Over the past week, our Mentor high school staff and alumni have been grieving the loss of a member of our graduating Class of 2006, Blake Slater.
Blake came to Mentor in September of 2002 and by the end of that Grade 9 year, he had discovered two passions. Mr. Sweeney has a way of convincing Grade 9 boys that they are rugby players and Blake, while not an imposing physical specimen back then, was one of them and he became a player and a student of the game. Blake’s other passion was ignited with Mr. Philbrook in the relatively-new Flight Club. Blake saw the excitement Mr. Philbrook displayed for flying and knew what he wanted to do with his life. Blake enrolled in Aircraft Business and Management at the University of Western Ontario and accepted a position with Trans-Guyana Airways after graduation. Blake and a co-worker died last Saturday morning when his plane crashed within minutes of takeoff in a dense forest in Guyana.
Last night, some of Blake’s friends and former teachers met at The Brogue and in talking to the group, it became very apparent that they love each other very much, they cherish the memories that they have shared (and continue to share) with each other, and that our school will always be part of their lives. Blake is one of a half-dozen graduates who has gone on to study aviation and/or become a pilot after catching the flying bug through the Flight Club. One of the young men with whom I spoke is getting married this summer and even 8 years after graduation, he still has a strong enough connection to the school that all of his groomsmen were Mentor rugby teammates. Of the 20 alumni at the gathering, I remember them in Grade 9 (and earlier) and wondering (along with their parents) “what will become of this kid?”. Rest assured parents, your kids will figure out their place in the world and last night’s group of formerly awkward/geeky/unfocused Grade 9s now include doctors, bankers, entrepreneurs, financial analysts, real estate investors, teachers and MBA/doctorate/medical students. When he graduated, Blake gave Mr. Sweeney a rugby photo and on the back he thanked his coach for “seeing something in a skinny little Grade 9 kid that I didn’t know I had within me”. The truth is that, as educators, we get just as much satisfaction out of seeing these transformations as the students and their parents do.
Blake’s mom said yesterday that “we all know that Blake loved to fly and that is what he did – he was in his element.” It was way too soon for him to leave us but I am glad that we were able to give him the opportunity to find where his “element” was and that we were at least a small part of forming and cultivating the friendships with classmates and teammates that his friends now need.
Mentor College/TEAM School