This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Former Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins will be the keynote speaker at Philadelphia’s virtual high school graduation on June 9, officials announced Thursday.
“Malcolm was selected not for his greatness on the field and his two Super Bowl rings, but because of his compassion and advocacy around social justice,” said Donna Frisby-Greenwood, CEO of the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia and co-chair of the commencement planning committee. “Malcolm’s foundation focuses on youth leadership development and skill-building, and we think that that makes him a perfect speaker for us.”
Jenkins, an NFL All-Pro, spent six years with the Eagles and this year returned to the New Orleans Saints, who picked him in the first round of the 2009 draft out of Ohio State.
His charitable foundation has a mission to promote positive change in the lives of underserved youth in four states: New Jersey, where he grew up; Ohio, where he went to college; and Pennsylvania and Louisiana, the homes of his pro teams.
“He’s a class act with a great deal of love for our youth and our city and has a couple of surprises for our students for the graduation ceremony,” Frisby-Greenwood said.
The hour-long graduation will be streamed on several platforms, including the District’s website and PSTV. Frisby-Greenwood said that several companies and organizations, including Comcast, the Kimmel Center, and iHeartMedia, are involved with planning and serving as sponsors. The Philadelphia Orchestra has recorded “Pomp and Circumstance” for the ceremony. And the Free Library will host the live-stream of the event on its platform.
Superintendent William Hite and Mayor Kenney will also address the graduates. Frisby-Greenwood said there will also be three student speakers and three student performances at the event, which will recognize 13,000 graduates from District, charter, and alternative high schools.
A virtual after-party co-produced by the Kimmel Center will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m., featuring many local artists and celebrities, including Good Girl, SimxSantana, and DJ Aktive. Frisby-Greenwood said that each student will receive an invitation that can be shared with family and friends, but that the public will also be able to access the event.
The District and the Fund are also sponsoring a social media campaign in which prominent Philadelphians congratulate the graduates. Jill Scott and some other celebrities have already recorded theirs, and Frisby-Greenwood gave a gentle nudge to others, including Tina Fey, Kevin Bacon, and Questlove.
Hite has also promised in-person graduation events for the class of 2020 when health restrictions are lifted and it again becomes possible to hold large in-person gatherings.
The superintendent also reiterated that individual high schools will be distributing caps and gowns to the students to wear during the festivities and urged them to look out for announcements from their schools.
More information on the virtual graduation activities can be found on the District’s website