Eighteen-year-old Excel High School graduate Quantae Blakey loved English and Science, but beyond academics learned how to persist with dignity in less-than-ideal circumstances. He moved to South Boston from Lynn to live with his father three years ago and has had more adjustments than many adults know in a lifetime. He quickly named at least seven places he lived, including family shelters and with relatives.

“Graduation is something I wanted to do for my dad, Derick Blakey,” he said. He also knows it may help his future. “I love to cook, so I hope something like that can work out. Not so much customer service, but the culinary arts part is one of my goals.”

“I’ve been isolated most of my life,” said Quantae. “I did have friends in Lynn so initially I didn’t want to come to Boston, and here it was just me and my dad, but I got used to it.  The school wasn’t the best or worst. There are some amazing staff and teachers there, but it’s chaotic, and kids pull fire alarms and then everyone deals with that,” he said with a sense of resignation. “I deal with it by staying to myself. I used to play basketball and football when I was younger but didn’t here.”

Quantae observes closely and comments thoughtfully. “I didn’t have much guidance at all growing up, my mom had her own issues,  so I learned to rely on myself and keep a steady mind-set.” He also experienced a number of loses in his family and has concluded that “life is difficult,” but he looks for “lessons.”

Quantae became involved with the Youth Advisory Board at Spoke Gallery, in South Boston that was developed to build community and artistic leadership. He remembers liking to free- draw when he was younger, but hasn’t been involved in the arts since, until now.

“To be honest, it was the money that appealed to me first. A friend told me about it.” he said referring to the stipends offered to students. “But it’s a community. A bunch of lives and stories coming together. It could be like a family. It’s supportive,” he said. “Charles, Autumn, and Richie are getting to know me, and we can talk about art and ourselves. It’s good. I think I will stick with it for another year.” 

Quantae Blakey articulates his values clearly and without hesitation.

“What is important to me is self-respect, respect for others, and having morals. I know my limits and I want to understand myself and others. I know how to treat people,” he said softly but surely. “I was depressed and angry at fifteen-sixteen, and never asked for help,” he adds.

His goals are not unlike many new high school graduates. “I want to work in culinary arts or the trades,” he said.” My long, long-range goals is to get a home, and if I have the right woman, to be a dad. Those are long term. Right now, I need to get my ID and get a good job.”

Quantae Blakey may have had to go it alone early, but he now has a community joining his family. There is ample reason to believe that the next article may well be about his success in an area of one of his many talents.

Congratulations, Quantae! Your community is proud of you.

(If you know of others graduates you would like to see in this column, please contact carolhardt@comcast.net)