Meet Kaitlyn MacNeill: the class of 2024 Valedictorian

Meet Kaitlyn MacNeill: the class of 2024 Valedictorian

King’s Valedictorian Kaitlyn MacNeill couldn’t have imagined standing in front of her classmates and extolling the virtues of her alma mater back in September 2020 when she started the Foundation Year Program.

From tiny North Rustico in Canada’s smallest province of Prince Edward Island, MacNeill started her King’s journey amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. All of her classes and tutorials were held online and she attended from the desk in the corner of her bedroom. The FYP experiences that her predecessors raved about—the heady class discussions that spilled from the lecture hall to residence hallways to the cafeteria—felt like they belonged to the distant past.

Not knowing anyone, swamped by the readings and intimidated by subjects including philosophy and world history, MacNeill struggled. A few months in, she considered quitting.

“I felt like I was the one puzzle piece that just wouldn’t fit,” confesses MacNeill in a video she made to put herself forward as valedictorian.

But befitting the optimistic, sunshiny spirit of someone who has served as Student Life VP on the student union for three years running, MacNeill gave herself a pep talk. Ask questions, she told herself. Go for extra help. Take advantage of the resources available. She also decided to get involved in student government and became the first-year representative.

“It was as if I suddenly realized that King’s is not a puzzle. It’s more of a mosaic made up of all these uniquely sized pieces, some sharp and jagged, others smooth, and all very colourful,” says MacNeill, 22. “There are no two that are alike and yet everyone fits in here, everyone belongs, because that’s the beauty of a mosaic. It’s not exactly a perfect masterpiece; it’s what you make it.”

Once MacNeill resolved to open up to other people and “not be afraid,” she started to make friends and feel more connected. Easing pandemic restrictions in the second year of her studies, as well as a move to Halifax, helped too.

She was also happy with her decision to pursue a degree in journalism, finding the classes to be hands-on, creative, and challenging (in a good way). Plus, she loves journalism’s collaborative side, enjoying those times when she worked as part of a team to put on a news program or produce a newspaper. Her coursework was capped with an internship at Halifax’s Chronicle Herald; she enjoyed the pace of daily journalism and had the thrill of seeing her byline on the front page of the newspaper.

“At this point, I feel like there’s so many things I can do—maybe make documentaries or work on a film set or be a TV reporter,” says MacNeill, who adds that any big decisions can wait until after the summer and a trip to Europe.

And that’s what she’s considering telling fellow graduands at King’s 234th Encaenia on Thursday, May 23. Which is, basically, not to worry too much about the future.

“It’s so much pressure—we’re constantly asked, ‘What’s next? What’s next? What’s next?’” she says with a shake of her head. “But look at what we’ve gone through: a global pandemic, lockdowns, social isolation, remote learning. I think we’re going to be okay. We’re going to find our way, no matter what.”

As for her own “what’s next?” Kaitlyn is planning to apply to King’s Master of Journalism program to hone her journalism skills even more.

“I don’t know if I’m ready to leave King’s just yet,” she says with a laugh. Suddenly serious, she adds, “I’m really, really glad I didn’t give up.”


Read Kaitlyn MacNeill’s Valedictory speech

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