Tyreck Kelly: “I’m different”


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Tyreck Kelly with Major Jean-Andre Parmiter and Chief Doris Sullivan.

TOWAMENCIN- Amiable senior Tyreck Kelly rocks an edgy style and seems to have it all, but he comes from humble beginnings. After traveling extensively, originally living in his home country of Jamaica and then in the United States in two different states, Kelly has managed to bring his positivity and Caribbean culture with him throughout his travels. All the while, he has made himself a popular figure here at North Penn.

The Humble Beginnings

Kelly was born in Kingston, Jamaica and was raised in Clarendon Parish, which is located on the south side of Jamaica, until he was 12 years old. His parents departed for America a few years before he did, so Kelly lived with his grandmother until his mother was stable enough to bring him and his sister to the United States. Soon afterwards Kelly and his little sister, Kamae, boarded a plane that would bring them to a new life of opportunity.

The transition to American life took an early toll on him. It did not help that he relocated to rural Pine Plains, New York.

“Coming to America I saw new people that I never saw before. I had never seen a caucasian person before I came here,” shared Kelly.

Before he departed for America, he was in sixth grade. In Jamaica, after a student completes the sixth grade he immediately goes to high school. There was a fear that he would have to repeat the sixth grade because he was not old enough to take Grade Six Achievement Tests (GSAT), a test that allows a student to move into high school. However, he was presented with the opportunity to go to school in America and when registering for school in New York, his outstanding academics allowed him to continue into seventh grade.

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With big dreams, senior Tyreck Kelly pushes himself to aim for success. His display of achievements reflect his work ethic.

“It’s really different because I was in the middle of nowhere. There weren’t stores close by that you could just walk to. You had to drive at least twenty minutes to get to the closest Walmart. It was really like in the countryside and there were not a lot of African-Americans in the country, so being an African-American in the all white school I use to go to, was kind of difficult. Coming into America as a Jamaican, I used to get bullied,” shared Kelly.

“I was new to the culture and everything else so it was really hard. I was one of the only black kids there so all the white kids used to pick on me, but I didn’t let that get to me I just did what I had to do and kept it going,” Kelly shared.

Though he was only in New York for two years, his impact was felt. Kelly and his stepfather, Jefrey Blake, started an annual Martin Luther King Math Club Competition for students in the Bronx. Despite his move to Pennsylvania, he goes back every year to motivate those kids and demonstrate the power of education.

Every Martin Luther King Day, Kelly and his step-father go back to New York and host the competition.

“The math competition is to take kids that are in bad schools and give them opportunities. It’s to take kids living in poverty and give them an opportunity to shine. At the end of each top three kids get an award that varies from a laptop or a computer, games, all that stuff, and the top ten kids get trophies and everyone else gets certificates. They let everybody feel as if they’re winners so nobody leaves empty handed,” shared Kelly.

Coming from humble beginnings himself, Kelly knows the importance of opportunity on an individual’s success.

Kelly’s stepfather has been an influential model in his life. He aspires to follow in his footsteps.

“If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be here [in America] and where I am now. I am now an honors student. If I was doing other things, hanging with the wrong crowd as I was before I met him, then I probably wouldn’t be who I am today,” shared Kelly.

A look to the future

Because his step-father is in the military, they expect to relocate every three years. In fact they are expected to move to Florida after Kelly graduates. Though traveling often has its negative effects, watching his step-father work has played a part in shaping his own future.

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Tyreck Kelly poses in his uniform.

“The plan after high school is to join the military. Yes, [my step-dad] has spoken to me about joining the military and the benefits that I have, which I really think those benefits I can take advantage of and really use them to the best of my ability to really put me on my feet and give me a head start for my career,” shared Kelly.

“My future goal is to be a speaker and an entrepreneur. That’s one of my major goals. Starting my career off by going into the military would probably be a good jump-start for me,” said Kelly.

Other families have also played a part in shaping his future.

“One of my close cousins was in the military and he liked it, and I see where he is now in life and I feel like it looks really good. He comes out…he’s really on his feet…he can really get around and has a good job now so there are a lot of benefits to the military. The military they could pay for my college, medical bills, etc,” Kelly explained.

He plans to study business finance and communications. Though he is uncertain of what lies ahead, he plans to continue his studies while he’s in the military.

“I want to send myself to college, and I just want to be responsible for myself. I’ve depended on my parents long enough until the 12th grade, so after that I feel like they have done enough for me and now it’s time for me to help myself. If I get to that point of rags to riches, I can probably help them out,” Kelly said.

