Men making a difference
It’s probably not so unusual for a 23-year-old to want to run for political office. That’s certainly the case with Blake Sercye, an Austin native and law student.
Despite his age, Sercye was encouraged to go after the open seat for 78th District state representative earlier this spring.
“I have always aspired to pursue political office at some point in my career and this seemed like a great opportunity to throw my hat in the ring and pursue the dream,” said Sercye, one of Austin’s bright young men who often go unnoticed while other males in jail, gangs and from broken homes get most of the attention in the community.
Sercye didn’t get the state rep seat-he was among about a half-dozen folk wooing the local Democratic committee who made the selection back in April. Ultimately, their choice was Austin Chamber of Commerce President Camille Lilly, who replaced Deborah Graham, who’s now Austin 29th Ward alderman. But the committee, which includes state Sen. Don Harmon (39th) and Ald. Emma Mitts (37th), was so impressed by Sercye that many said they hoped to work with him in the community. Others predicted he’d fulfill his dream in holding elected office sooner in life than later.
Though unsuccessful in his bid, Sercye, who still lives in Austin, saw it as a stepping stone and another opportunity to give back to his community.
“I was certainly disappointed, but encouraged,” he said. “I have tremendous respect for the process and know that one day I will pursue office again.”
He’s no stranger to political life, having interned for Pat Quinn when he was lieutenant governor. Sercye also juggles his time between law school and volunteering at schools in Austin.
“He’s just a wonderful young man,” said Hal Myers, a physical education teacher at Hay Elementary School, 1018 N. Laramie. He’s known Sercye for 10 years.
“I’ve been involved with education since 1969 and he is one of the most gifted students I’ve seen,” the teacher said. “He’s just mature beyond his years. He is incredibly dedicated to his education and giving back to the kids in the community, whether he is working with our kids here at Hay or with the students at Austin Polytechnical Academy; he’s always giving his all to whatever he set his sights on.”
Blake and older brother Brandon grew up in Austin to single mother Veada Sercye. She, Sercye said, encouraged him to attend a school where he would fully pursue his academic interests.
“Eventually, we chose Fenwick High School [in Oak Park],” he said. “It was just the type of challenging curriculum we were looking for. Their math and science department is excellent.”
Sercye played hockey at Fenwick, suiting up for the school’s junior varsity Fenwick Friars.
“I was about seven when I started following the NHL,” Sercye recalled. “I really enjoyed watching players like Anson Carter, who played for the Bruins, and Dustin Byfuglien, who play(ed) for the (Chicago) Blackhawks. Players like those inspired me to play myself.”
While at Fenwick, Sercye started volunteering in the community and at Hay School, where his mother worked as a payroll clerk. Family friend and Hay School teacher Melinda Stapleton recalls him being heavily involved with youth.
“I’ve known Blake as long as I’ve known [Veeda], for about 10 years now. He just volunteered to come down and spend time mentoring, tutoring and working with some of the kids in the class,” she said. “The interesting thing was that it was genuinely from the heart. He was not trying to get social service points or extra credit at his school. He simply wanted to work with the kids.”
That desire was ingrained in him by both his mother and his brother-Brandon died in March 2007 from a blood-clot in his lung.
“Brandon was a huge influence on me and my career,” Sercye recalled. “He had a developmental disability but he still viewed himself as my big brother and looked out for me in every capacity.”
Sercye remembers his brother volunteering at Hay as well, and doing the laundry at home to help out their mom. Sercye also thinks about his brother every time he feels overwhelmed in his career.
“When I think back to all he did for us, despite his handicap, it reminds me that whatever issue I am faced with can be overcome,” he said.
After graduating from Fenwick, Sercye enrolled at Princeton University where he graduated with honors in 2008 with a degree in politics.
He’s now studying corporate law at University of Chicago Law School and works for the law firm Jenner & Block as a summer associate. He hopes to begin his post-graduate career with the company.
Sercye also was recently appointed to the Local School Council at Hay School. The budding lawyer also works with the speech and debate team at Christ the King Jesuit High School, 5800 W. Jackson. He’s hopeful that effort will develop into an expanded program so students can compete in national debate tournaments.
“The sky is the limit for this young man,” Myers said. “You can tell he is destined for great things. He is a leader and a team player.”