Friday, June 10, 2011
Posted: 7:52 p.m.
By Joe McIntyre
The Kimmel Center more resembled a football game than a graduation.
Complete with whistles and air horns, wild cheers and even a round of boos, it was the day nearly 450 graduates had been waiting for.
Not only were they graduating from one of Camelot Schools five Philadelphia high schools on Friday, but Michael Vick was giving the commencement address.
Camelots schools are either for over-age students who have fallen at least two grades behind or have dropped out, or for students who have been expelled for behavioral issues from their mainstream schools.
Each one of the students, even at a young age, had been given a second chance at life, a second chance to go to high school and perhaps go to college.
And who better to address such students than the Eagles quarterback, the spokesman for second chances.
I think God is using me as an example to the youth, to these kids who are ambitious and want certain things in life, Vick said.
Sometimes they may fall or there may be hurdles or obstacles they have to overcome, but looking at my situation and seeing first hand, they know and have the confidence to go out and do it right.
Vicks rise, fall and rise again has been well publicized, but what these students had gone through in their lives before making a change is often ignored, often looked over as just another sad story in a long list of the troubled Philadelphia youth.
It shouldnt be that way, though, Vick said.
What these students have accomplished is even inspiring to Vick. Theyve been through the toughest of situations and have turned their lives around. They know what they want to do with their lives, whether that be attending college or another career venture, they have direction. They have goals. Something they didnt have not too long ago.
Everything in life happens in phases and stages, and I think that they understand that, Vick said. If they practice patience and persistence, then itll all work out for them.
Vick went from a Pro Bowler with the Atlanta Falcons, complete with endorsement deals and multi-million dollar contracts to prison inmate for his involvement in dogfighting and then back again.
He didnt understand the concept of being a role model years ago, he said, but to be given the opportunity to speak to students in situations similar to his only a short while ago and to see the look in their eyes, the attention they gave him, truly meant a lot.
He realized hes not only a role model for the youth in the Philadelphia area, but for anyone facing adversity at any age anywhere, so Vick continues to try to preach the message that if they continue to believe in themselves, they can overcome even the worst of circumstances.
Whats the next step? Whats the next chapter? And how you going to plan on getting there? Vick said he asked of the students.
Theres certain things you tell them that if they listen, then its all good. But at the same time, they have to know within their lives what they want to do, and Im just here to provide encouragement.
Friday evening was the first commencement address Vick had ever given and though he admitted he was even more nervous for the speech than a football game, the students and parents didnt seem to notice or care.
As you have chosen me, I have chosen you, Vick said to the crowd. I have chosen you to succeed, and I believe in you.
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