of Polarity, a newly formed global media company and animation studio producing content for TV and film.

Mr. Steward’s father, David Steward, Sr. founded World Wide Technology in 1990. Today, it is one of St. Louis’ leading civic companies, and among the largest and most successful private corporations in the country. In describing his family’s philosophy, Mr. Steward said in an interview, “We established core values that are vitally important. Those core values – integrity, trust, attitude, teamwork, innovation and diversity. ”

Sounds a lot like City Academy’s values!

To use comic book lingo, the Stewards have literally been
“superheroes” for St. Louis. They have made giving back to their community a priority, heavily investing their time and support to outstanding organizations, including: Nine Network, St. Louis ARC, The Sheldon Arts Foundation, Jazz St. Louis, Variety Club Children’s Charity and the United Way.

Education has been a priority, as well. Dave told a group of our alumni earlier this year that “education is the pillar of our philanthropy and gives the greatest return on our investment.” In addition to supporting scholarship at many area schools, the Stewards made an incredibly generous investment in City Academy’s expansion, allowing us to grow enrollment. For this, we are honored to name the center of our magnificent new Early
Childhood Center “Steward Hall.”

I am pleased to present this year’s Langenberg Award to Dave Steward II.

Graduates, the Langenberg Award recognizes the investment of others whose generosity has made our school and success possible. We could not be here today without people like the Langenbergs and Stewards.

David Steward Sr. summed it up well by saying this, “I believe, ‘to whom much is given, much is required. ‘ What is required of me is to ensure that the next generation and the generation behind them has a better quality of life. ”

Graduates, my challenge to you is to take Mr. Steward’s philosophy to heart. Invest in our community, and make it a better place tomorrow than it is, today. Each of you can do this in your own way. Be involved. Make a difference. Now it is your time to step forward. I promise the rewards will be great. Who knows, like the Stewards, you too, may become a “superhero” to an individual or organization.

By Don Danforth | President & Co-Founder

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