The future vocation of young people may arise from the lessons and influences of childhood. In her chapel talk, delivered virtually on Feb. 16, Raelyne Michael highlighted two very special people in her life, her sister and grandmother. These two family members greatly influenced Raelyne’s artistic development. 

“My sister Melissa contributed to both my love of art and nature,” Raelyne said. “She was my biggest influence in everything.” Although she was ten years older, Melissa spent a great deal of time with her younger sister. “Melissa and I were inseparable,” she said. “She taught me how to make birds’ nests out of leaves and twigs and to build forts by the creek.” 

The relationship with her sister also taught Raelyne the importance of family connections. Later, when her sister was older and left home, Raelyne saw Melissa infrequently and felt lonely. She retreated to the outdoors and spent time drawing what she saw in nature. 

Raelyne’s grandmother helped her improve artistically. “She taught me how to crochet, paint with watercolor, oil pastels, and blending techniques. In tribute to her grandmother, Raelyne said that “[her grandmother] lives the quote – ‘grandparents are old on the outside and young on the inside.’” 

Later, in middle school, Raelyne delved into a new form of artwork called fursuiting. “You choose to make your own species and make a sona,” she said. Raelyne’s sona, whose name is Hawaii, is a Dutch angel dragon. “She represents a childlike side of me. . . I wish for my art and photography to show that later in life,” she said.

As she got older and her family moved to new houses, Raelyne developed her photography skills. She took photographs of creeks, flowers and trees with a constant focus on nature as a subject. 

Coming to the Academy in the tenth grade, Raelyne made several friends who helped her transition to a new school. Classmates Sarah Reynolds and Jade Nunnally have always brought humor to brighten her days. And, a former classmate Cedric Bruce “made jokes to distract me from becoming angry at Geometry in tenth grade,” Raelyne said.

Raelyne shared her plans for the future that include pursuing a degree in art and photography. She looks forward to creating a room dedicated to her sister and adopting a child “who may never have seen love.” She has a goal of helping her parents and “keeping my promise to them,” she said. More than anything, she hopes to live a full life as an artist by sharing “love and happiness to those who have not known such kindness,” she said.

Attending her chapel talk were her parents, Bonnie and Robert Michael, and her grandmother Linda Powell. Also present were members of the class of 2022. The chapel talk was live-streamed on the Academy’s Facebook page for students, faculty, and the community.