Lasting Relationships, Opportunity and Self Confidence

John Shipp, Class of 2013
Fort Worth Academy was proud to welcome alumni John Shipp, class of 2013 to this year's Grandparents' and Special Friends' Day to share his Fort Worth Academy story. 

My name is John Shipp, a member of the Class of 2013. After I graduated from Fort Worth Academy, I moved just across the street to attend Trinity Valley School, and now I am a sophomore Finance major with a double minor in Accounting and Religion at TCU.

As a member of the Nine-Year Club (students who have attended Kindergarten – 8th grade at the Academy), I participated in everyGrandparents Day celebration from kindergarten to eighth grade. Each year it was one of my favorite days. The joy I felt showing my school to my special friends (and the anticipation of the week-long vacation that followed)always made the day especially exciting. It is so surreal coming back as a sophomore in college realizing that my first Grandparents’ Day was 14 years ago.
When I look back on my time at Fort Worth Academy, I identify three primary advantages of growing up in an academically challenging school with small class sizes. They are:
  • Lasting Relationships
  • Opportunity and
  • Self Confidence
Lasting Relationships— When I look back on my experience at Fort Worth Academy, I believe that the most important element of my experience here was the lasting relationships and friendships that I made. As an only child, I did not have any siblings of my own and sometimes felt lonely. Thus, I created my extended family here. Fort Worth Academy gave me the opportunity to be in daily contact with many caring adults and a diverse group of engaged students. When I walked down the halls, I was greeted by name by not only my current classmates and teachers but also the teachers and students for grades both above and below mine.

I believe the most important driving factor for this cross-grade relationship building was the Kindergarten Buddy program. When I was in Kindergarten, my god-brother was an eighth grader. We were paired together, and he immediately made me feel like I was a part of the Academy family. At that moment, as a 5-year-old kid, I knew that my greatest way to give back to this school that I loved so much was being a mentor for a kindergartener. My kindergarten buddy, Dylan Finkelstein, is now a 6th grader. He was such a great kindergarten buddy to me and helped me develop my leadership skills as I advised him.
Opportunities—Fort Worth Academy provided me many opportunities, and I developed life skills while reading the daily announcements, participating in Golden Pencil, playing sports, acting in drama productions, learning in academics, and volunteering in clubs. While at Fort Worth Academy, I performed in five plays and was elected President of the National Junior Honor Society. Acting gave me the life skill of memorizing large chunks of material extremely quickly. This tool has been invaluable in my success at both the high school and college levels, as it was required in my high school honors and AP classes and in the Honors College at TCU as a Neeley Fellow.  It also gave me the poise to stand up in front of classmates when presenting class projects, and audiences including the Fort Worth City Council when I was an intern for City Councilman Dennis Shingleton in Summer of 2015.

Self-Confidence— From a young age, my parents instilled in me the adage, that “with opportunity comes the risk of failure. But it is only through new experiences that we develop the self-confidence to try anyway.” That is why the Fort Worth Academy experience was so helpful.  I was able to take risks in a safe and supportive environment that limited the pain when I was not perfect. In the beginning, these ‘imperfect moments’ were common and were extremely painful, but over time, they became less frequent and didn’t bother as much when they inevitably occurred. This helped me develop supreme self-confidence. Having acted in plays at Fort Worth Academy, I had the self-confidence to audition for and act in 20 plays in high school. When I went on my first college visit, the faculty member interviewing me was surprised at my poise and ability to communicate. He asked me in what extra-curricular activities I was engaged. When I told him acting and singing, beginning in middle school, he said to continue those pursuits because those attributes made me stand out from other applicants. He also said that almost every other applicant who had come to interview had struggled when trying to communicate with him. My college counselors at TVS later told me that my ability to communicate so well combined with my academic success was why I was offered merit scholarships at all the Universities to which I applied.

Having led an organization at Fort Worth Academy, I had the confidence to run for and was elected Treasurer of the TVS Student Body, Senior Class Representative, and President of the Film Club. These successes have built upon each other and have given me the confidence to become vice-president of my social fraternity and hold leadership positions in other student organizations at TCU. It also gave me the self-confidence to apply for the highly competitive Neeley Fellows Honors Program—a cohort of 32 business majors from my grade to which I was selected this past June. Neeley Fellows is the most competitive program within Neeley and arguably the most competitive academic program in the entire university. We were just recently given the opportunity to develop our professional network on a trip to Seattle. There, we were guests of Microsoft, Amazon, and Starbucks. I used the skills I learned at Fort Worth Academy to present a poised, self-confident, and professional demeanor to employers I met during those visits.

The skills to succeed in my current and future life were developed in childhood.  Without the dedicated faculty, administration, and staff at Fort Worth Academy, I might not have pushed myself to develop lasting relationships at TVS and TCU.  I might not have recognized the opportunities at TVS and TCU when they arose, and I might not have developed the self-confidence to capitalize on these opportunities.  For that reason, I am truly grateful for the support of Fort Worth Academy faculty, administration, and staff and the sacrifices of my parents that made me a member of the 9-Year Club at Fort Worth Academy. I hope you are all proud of what I have done with the tools you gave me.

Though I am truly appreciative of every faculty/staff member I interacted with during my nine years at the Academy, there are two teachers to whom I would like to give a special thanks.  These teachers have been two of the most positive influences on my life. The first is my third-grade teacher, Ms. Ellis. Ms. Ellis made me develop my passion for reading and writing. The second is Mrs. Rice. Mrs. Rice’s class made me a diligent student and got me interested in mathematics. Both Ms. Ellis and Mrs. Rice developed me into an independent thinker and learner. I am eternally grateful for all the efforts they put into me.

I thank you all for allowing me the opportunity to come and speak at this special Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ day. I am truly honored and humbled by this. It means so much to give back to the school that has given me so much. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday break and Go Trailblazers!

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