Vick's next role: Commencement speaker

Posted: May 17, 2011

Michael Vick, whose high school refused to rehang his old football jersey, will speak to graduating students in Philadelphia who have struggled with academics or behavior problems.

Students who attend the alternative Camelot schools proposed inviting the Eagles starting quarterback, who spent 18 months in federal prison on racketeering charges related to a Virginia dogfighting operation. Edged out were Mayor Nutter and Arlene Ackerman, superintendent of the city's public schools.

Camelot staff considered the possibility of controversy around the decision, said Todd Bock, president and chief executive officer of Camelot.

"But at the end of the day, we think that Michael Vick will have the most impact on our students," he said.

About 450 students are expected to graduate at the ceremony next month at the Kimmel Center.

The Philadelphia School District contracts with Camelot, a private company, to oversee two disciplinary schools, three accelerated academies for students on the verge of dropping out, and a special school for students in need of therapeutic services. Graduates of all those programs will attend the ceremony.

Bock said Vick has overcome much adversity over the last several years and has persevered - and that's a very appropriate message for Camelot graduates.

"If there's one attitude I could give our kids when they leave the Camelot program, it's to persevere," Bock said.

Bock declined to disclose the date of next month's graduation, hoping to reduce the chance of protests.

Demonstrations for and against Vick have generally been small. Protesters - pro and con - rallied at Lincoln Financial Field before Vick's first home game in late August 2009. A group also showed up in Baltimore in March 2010 to object to Vick's being named the Eagles' winner of the Ed Block Courage Award.

During his tenure with the Eagles, Vick has spoken out against dogfighting to students around the country at events coordinated with the Humane Society of the United States.

Vick and the society also recently decried a dogfighting app called Dog Wars.

Last season, he played so well that he quickly became the Eagles starting quarterback and wound up a top candidate for league MVP.

Vick was the star quarterback at Warwick High School in Newport News, Va., in the late '90s, but after his 2007 felony conviction, the school took down his jersey.

Earlier this year, despite a Facebook campaign by students, Newport News Public Schools said no to displaying it again.

Contact staff writer Susan Snyder at 215-854-4693


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