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Akeel Blake Speech

Family is always there when you need them most – they are with me on turf, around the fence, in the air, and in the pit.

Akeel Blake was one of three students selected to speak on behalf of the Class of 2020 during the virtual Commencement ceremony.

Greetings, Mr. Reinhold, Overseers, Dr. Ford, Dr. Hughes, Mr. Burkhart, faculty and staff, and family and friends. I am Akeel Blake, a soon to be graduate of the William Penn Charter School. 

What is it that makes a family? What holds a family together? When most people think of family, they instinctively think of “blood” or “genetics.” Are these the things that hold a family together? I believe that family is more than just our common DNA.  

I was raised in a single-mother home by a mother who grew up without her parents. She literally had nothing, yet she would give the world to see me have everything. But I believe that the reason we cohere together is more than just our precious blood. Family is the bond that we have created, and also the pain. The pain my mother endured in childbirth flows towards happiness; 13 years later I would give her back joy when I won high jump on the track. There were nights when I would see my mom cry and say to myself, “I am gonna make her proud.” There were times when I would vow to not follow my older brother's footsteps in taking opportunities for granted. I took to heart all the brave stories about how you had to move countries on your own. How it was you vs. the world. All these emotions and memories are what make and hold a family.  

Throughout my years at Penn Charter, there were moments where I have found family through both the bonds and the pain. There were moments where I felt overwhelmed and pushed to my edge. Yet like most families, when they realize that you are at your lowest point, they wrap their arms around you to raise you higher. In eighth grade English, I legitimately thought I would fail, but Ms. Hamilton gave me hope by showing me that I could be my own person. In 10th grade when I tore my ACL and LCL and fractured my patella in the long jump pit, I couldn’t walk. My eyes were closed as I rolled around in excruciating pain – then I opened them.  When I looked around, Mr. Skelly held me like a child and beside me were Doc Bonnie and my teammates all lying down with me.  

Family is always there when you need them most – they are with me on turf, around the fence, in the air, and in the pit.  Penn Charter took my weaknesses and turned them into strengths. In 11th grade, I realized how valuable my writing in English could be to express my complex thoughts and ideas about family. I wrote this poem, entitled “Blood.”  

Blood. 
I never understood it at first. 
But the repetition and the emotions put into your words made it click. 
“I didn’t have any parents growing up.”
Scientifically, that is impossible because it takes a women and a man to have a child. 
Being sheltered growing up, all I could see was everything from one point of view. 
I thought to myself, every child has parents that take care of them. 
You told me to protect my family because it the only one I’ve got. 
This precious blood that hold us together wasn’t precious enough to hold your parents to you.
The famous phrase is “thick as blood,” but the only thing thick between you guys was the distance. 
But I believe the thing that makes your blood precious is the fact that you grown past all of it and hold no hatred. 
Your blood is precious because you still love them and would do anything for them even though they did nothing for you. 
I understand it now.
"You’re born into this world with one Mother and Father.”  

You see, we are born into this world with one mother and one father, but parents are only roots to their children. Like every other tree, that child will grow and expand its branches to make connections as a family. Penn Charter gave me the branches of friends, teachers and coaches. I thank you for accepting me into your family.

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Jeffrey Reinhold P '12, Clerk of Overseers
Noah Evans OPC '20
Vanessa Ewing OPC '20
Patrick Cannon OPC '20