Jay Blake Visits Malden High to Inspire Students with Captivating Story

During Advisory on December 15th, 2023, Malden High’s Senior class was given a unique opportunity to hear a motivational speaker in the Jenkins Auditorium.

For those who have never heard of Jay Blake’s story, they are truly missing out on such an inspiring and truly amazing one. Growing up, Blake loved cars and learned to be skilled at working on them. Years later in 1997, at the age of 31, Blakes’s life flashed before his eyes. While working at his job as a mechanic, a tire exploded in Blake’s face—knocking him out and sending him flying.

Blake realized how lucky he was to be alive when he woke up, however, he lost complete vision. He had thought that he may never have the chance to work on a car again, but as soon as he laid his hands back onto the car, he realized his muscle memory knew where everything was on the car and Blake was overwhelmed with happiness knowing he could work on cars again.

Years after his accident, Blake showed up to a drag race and he could feel the atmosphere around him and he was overwhelmed with excitement. It was this revitalized love for racing that inspired him to found the Follow a Dream Racing Team in 1999, because he knew that his true passion and love was with cars and that is where he could make a difference.

Fast forward 24 years, and Blake is the crew chief of Follow a Dream Racing Team, which over the years has developed into one of the best funny car racing teams in the country. Now, Blake is not only  the crew chief of his racing team, but he shares his awe-inspiring story with students and people around the country to prove that amazing things come when you never give up, and put in the work.

In his motivational speeches, Blake gives the audience five main points to take away and carry with them in life. These are the importance of Positive Attitude, Education, Passion, Determination, and Teamwork. It is these principles that helped Blake get to where he is today.

After his speech, Blake answered various questions from the senior class, ranging from specifications about his car, or asking more advice from Blake about how he got over his hardships.

The Blue & Gold was fortunate enough to interview Jay Blake after this:

Growing up, who was your biggest inspiration?

“My biggest inspiration was probably my father and my brother.”

After the accident, what really motivated you to push through all of the adversity?

“When I had my accident, I had a near-death experience and it was an incredible, amazing event, really, it was incredibly peaceful. It was unbelievable. I truly believe I had a second chance at life. I had no idea what I was going to do after my accident. I mean, my whole world had gone away, I loved cars, [and] trucks and worked on them and drove them. That's all I've done my whole life. So with no sight, you don’t think any of that is possible. Well, I went to the Carroll Center for the Blind and realized that all of it is possible. When I went to that race, I decided that drag racing was always my dream. Frankly, I had nothing to lose at this point, I had no job. I had nothing to do. I figured, heck, I'll try and start my own race team. So here we are 20 years later.”

What inspired you to start motivational speaking?

“When I was a student in school, I loved cars.  I was not a good athlete. I was not a good student. All I loved to do was work on cars. I didn't have great self-esteem, and after my accident, I was now 32 by the time I had the race car.  By this point in my life, I had realized that high school is a moment in time, right? We remember it forever, for good or for bad. But it's a moment in time. I wanted to encourage kids to believe in themselves no matter what they wanted to do, no matter how good they were, or not good they were at something. I wanted to go back and tell them that if you have a dream followed, and that education is important, because all I wanted to do was work on cars. I didn't think academic school was that important. I never went to a tech school. So it was all about encouraging kids to believe in themselves, to get an education, and to follow their dream.”

What would you say is the most challenging part about being a crew chief?

“Managing all the different people and making that team work well together and finding the right people. So it's all about managing people.”

What would you consider your greatest achievement in life?

“My greatest is being a dad. The next would be inspiring and motivating all of the people I have been incredibly fortunate to reach out to.”

Finally, if you could leave kids with one piece of advice, what would it be?

“Don’t give up on yourself.”

Jay’s speeches have inspired and touched the hearts of thousands and he has sure made a lasting impact on this senior class. Senior Beatriz Souza Santos concluded, “My biggest takeaway was no matter what setbacks life throws at you, never give up on your dreams and persevere.” One of the members of the crew on Follow a Dream, David Thornton, who has known Jay for five years, noted that “Jay’s positive attitude that he wakes up with everyday really amazes me.”

David Deplacido, who is a teacher in the PACE department at Malden High, played a role in getting Jay to come speak for MHS students. DePlacido remarked, “I first heard about Jay from my older brother who worked for Jay and was part of the pit crew for a few years. I followed Jay on social media and learned he was looking to book his speaking engagements, so I called him and asked if he would come to MHS.  He came to speak at the Linden ten years ago and remembered me and said he would love to.”

After Blake was done speaking, students were invited to the courtyard, where they could get a look at the Follow A Dream funny car and take photos with the car.

It is quite evident that Jay’s impact is felt by anyone who is lucky enough to be able to speak with Jay Blake or even simply just hear his story.

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