Virginia Beach Student Speaker Zechariah Allison in his Own Words
Over the past 2 weeks I have run this speech through my head on what I can tell such a diverse group of people to inspire, guide or just plain enlighten those of you who are here today. To be honest, this is a tall order. So, I will do my best and begin with this: Become fans of Lord of the Rings!
That’s a fantasy novel about a journey written by English author and scholar J. R. R. Tolkien. You have just made it through Rivendell – ECPI – an elven city where knowledge is held in the highest regard and the start of a true adventure.
Now if you have watched the extended version, as I have with my family many times, you have made your fellowship of the ring with ECPI faculty and fellow graduates to carry the knowledge that you have learned (the one ring) through life and you are now Frodo, one of hobbits passing through the gates of Rivendell saying, “which way do I go?” Though I tend to act and look more like a dwarf than a hobbit, my story was more like Frodo’s, the main character of the adventure.
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I was comfortable in my “shire,” providing what my family and I needed. I was comfortable in my job after getting out of the Navy. But like Frodo, there was something pulling at me to do better. You see, I worked for a company where I was able to find all the answers, even for those that had a degree, and yet when yearly evaluations came around, I was passed over for advancement because I didn’t have a degree. So, Gandalf (a wise wizard) came to me in the form of a past co-worker. He had been going to ECPI to get his degree and start his adventure. As Frodo, I wanted that. I wanted to join an adventure of my own. So, I went to Rivendell, ECPI if you will, and created my own fellowship of the ring while there.
Since completing my classes at ECPI, I have accomplished a lot. I am now a lead network engineer and more comfortable than I was before. Like any adventure, there are bleak points. Job offers not coming as quickly as you would hope, long days away from the family, pressing items due by the end of the week. However, we have been equipped with the tools to complete what we set out to do. We’ve already learned this in a highly-accelerated pace.
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I will say this though, I would not have ever started this adventure if it wasn’t for the support of my wife, Jenn and my daughters, Sarah and Sophia. I missed the times when I could have been home to handle things around the house and tuck the kids into bed at night. They dealt with not seeing me for four days straight a week and this continued while I would be completing homework at home. My wife handled the house, kids’ homework, dinner, and those moments when the kids would ask “When will daddy be home?” Without them I would not be the forward-running dwarf that you see here now. So, I will leave you with this:
- Not all those who wander are lost.
- It is not the strength of the body, but the strength of the spirit.
- The adventure is only just beginning,
- And carry a map.
Thank you, I wish the best to you all on your adventure.