On October 6th, 2009 the subject line on the listservs of The Oregon Assembly of Black Affairs and GetInvolvedWithJeffSchools read, “Black Student in Serious Need.” The email states, This Fall a Black, male student/athlete left Portland to attend college on a full ride academic scholarship at a prestigious university on the East coast.
With the exception of a college visit, this is his first time ever being away from home. Without going into details, he is having an extremely difficult time. He reports not fitting into his new environment; he lacks funds, is being ridiculed and is experiencing overwhelming loneliness. Being in a majority white environment, he feels no one at his school can relate to his experience. Outside of attending class and sports practice, he remains in his dorm. He seeks assistance with acquiring the following and he thanks everyone willing to help him out during this most difficult time… At the time, the name of this student was not disclosed. Yet, the support poured in. Charlene McGee, Patricia Welch, Sarah Bailen Smith, Rev. John Garlington and a host of others helped this young brotha’ out. Well, BeautifulBlackPortland caught up with this student. His name is Anthony Blake. We are happy to report Anthony is doing well, very well. He weathered the storms and currently studies law at Lewis and Clark. We are so proud of this fine young man and even prouder of the community who stepped up to help what was then a complete stranger. We give you, the talented Anthony Blake.
Hey Anthony! How are you? It’s nice to have this time with you…
Hello, I’m good. I apologize for not responding sooner. I have been extremely busy. Trying to find a legal job for your first summer of law school is a challenge.
Anthony, you’ve always been an academic superstar, to what/whom do you credit your academic success?
I attribute my early success to my mother. Education was always her number one priority for me as a child. In her mind it was always school first then sports. However, I’ve always maintained a strict schedule. I try to put all of my school stuff first so I can relax later. You don’t have to worry about your homework if you’ve already done it.
After graduating from Jesuit High School, you attended a prestigious, private university, is this correct? You didn’t have the experience you hoped for–do you care to share that experience and why you decided to return to Oregon and attend the University of Oregon?
I am a very independent person. The school I began my college career at was outstanding academically but the student population was too small for me. The culture and environment wasn’t one that made me feel like I would grow as a person. I knew I could become successful and further my education at a number of schools. I felt like I could succeed wherever I was and I didn’t want to settle for the school that didn’t feel right. I transferred to the University of Oregon and I’ve never looked back.
What did that experience teach you? What advice would you give other college students in a similar situation?
The experience taught me that adversity will either make or break you. How you respond is truly the key to it all. Optimism is always needed when you’re making a choice for your future. If you don’t believe in yourself, how do you expect to accomplish your goals? College usually involves 2-5 hours of class a day. That means much of your time will be spent growing and making your own decisions. Make sure the other 19-22 hours of the day are at a school that makes you proud in the future.
During this time, a community call went out about a college student in need of help. Complete strangers responded with alacrity. To date, these folks have no idea you are the student they looked out for. How did it feel to receive so much love? Is there anything you want to say to these folks now that you are a Student of Law at Lewis and Clark?
At the time, I didn’t understand the significance of the help given. I was thankful but I don’t think I realized how fortunate I was at that moment. Once time passed I was able to see just how fortunate I was to have those people help me out. I’d like to thank the people who reached out to me. Those words of encouragement let me know everything would be okay.
Speaking of your college career, how are things going at L&C?
Law school is great. I enjoy the challenge each day. It is a lot harder than undergraduate but I already feel like a smarter person and it hasn’t even been a full school year.
What is your area of focus? Will you remain in Portland? Why or why not?
I am drawn to business related law. I like the idea of someday giving businesses legal advice. However, at the moment I am really leaning towards being a business litigator. I love speaking and competing in front of an audience. I plan on staying in Portland. It is my job to provide hope for others. I’m accomplishing my goals each day but nothing is more important than providing hope for people just like me. Portland shaped me into the young man I am today. If there is something about your city that you don’t like you should try to change it rather than simply move to a new city.
What words of wisdom relative to academic success, setting goals and overcoming would you share with a student reading this post?
Don’t let your failures define you. I’ve made plenty of mistakes but I always try to learn and move forward. If you’re honest with yourself the opinions of others won’t matter. Part of knocking down obstacles is realizing what your weaknesses are. I have a fear of not reaching my full potential. Don’t live your life comparing yourself to someone else. Try to be the best you. Each of us literally has something unique to offer the world so it’s our job to master the gifts we have. Figure out what you have to give to the world and embrace it regardless of what anyone says.