Robbinsdale Armstrong High School graduate and track star Ezekiel “Zeke” Clark knows there can be obstacles that make it difficult to reach the finish line.
Whether it’s wind, rain or struggles with learning, he also knows the importance of never giving up.
Clark was raised by two Caucasian parents and is the youngest of four siblings – all of whom are Black and from different families.
“And that is one unique thing that makes me different than a lot of people ... So, I think I feel like I kind of break the stereotype of a typical Black student,” he said.
When it comes to academics, Clark said he’s struggled with more than math. As brain scans have confirmed, the struggle is real and it’s actually the rate his brain processes information.
“We’ve known from just how I learned that I process things a lot slower,” Clark said, describing times in class when it takes him a while to process what the teacher is saying.
“So then when I’m learning certain lessons I kind of start falling behind because it’s hard for me to keep the process up and going,” he said.
Fortunately, he has found support throughout all of this.
First, with his mom, Barb, who advocated on his behalf.
“She’s my mother, so obviously that’s a big part already, but just how many things she’s done to get me through school, like talking to my counselors to try and get me help or knowing when something is too much for me,” he said. “She’s just been beyond amazing.”
His school counselor, Marilou Exner, has also helped with an educational adaptation plan that accommodated his learning needs, such as longer time for tests and unlimited time for homework.
Exner commended Clark for his “positive energy” and “striving to be the best person he can be,” as well as his “leadership, kindness, maturity, and passion for a career in education.”
In the fall, Clark will attend Minnesota State University-Mankato and major in physical or special education and minor in exercise science.
After having a conversation with Interim Superintendent Stephanie Burrage, Clark was convinced he should become a teacher.
For him, it’s a way to pass his knowledge and experiences down to others to make the world a better place.
“Everything should just be about passing things down. And thinking that I can go and teach other people and be able to pass things I know down to try to leave this world better than before I came,” he said.
He’d also like to go as far as he can with track, by one day competing in the Olympics.
In January, the Sun Sailor recognized Clark as one of its Athletes of the Year for 2020, highlighting his personal records of 10.95 in the 100-meter dash and 22.38 in the 200.
Since there was no state Class AA high school meet in 2020, Clark will try to make up for it this year despite a hamstring injury, which he hopes will be fully recovered in time.
“My personal records are faster than the other guys that are in the top of the state right now by a good margin. So, it’s just a matter of getting me healthy before sections and state so I can show that,” he said.
Talking with Clark, it’s easy to see he has a passion for the sport.
“I just like the individual aspect,” he said, as opposed to a team sport. “I like the fact that if I don’t do good, it’s on me ... if I don’t train hard enough, that’s on me ... if I have a bad race, it’s all on me.”
He also likes how clear-cut it is as far as results go and the drive it gives him.
“It doesn’t make me more hard on myself, it just makes me know to train harder,” he said.
As Clark looks to graduation, he knows it’s all because he didn’t give up.
“There were countless times through high school, I’ve been like, I can’t do this. It’s not gonna happen. No way. And then look where I am now. I’m still about to graduate,” he said.
When it comes to other students struggling with their learning, Clark says “Find your groove.”
“Just find the teacher that’s going to help you the best,” he said. “Find the learning environment and the ways you learn best. And just find things that are going to make you be able to succeed as best you can.”
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