Senior Niyah Lockett chosen as 2021 Declamation Speaker


Courtesy of Niyah Lockett

For MSMS’s graduating class of 2021, senior Niyah Locket was chosen by her classmates to present the opening declamation speech. Lockett will carry the tradition of welcoming the senior class at their ceremony this upcoming May.

Hailee Sexton, Staff Writer

Niyah Lockett, the class of 2021’s Declamation Speaker, is already getting ready for this year’s graduation ceremony. 

“I’m preparing to give the declamation speech by working with Mr. Yarborough on my delivery and content,” Lockett said. “I’ve also been getting help from some of my seniors including Violet Jira, who was my emissary, and the declamation speaker for the class of 2020. I’m extremely excited and equally nervous about giving the speech. Conveying the emotions and events of the past two years is not an easy task, but I know that I have the support I need to accomplish this goal.”

During a mandatory senior meeting on March 3, Lockett, Madison Meeks and Kate Hall all presented speeches, and the senior class voted for Lockett. As well as choosing the declamation speaker, the poem “Maybe Exodus, Maybe Genesis” by Abby Strain and Shelby Tisdale was chosen as the class poem, and “If there is no wind, there will be no wave” was selected as the 2021 class motto. 

Dating all the way back to the first MSMS graduation, the traditional declamation speech is given to introduce the senior class at the opening of the ceremony.

“The Declamation allows seniors to hear their experience articulated for remembrance as well as celebration,” MSMS teacher Chuck Yarborough said. “I think every Declamation gives voice to the graduating class.”

Lockett attended Aberdeen High School before attending MSMS. She participates in many clubs and programs such as holding the president position for the MSMS Black Student Alliance and participating in the Emissary Program to help lead juniors in transitioning to MSMS. Lockett spoke of her feelings when she received the honor to represent her class and give this speech during the ceremony.

“Getting the notification that I’d been voted in as the Declamation Speaker was really special,” Lockett said. “I’m an extremely sentimental person, so being given such a special honor somewhat marked the beginning of the end of my MSMS experience. Reading the email was a surreal experience, and I was honestly in awe.”

Lockett also described her sentiment toward the class that she believes resonated with other students.

“I believe I was chosen because of the emotional pull of my speech,” Lockett said. “So many people messaged me saying that my declamation speech audition was a tear-jerker. I honestly felt like the decision could go in either direction. I was up against two of the most confident and capable classmates, and I knew that all of us had an equal shot at being chosen.”

Senior Meghan Curry, a friend of Lockett’s, described what stood out to her the most about Lockett when they became friends. 

“Niyah is truly an amazing person,” Curry said. “She is willing to help anyone at any time. She is so selfless and giving and she is very compassionate. Niyah is a natural-born leader and activist, she really does it effortlessly. Niyah is also super funny and that is what makes us inseparable.”

Meeks, Senior Class President and close friend of Lockett, believes she is a good choice for the speech and trusts that Lockett will portray the class experiences well.

“Niyah is an excellent fit for Declamation Speaker,” Meeks said. “I have been friends with Niyah since the New Student Orientation of our sophomore year, and her journey at MSMS has been transformative for her. She expressed that in a way that captured our entire class’s experience. Her creativity, personability and wit are exactly what we need as a class to send us off into the real world.”

Lockett shared what the declamation speech means to her and the senior class and how she hopes to convey her sentimental message during the graduation ceremony.

“The declamation speech is such an intimate moment between classmates,” Lockett said. “It’s the last time the speaker will address the class as a whole before they officially part ways. The speaker is tasked with encompassing the entire experience of the class within a five-minute speech. This isn’t something that should be a passive afterthought. The declamation should be a memorable moment between a group of people who have struggled, overcome and grown together.”