The Curious Case of Cameron Clarke
Two Philadelphia-area high schools have two high-scoring talents, but one's name is barely mentioned
The views expressed in this Op-Ed do not necessarily reflect those of Loop 21.
If you were to walk the streets of Philadelphia lately, you'd probably have a hard time finding a smile. In the sports world, their beloved Eagles finished in last place and Andrew Bynum, the style-challenged, All-Star center the Sixers traded half their team for, has yet to play a basketball game this season because of injury. Citywide, their education system is failing with one of the highest dropout rates in the country. Not to mention that nearly half of the students in city schools can't read or do math at grade level.
Buried under that despair though are two Philly-area high school seniors who are giving the city a glimmer of hope.
Roberts Vaux High School senior Rysheed Jordan has the city buzzing as he is set to decide what college he plans to go to next fall. Jordan is a 6'3, 185-pound point guard who is currently ranked as the 66th best player on ESPN's top 100 high school recruit list. Every time you open the paper to read about him he's scoring 20 or more points a game. USA Today was so impressed with his skills that they produced a customized highlight reel of him passing the ball.
If the NBA didn't set a rule saying that high schoolers have to at least spent one year out of school before becoming eligible, he'd probably make the jump straight to the pros. But since he can't, he's deciding between St. John's University, UCLA or the hometown Temple University.
Information on Jordan's GPA isn't as readily available as his game stats are, but we can say this about him, he's not a man of many words:
[Also Read: Loop 21's 2012 Education Special]
About 35 minutes north, there is another star student known for his high scoring ability.
Cameron Clarke, a senior at Germantown Academy, scored a perfect 2400 on the SAT this year. He is just one of 360 students in the entire country to achieve the feat and one of just two in the Philadelphia area to do so. This score comes on his second time taking the SAT, the first time he took it he scored a just-under-perfect 2190, which still had him ranked ahead of nearly 99 percent of all other test takers.
The only place that Clarke's name appeared initially was in the Philadelphia Inquirer before other outlets aggregated the story on him. In addition to his SAT score, Clarke also writes for the school paper, participates in a math club, tutors other students, is a senator in his school's student government, has run cross country and is also a principal cellist for the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra. Clarke's dream school to attend is Princeton University.
Clarke, according to his parents, is also not a man of many words.
“[Cameron] really didn’t want anyone to know about his score, so he didn’t tell anyone at Germantown Academy about it when he got the result in June," says Clarke's father Peter.
Hell, even in the original news piece on him, Clarke is barely quoted himself.
"I just feel like on that particular day, I was focused and I got kind of lucky, I guess, that I didn't make any mistakes," he says.
We're not assuming anything about either kid, we can only go off of what we've read. But, it hasn't been made clear if Clarke is even planning on going to his dream school, or if he even has the resources to. His father is a manager at a popular Jamaican restaurant on the nice part of town, while his mother is a Spanish teacher at a Catholic school in Northeast Philly. Tuition at Princeton exceeds $35,000 a year. While we'd like to hope that Clarke will be receiving some kind of scholarship to reward his hard work, we haven't seen any reports of such a gift. Him wanting to keep his perfect SAT score a secret from everybody, even his own teachers, probably isn't the most effect campaign strategy to get one either.
[Also Read: Dumb Jocks: HS's Lowering GPAs for Athletes?]
Jordan on the other hand has schools begging him to come. At the height of his recruitment this year, Jordan had at least 16 Division I colleges interested in him, with seven offering him full scholarships. As the deadline to commit draws near, Jordan has whittled his list of suitors down to three. No matter which one he chooses, Jordan will be afforded a chance to receive a good education, free of charge. And there's no guarantee that he will even stay to finish if his basketball talents can get him to the pros sooner than later.
Clarke's modesty and avoidance of the spotlight has been interpreted as both noble, and needed. While he has been called a "rockstar of academia" he behaves as anything but. Googling his name doesn't lead to any particular twitter or Facebook page with him boasting about how smart he is. Scholars like Dr. Owen Knox, Ph.D, founder of Los Angeles’ Council of Black Administrators, says that students like Clarke shouldn't be viewed as an exception anyway and hopes that instances like his become the standard.
Jordan couldn't avoid the spotlight if he tried. Cameras have been following him for the last two years and he has at least 60 different YouTube "highlight" videos of him nailing 3-pointers and dunking on opponents. As far as modesty? Well, he's nicknamed himself "Black Jesus" on Twitter. You can't be too humble naming yourself after the messiah.
In a country where you're prone to hear more bad news about a young black man than good news, both Jordan and Clarke's accomplishments deserve to be highlighted. But, both of their stories make us take a look at how our community views and celebrates success.
As soon as someone finds out how high they can jump, athlete's have the red carpet rolled out for them. Being the smartest kid in class? Not so much. The fact there are probably more people who know Rysheed Jordan's name than Cameron Clarke's is a testament to what is celebrated more in our community. While we don't know if Clarke's insisting on keeping his smarts a secret is a product of his own modesty or embarrassment, it is a shame that a story like his is often overlooked.
While both young men appear to be on paths towards greatness, let's all hope that each of their journey's, and ones similar to it will receive equal amounts of attention and accolades. Beyond that, let's applaud both Jordan and Clarke for being bright spots in Philadelphia's gloomy education system.