Thursday, February 11, 2016

Philly kid on path to U.S. Naval Academy

Meet Shaquil Keels.

Philly kid on path to U.S. Naval Academy

Shaquil Keels, 18, with his acceptance letter for the U.S. Naval Academy prep program.
Shaquil Keels, 18, with his acceptance letter for the U.S. Naval Academy prep program. Kristen Graham/staff

Meet Shaquil Keels.

The senior at Randolph Technical High was recently accepted to into the Naval Academy Preparatory School, a yearlong program that’s a gateway to the U.S. Naval Academy.

“Class of 2017,” he notes proudly.

Shaquil introduced himself to me in an e-mail this week. He wanted me to know about his Naval Academy news.

“I just thought this would be something good to send to you, being a teen in Philadelphia and all the violence and bad news with teens going on I thought it would be great for you to know this,” he wrote.

It is.  

Shaquil, 18, is vice president of his class, and also ranked second academically.

For the past two years, he’s been a member of the Navy Sea Cadets, a leadership training program.  He devotes one weekend a month to training at the Navy Yard.

The Southwest Philadelphia resident is also a certified EMT and a volunteer at the Fireman’s Hall Museum.  He started volunteering to fulfill a service learning requirement for school, but got hooked.  Shaquil is up to 500 hours of service now.

Last summer, he was picked for the U.S. Naval Academy Summer program; he also won the Philadelphia Fire Department’s Harvey J. Lewis Award for outstanding service.

Shaquil is a good kid with a strong handshake and a dazzling smile.  He’s long had dreams about being a military man like his grandfather.

“My mom is worried about me, but she’s proud,” Shaquil said.  

After graduation from Randolph, one of the Philadelphia School District’s vocational schools, he’ll travel to Rhode Island (a place he’s never been) for a year in the Naval Academy’s prep program, where he’ll beef up his academic skills.   

“It will prepare me mentally and physically and academically,” he said.

In 2013, he'll head to Annapolis.  He eventually wants to train to fly an aircraft.

Is Shaquil up to the challenge?

The officials who recommended him to the Navy think so.

U.S. Rep. Bob Brady (D., Phila.) sponsored his application; Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers wrote one of his recommendations.

“I, along with the rest of my staff, know we can depend on Shaquil to go above and beyond our expectations,” wrote Henry Magee, curator of the Fireman’s Hall Museum.

Ayers, in a letter, described Shaquil as an “intelligent, hardworking and exceptional young man of great integrity.”

Sounds about right.

“I’m not the only one in Philadelphia who does good stuff,” Shaquil said.  “People should know about that.”

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About this blog

Inquirer reporter Kristen Graham writes the Philly School Files blog, where she covers education in Philadelphia, both in and out of the classroom.

During the school year, you’ll frequently find her hosting live chats about the district on

Please do pass along the scoop about what’s going on at your Philadelphia public school; Kristen welcomes tips, story ideas and witty banter.

Kristen Graham Inquirer Staff Writer
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