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NAJEE’S NOTES: Blake Shepherd is accepted to MIT

By Najee Ali

Contributing Writer

Good news from South Los Angeles. Our part of the city usually only hears negative news reports of young black males who often are depicted as gang members, drug dealers and criminals in the media.

The reality is that there are many upstanding young men and women of color who are doing amazing things in the classroom and in our community, but whose achievements are always overlooked.

That narrative must change. We should highlight and give coverage to our young people who are doing the best they can despite obstacles they must overcome in their personal lives, at home and in a community that has several gangs throughout South L.A that our young people have to navigate through just to get home safely .

That’s why I hope to use my blog to share and lift up young people who deserve support. That’s why I have selected Blake Shepherd as the “Najee Notes” student-athlete of the year.

Shepherd was recently accepted to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a major in mechanical engineering with a focus on aerospace.

Shepherd is an inner-city youth who has fought against the odds. Being raised by his dad after his parents divorced, he became involved in sports at an early age. He thrived as a track star in the 100- and 200-meter races, receiving various championship awards and became a Junior Olympic champion until he suffered major injuries in high school.

Presently, Shepherd is a senior at Cathedral College Prep High School in Los Angeles. Blake went six straight semesters with straight A’s in the rigorous Math & Science Academy.

There are more than 30,000 applicants to become a Questbrige Scholar, one of the most sought after and prestigious scholarships in the nation. From that initial list, they narrowed it down to 6,500 finalists. After careful review, they narrowed it down to 1,044 and MIT chose 10 applicants. Shepherd was one of them.

He also is the lead anchor of his school’s “Good Morning Phantoms CHS News.” After school he gives back by teaching classes at his school and on Friday tutoring homeless youth at the Skid Row Learning Center. All this while maintaining a 4.86 grade point average.

Shepherd represents the best of our youth from South L.A. So our community should continue to lift him up with support and encouragement and let him know how proud we are of him. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the great work Blake’s dad, Robert Shepherd, has done as a single dad raising his son to be a scholar. Our community has a living real life hero’s walking amongst us we should be grateful. Thank you Robert and Blake for representing the best of South Los Angeles and giving back to our community.


The rumors are officially out in the public arena. What had been whispered quietly the last few weeks among political activists is now in the public square. L.A. City Council President Herb Wesson is indeed going to run for Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’ seat on the Board of Supervisors in 2020.

Ridley-Thomas will have to vacate his seat due to term limits, and has no desire to leave public service yet and will run for Wesson’s seat on the City Council. Popular civic leader Grace Yoo has already declared her candidacy for the 10th District council seat.

Former Councilwoman Jan Perry, who I chatted with last week, has confirmed that she is a candidate for the L.A. County Board of Supervisors as well. I haven’t heard from State Sen. Holly Mitchell, who would be a formidable challenger for any seat she decided to run for.

The rumor mill also includes Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer, and former State Sen. Isadore Hall as potential city council challengers against Ridley-Thomas.

All I know is once the dust is settled and the election battle begins this will be a true battle royal resembling the fight that Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke put up against Rep. Diane Watson in 1992 to win a seat on the Board of Supervisors.

This upcoming battle is something we haven’t seen in decades.

For news tips, email or follow me on Twitter@Najeeali.