One student’s ever-changing world

Senior Jacob Selvidge author of his own future in his changing world


Wyatt Anderson

Senior Jacob Selvidge defines his own kind of success. Despite circumstances, Selvidge’s multitude of experiences have aided him in developing his skills and talents.

With a humble smile, Jacob Selvidge admits his strongest virtue is his ability to adapt. This virtue helps him in numerous endeavors throughout his life.

Being a senior, a speech and debate state champion, member of the jazz choir, director of  a theatrical one act, and an actor himself, Selvidge always has a lot on his plate, and his ability to tailor to his ever-changing environment allows him to tackle what lies ahead.

However, Selvidge did not gain this character trait without tragedy.

Originally from the town of Dickson, Tenn., as a middle-schooler, Selvidge left his home in search of a better life.

“I left home when I was 13,” he said. “From the time I was 13 up until the time I was 17, I was just living with friends and bouncing around wherever I could.”

That lasted until December of 2017 when his father – 72 – passed away. His mother was gone as well, but he didn’t learn of his father’s passing until one day at Dickson High School.

When “my dad died,” he explained, “officials realized I wasn’t living at home and they found me because I was still going to school…I was going to go into foster care at that point, but I was already 17 and had been living on my own.”

At his father’s funeral, however, a new door opened. He had relatives that lived in Arizona – a half-brother who has his own family – who offered to help him start over in the desert, so he took them up on their proposal.

Selvidge saw the move as an opportunity to leave home and start a new life. “I don’t miss [Dickson] at all, not even slightly,” he said, “I definitely like this place better.”

He used every chance it presented to him, such as on the first day he came to PHS he auditioned and was cast in Curious Savage.

This was only the beginning of Selvidge’s acting career with Perry. This year he starred as Ken De La Maize in The Musical Comedy Murder of 1940, directed his own senior one act, which was a scary success, and is starring as Donkey in the upcoming Shrek the Musical.

English teacher and director of The Musical Comedy Murder of 1940 Shelley Lee explains why Selvidge can capture the audience’s eye so well,

“I think because Jacob has endured some hardships that are not very common to kids his age he has a unique and innate understanding of the human condition, which makes him much more easily able to tap into emotions of a variety of characters,” she said.

Seeing his performance on stage, debate coach Jim Fountain sought out Selvidge and picked him up believing that his talents could take him far. At Dickson, Selvidge excelled in dramatic interpretation – which is acting-focused as opposed to on-the-spot debating – on their debate team; something he has mastered since coming to Perry. As a sophomore, Selvidge won the Tennessee state championship but did not compete in nationals.

“I have coached a lot of people to nationals for dramatic interpretations and I’m hopeful that he will qualify to nationals,” Fountain states. “He is that good.”

Selvidge has been busy this year, already competing in three competitions and placing first at two of them, most recently at the Wildcat Cup in Tucson. Those are only some of his wins, he also has won 12 other tournaments, one of which being state his sophomore year. This experience coupled with his accomplished theatre career is the reason Selvidge and his coaches believe he can win state and go onto nationals.

As for people who have shaped him at PHS, Selvidge said teachers Randy Duren, Jameson Staley and Lee have been strong inspirations.

A writer, actor and musician, Selvidge hopes to attend art or film school in California after graduation. In the time-being, however, he is looking to competing on the national stage for debate to end his high school career.