By Sydney Tomlinson
“Sexy, sophisticated, swag”— these are the three words University High School senior Graham Turner would use to describe himself today. But four years ago the answer would have been very different.
The timeless coming-of-age transformation that all teens experience has defined Turner’s high school journey. It is clear to his friends, family, teachers— and even to himself — that Turner is not leaving University the same way he came.
Turner’s mentor and teacher Anna Seldner has seen Turner grow significantly over these past four years, as a student, a jokester, and a man. When Turner leaves high school, she is sure he will be remembered as “the funny guy,” yet also as more than that. The deeper legacy he has grown into and will leave behind, Seldner believes, is one of, “a quiet leader, and maybe not the most obvious one, but someone who’s going to be kind and open-minded.”
The most noticeable change in Turner? Teachers and students alike notice how he has become much funnier over the years. His brother Duncan, a sophomore at UHS, agrees, “Graham’s sense of humor has changed for sure.”
Turner and friends note the impact Derek Thomas’s Comedy January Term class has had on him and his sense of humor. “It opened my eyes to all the different forms and types of comedy and was a great experience,” he says of the class.
While his comedy style may have evolved over the years, it is clear he has always been the lovable class clown he is today. Anyone who knows him will quickly tell you of Turner’s comicality, but ask Turner, and the answer is rather different, yet unsurprising.
“I don’t see myself as much of a funny guy. I am very serious and don’t like to play around,” he says, clearly tongue-in-cheek, with all his usual jest. As per usual, a bit of honesty follows the joke, as he admits, “I think others view me as an idiot sometimes, but also as a genuine man.”
But humor is not his only lifelong endeavor— Turner got his first skateboard at age 10, after rolling around on his dad’s skateboard for years. As Turner puts it, once he starting skating, “I hopped on, and the rest is history.”
While skating has given him many (minor) injuries over the years, with the cuts and scrapes have come improvements in his tricks and skill. Whether in San Diego, California, or Brownsburg, Indiana, in his free time, Turner can nearly always be found with a board in hand.
He doesn’t just skateboard or make jokes; he cares about much more than that. From the outside, Turner’s persona has not changed much from freshmen year, but up close much is different, due in part to the fact that he has many more layers now.
Most would be surprised to learn that he writes poetry. He often presents his poems as jokes, but in reality they are far from it. His writing is admirably truthful, and gets to the core of his ever-changing layers.
No one, on the other hand, would be surprised to hear of his loyalty and honesty. “Graham Turner doesn’t lie,” says friend and fellow University senior Naomi Farahan. Mentor Seldner agrees, citing his dry humor as his outlet for expressing truth and speaking candidly.
There is a great deal of truth at the heart of these different sides of Turner. Whether through his jokes, poetry, or relationships, he has become almost surprisingly honest and candid as he has grown and matured.
Seldner, who has watched Turner evolve these past four years, agrees that the root of his banter has changed. “His goal isn’t just to make people laugh anymore,” she says. While his humor remains, it serves a bigger purpose.
Perhaps growing up is not about having the right car or attending the right college, or even about becoming more serious and focused, as we are too often told. Perhaps the countless changes we undergo in this lifelong journey we call “growing up” are more about learning to find and speak our truths than learning how to pay taxes.
Graham Turner seems to have mastered the art of honesty. In the age of FOMO and social media, this is an impressive feat. Still the charmingly deadpan “funny guy” he has always been, throughout high school he has not only found his truth, but also the ability to share it. This is the truest mark of growing up.
Pictured, from left to right: sophomore (and friend) Andy Metzman and senior Graham Turner