This is Not a Goodbye, This is a “Thank You OCSA”


Skip Stowers

Raquel Perry at Arts Alive 2017 (Left) and the OCSA GALA 2019 (Right)

Raquel Perry, Reporter/Marketing Manager

As I turn in my final assignment for the year, I begin to reminisce on the great times the Osceola County School for the Arts has provided for my high school experience. Although this is my “last” day of high school, something does not feel right.

I expected my last day to be a time where I would share kind words to my friends and teachers, ask them to sign my yearbook, and towards the end of the school day, I would give everyone big hugs and let the magnitude of the situation sink in. Instead, while sitting alone on my couch, I finally turn in my last assignment of the year, and text my friends, “We did it!”.

To say the situation is sad is an understatement. I have reached a milestone in my life that I have waited for the past 12 years. However, this experience has taught me to never take anything for granted. So today, I would like to say a “proper” thank you to OCSA.

When I began my journey here freshman year, my first thought was, This school is going to be just like Victorious . I can remember feeling overwhelmed by the amount of talent surrounding me, and the biggest mistake I made was telling myself, “I could never be as good as them”. One of the first life lessons I’ve learned from OCSA was that the only person you should try to be better than is yourself.  The second, and probably most important for me, is to never be afraid to take risks.

This lesson has brought me where I am today. Without attending OCSA, I know that I would’ve never been able to make great life-long achievements and received so many enlightening opportunities. The possibilities at OCSA were endless and I am thankful to OCSA for teaching me to always strive to be the best version of myself I can be.

Unfortunately, things were a bit rocky in my freshman year and I cannot say that I was not a bit disappointed when I found out that the school was not at all like Victorious.  It seemed like not only was I afraid to take risks, but I did not truly see my full potential as a writer. I did not know how much that would all change in the next four years. The memories I’ve created and shared around these now vacant school halls were like no other. From lunch time concerts, to Color Wars, to blackboxes, master classes, recitals, musicals, and showcases, I know attending OCSA was one of the best choices I have ever made.

Throughout these memory making moments, I have also made long lasting friendships; I am more than grateful for the amount of support OCSA has given me.  It was in these small moments of encouragement that I grew in confidence.  From the “good lucks” I received backstage before performing at recitals to the “good jobs” I heard from strangers after (even if I didn’t feel to great about the performance), these were the moments that motivated me to try harder.  For some, those minuscule moments are just memories, but for me, they are the very things that have made a monumental difference in my life…like helping me overcome stage fright.  These past four years have presented a few difficulties, but it was comforting to know that I had the support from my fellow peers, staff, and teachers along the journey.

So upon reflection today, I’ve realized that the people at OCSA are the ones who have made moments like these worthwhile.

In my thirteen years of schooling, I have had the privilege of having about 50 different individuals as my teachers, but my teachers at OCSA were like no other, especially the ones in my senior year. It was in Mrs. Swann’s room where I found my love for literature and shared the most laughs while she told the best stories. Without Mrs.Taylor, I would not have found my passion to create social change and make a difference in the world.  Thank you to Mr. Capley, Mrs.Austin, and Dr.Austin for being my sources of inspiration for the two art forms I love the most, while also pushing me to my greatest potential as an artist. Although Ms.Williams was not one of my direct teachers, I would also like to extend my gratitude to her as she was highly instrumental in me being a part of the OCSA family by encouraging me to audition in the first place. My teachers at OCSA have believed in me, which is way more than I can ask for. It was in their classrooms where I discovered my own strength and possibilities.  Though I wish with all my heart that it could have ended differently, I am nonetheless appreciative for the immense amount of love and knowledge they have given me that I will continue to carry on and, hopefully, make them proud.

Thank you to Dr.Evens and the staff at OCSA who made everything possible. Thank you to my counselors who make a daily decision to raise the next generation of students to make a difference.  To the Creative Writing department, thank you so much for providing me with a home. Though we’ve had our ups and downs, you have become like family and I am exceptionally thankful that we shared this journey together. To the students I’ve had the opportunity to mentor, thank you for trusting and allowing me to be your guide. To the students in the halls who didn’t know me that well, thank you being a part of my experience. I hope our paths will cross in the future. To my family and friends that believed in me: Thank you endlessly. You are what made my high school experience worth it. Lastly, to the Class of 2020, you are the strongest and brightest people that I know. Continue to keep your heads up high and soar like a phoenix.

Now, of course, I still wished that we could’ve broken into song and dance on the lunch tables like they do in High School Musical, but I am simultaneously full of gratitude for my memories, yet full of regret for thinking that I had time to make more. So, to the underclassmen that may be reading this: Do not take “now or never” with a grain of salt. My advice? Cherish every single moment. You never know when your last UNO game in the library will be drastically disrupted. Eventually, you are going to look back on those good times, laugh at them, and throughout your lifetime, learn from them…or if you are like me, you might be sitting down, writing an article about it. (Special thanks to the newspaper staff for allowing me to assist in advertising for the OCSA Ledger and giving me this platform to speak my truth for the last time.)

So while I wait to make my “proper” goodbye for graduation, I want to say thank you OCSA. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to learn, adapt, and nurture relationships that will last well beyond high school. You have served your purpose in preparing the Class of 2020 with an unforgettable and incredibly unique experience. It has been a huge journey of self-exploration, but OCSA, you have turned a young, shy caterpillar into a brave butterfly. I am beyond grateful that OCSA has had my back for these past few years. Now, it is my time to embrace the oceans of possibilities which lie ahead and leave a legacy for those to follow.