Victoria Blakely’s always been a talker. Once, on a trip with a friend, she started talking in her sleep.
“I’m a tour guide at Hopewell Rocks, and I guess I started giving tours in my sleep. They told me, ‘You talk so clearly!’” she says. Then she flashes a wide grin, her deep-set eyes almost disappearing in her glee. Then she roars with laughter.
Blakely is St Thomas University’s valedictorian for the class of 2013. With convocation inching ever closer, she’s been trying to set aside some time to write her speech.
“I have a hard time saying no to things. I get nervous about it sometimes, how I over-commit myself,” she says.
Blakely organizes a Model United Nations conference for high school students at STU and is also working to put together a conference near Moncton, which will be held a few days before convocation. She also takes a full course load. It’s hard to find time for anything more. Even her downtime is the stuff of overachiever legend.
“Public speaking is my fun,” she says, crossing her legs under a professional-looking skirt.
“I have a competition on Saturday, actually. I’m talking about the Bay of Fundy and the tides. We have the highest in the world,” she says, as if it’s the most exciting and surprising tidbit ever. And the way she says it, it’s hard to believe it’s not.
But she does find time to fit in a few guilty pleasures.
A confessed lover of mommy blogs and pinterest, she also has a passion for agriculture. She developed her love of the land through showing cows with 4-H, a popular youth leadership initiative.
“I wanted to show horses and didn’t have one. My distant – very distant – relative had dairy cows. So I showed dairy cows.”
She goes on to tell a story about showing her cows in Toronto and coming in 13th in Canada. She describes it as the most amazing experience, and her first visit to the big Ontarian city.
Though Blakely seems a bubbly, somewhat sheltered student from small-town New Brunswick, she hasn’t been spared from tragedy.
In 2011, Blakely’s father died of cancer. Diagnosed in June 2010, he died 10 months later. Though she turns from her usual exuberant to sombre, she still has a gleam in her eye when talking about her family.
“We have each other, which is great. You constantly deal with it, but we have each other.”
One of six siblings, Blakely is third-born to her parents. Her big family helped her deal with her father’s illness and passing, as did her faith.
“I was raised in the Baptist church. But one thing I was taught is tolerance by my parents,” she says.
Blakely says this open-mindedness extends to her friend circle, too. Her peers are what she’ll miss most about her time at STU, and they’ve helped her become the voice of her graduating class.
One of Blakely’s best friends spearheaded the campaign for her election as valedictorian. The night of the election, Blakely was headed to Florida for her first ever spring break. Of course, like the seasoned speaker she is, Blakely just has to share the anecdote.
“I hadn’t heard from Kendra and I was really nervous on the ride to Halifax. My phone rang and it was her. She was apologizing because it took so long. She said ‘I’m sorry … but you’re going to have to write a speech for grad.’ And at this point, I was crying.”
The rest of her week was spent “celebrating in the Caribbean, getting a sunburn.”
Though she’d like to keep most of her speech secret, Blakely is promising three things: Inspiration, entertainment, and reflection. While the first two are important to her, the entertainment is purely for the audience.
“You’re sitting there for a long time,” she says, “so you need to make them laugh a bit.”