October 7, 2020: Jakiya’s Gift
Jakiya’s success is the culmination of a long journey, marked by plenty of hard work. (His 4.0 high school GPA probably didn’t hurt either.)
I spoke to Jakiya last week via phone for an update after his first month of college:
“At night sometimes I sit back in my dorm and reflect on the things I’ve been through. I’ve been homeless for half of my life. I know how it feels to not know where your next meal will come from, to sleep on concrete, and to go weeks without a shower because you don’t have access to one.”
“People may look at my situation now and say ‘He’s lucky‘,” Jakiya told me. “But honestly, I don’t believe in luck anymore. I believe in hard work. I remember being told to my face…You’ll never be able to compete again. But I stand here today as a college athlete.”
One with enormous potential.
“From Day 1, Jakiya showed a very strong work ethic. I saw clearly that if he kept completing the necessary tasks so that he could run, there was no limit to what he could achieve.”
We saw his development as a runner firsthand here at CHNO, placing second in our Arts & Hearts 5K and at the top of his age group in the Crescent City Classic (one of the oldest 10k races in the nation).
“When I first met Jakiya in December, 2018—it’s crazy. I didn’t know of his athletic talent initially. We bonded in large part because we both lost our mothers at an early age. But as our relationship developed—after a month—he let me know he was pursuing a Track-and-Field scholarship. That’s when I started working with him from a coaching background, and we both started seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Moses was the one who drove Jakiya from New Orleans to West Palm Beach. He’s the one who checks in every week (sometimes a few times a week) to make sure Jakiya’s transition to college life is going well. To keep him mindful of responsibilities and his academic load. To care for him. Jakiya told me he “thinks of Mr. Moses as the father I never had.”
“His coach at Keiser University has raved about Jakiya’s thoroughness, discipline and prompt nature. I would just add that he also has a cheerful disposition and deep sense of humility.”
We at Covenant House strongly believe that Jakiya will become a world-class runner. Why not? Like with all of our youth, his potential is limitless.
Permenter talks of Jakiya’s early success since starting school:
“With proper coaching and dedication to his craft…I can see him competing in the Olympics. Just in the few weeks he’s been at Keiser U., he’s dropped his mile-speed from 5 minutes to 4:48. Un-freaking-believable.”
“I’m trying to break a generational curse, and I’ve become the first member of my family to ever touch a university campus. But this is only the beginning. I want to also say that none of this would be possible without faith and daily prayer to God.”
“I always tell Jakiya I can see him as someone who might one day have his picture on front of the Wheaties box. He has every good chance of competing in the Olympics. That’s his dream, his #1 goal, and he has the tools, the support, and the guidance to realize this.”
“I always remind myself that nothing great ever came easily. It doesn’t. But don’t be surprised when you see me on TV. To the world I say: I can, I will, I must.“