Police officer, emergency services (EMS), fireman, secret service, and entrepreneur is also in his list of potential future careers.

“I see him being in a career where he does help people in some way, shape, or form. I see him being an effective leader, entrepreneur, whatever it is, I know he’s going to be a positive role model for whoever he comes in contact with,” explained 11th Grade Acting Assistant Principal and AAAC adviser, Dr. Marjorie Diegue.

His main goal is to enjoy whatever occupation he takes on.

“I just like helping people. I always want to be happy, and I want to make other people happy. It’s all about the positive vibes and positive energy. Me doing good things, that’s what makes me happy. So working for services like these and helping other people, that’s where I want to start my career” shared Kelly.

A knight serving the castle

With hopes of pursuing a career in the armed forces and the business world, it is beneficial that he started his training at North Penn. Kelly, an honor roll student, has taken JROTC courses since his sophomore year and he takes business administration.  He works in the color guard section of the JROTC. His role is to make sure all the equipment is ready to go when cadets are about to do the pledge or national anthem.

America is a melting pot of many different ethnicities and cultures. It’s most prominent effects can be seen in public high schools like North Penn. North Penn often resembles a microcosm of the United Nations; people of many ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds working together side by side in order to achieve success. One of Kelly’s first acts at North Penn was joining the African American Awareness Club (AAAC) in order to learn more about the African-American experience and culture. Kelly would learn that the Caribbean experience was one quite different from the African-American experience.

“Coming into America I still had that Jamaican culture. I didn’t know a lot of things I didn’t speak (American English) properly. I had my Jamaican accent and my brother taught me how to speak proper English and how to do certain things to get around and talk to people,” said Kelly.

Sierrah Edwards
Tyreck Kelly and the rest of the African American Awareness Club executive board members show off their outstanding achievements granted by the school board.

Now, in his third year in the club, he is a AAAC executive board member who helps to lead and empower students.

“As an executive board member what I plan to accomplish is to let everybody see what is really happening in this world and how things are changing and what we could possibly do to change these things and make this world a better place where there is equality and better communication because right now we are in a world where people are full of hate,” shared Kelly.

Now an expert at communicating, Kelly uses his talents to help others in similar situations. He devotes his time to serving his community, and he participates in a mentorship program, which he was introduced to by Dr. Diegue, at Hatfield Elementary.

Dr. Diegue commented on why she chose Kelly to take on this role, “A couple years ago the counselor at the elementary level said that she had a young man who she felt was having some issues at home and needed a positive, older male mentor. I immediately thought of Tyreck because I think he works well with little kids, I think he’s patient, and I think he’s also had his fair share of things that he’s overcome in life, and I thought that he’d be a great role model for this little kid,” shared Diegue.

Kelly, who has had similar issues in the past with his biological father, did for the student what his step-father had to do for him: teach him how to be a man. Kelly’s time with the student was spent teaching him right from wrong and motivating him to achieve future success.

“They ended up getting along so well to the point where just mentioning Tyreck’s name to the kid made him shape up, do what he needed to do, and become super excited. When the student moved we were so disappointed, but even to this day that student reaches out and asks about Tyreck and how Tyreck’s doing and if Tyreck can visit,” shared Diegue.

Everywhere Kelly goes, his energy is felt. One of the most prominent places is in the gymnasium at school pep rallies, games, and events. This school year, he became The Knight, North Penn’s school mascot. The position was offered to him by health and physical education teacher, Mrs. Kristen Panaski.

“I was happy to be the mascot just because I am a very energetic kind of person. I feel like it’s really an opportunity to show off my goofiness and cheer my school on,” shared Kelly.

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Tyreck Kelly and principal Dr. Todd Bauer posing together for a picture. Bauer is just one of many North Penn staff members who have had a positive impact on Kelly’s life.

Kelly makes it his mission every day to make at least one person smile. His name is often found on the digital billboard outside of the high school, honoring him, and other “Knights of Chivalry” for their chivalrous actions within the school.

“It’s all about school pride and participating in school activities and really showing love for my school. I love North Penn. It’s a great school and there are a lot of opportunities here. Being the mascot really helps pump up the crowd and helps [students] have that North Penn spirit,” shared Kelly.

Kelly’s catchphrase is “I’m different,” a statement that can be heard after school as Kelly takes part in his extracurriculars.

“I try to tell everyone to be different. Be yourself. My favorite quote is to say ‘I’m different’. Don’t feel as if you have to be like everybody else and follow the crowd. Be yourself. Be independent. Don’t worry about what the other man is doing over there. Follow the road and the path to your success,” shared Kelly.