Kentlake High School senior Jayke Chavez has embraced the diversity in the Kent School District, emerging as a leader among his peers.
Home-schooled until he was in fifth grade, Chavez had to overcome culture shock upon entering the public school system.
“When you are home-schooled you are really sheltered,” Chavez said. “Going into public school you meet a lot of new people. … You get to see and experience a lot of different cultures. I really wasn’t able to adapt to all of that until I got a little bit older and got to understand things and really be interested in other cultures.”
Chavez graduates along with his classmates June 17 at the ShoWare Center.
While at Kentlake, Chavez has been active in the school’s diversity council.
“We just talk about things, basically how can we get kids to know a little more about different ethnic groups and different stuff ethnic groups deal with in school,” he said.
Growing up as a Mexican-American in a primarily white society, Chavez had to overcome racial inequality.
“At first, I didn’t really understand a lot of things I would be called or other people would be called …,” he said. “As I grew older, I realized no one should be called that and no one should be treated differently because of the color of their skin. We should all be treated equally, everyone should have an equal opportunity to be successful or to try to be successful.
“I try to stay away from people who are going try to look down on me because of the color of my skin. … What they want is to get a reaction out of me, so I am just going to leave it alone,” Chavez said. “With the climate that is going on and our presidential change now, I try to mingle among other people, and I have them follow the way I lead by example. If someone says something racially that is negative, let it be. Walk away. They are ignorant. They don’t know what they are talking about. You’re a better person. Be a better person than them.”
Chavez was one of a handful of students chosen by Principal Joe Potts to represent Kentlake on the Superintendent’s Advisory Board for the past two years. The board meets monthly with Superintendent Calvin Watts to discuss issues at the schools.
“He really values our opinions,” Chavez said of Watts. “He will always ask us if there is something that you guys want to talk about or something we need to change within our schools. If something is going on that we need to fix, I can tell him, and he will be able to try to do something about it.”
One of the highlights of his high school career, Chavez said, was helping lead Kentlake to the state baseball title game at Safeco Field on May 27, despite losing the championship to Puyallup 3-2.
“Being able to play on that field was one of the greatest things of my life,” said Chavez, who co-captained the team with Caleb Jaime. “Just being able to stand out there, it is every kid’s dream, and I was able to live it. No one expected us to get there, so we really embraced it.”
Chavez started playing baseball when he was 4, following in the footsteps of older brother A.J., who graduated from Kentwood High in 2011. Chavez’s younger brother, 9-year-old Jett, also plays baseball. Chavez also has a sister, Summer, a freshman at Kentwood.
“I was able to watch my older brother play at Safeco back in his day when they played there for Kentwood, and now my little brother is able to watch me play, so it is pretty cool,” Chavez said.
The center fielder plans to play baseball next year at Big Bend Community College in Moses Lake. While he hasn’t decided on a major, Chavez said he’s interested in a career in business.