BLAC would like to spotlight Kailan Claiborne of Sacred Heart Cathedral School '16 and Seattle University '21!!!
Kailan Xavier Claiborne attended Sacred Heart Cathedral from 2012-2016, and graduated in 2016. In 2021, he graduated from Seattle University.
Born and raised in San Francisco, California, he chose SHC over other private and Catholic schools in hopes that it would help him to achieve his dream of playing basketball at the Division I level. Sadly, that dream never became a reality.
Coming from a middle school where he had a Black classmate or teacher in every classroom, the transition to high school was hard to say the least. Most of the time, Kailan would find himself as the only Black student in his classes. Being an athlete didn’t help his case. He sometimes felt as if teachers would treat him differently not because he was a student-athlete, but because he was a Black student-athlete. He used sports as an outlet where he could be surrounded by people who looked like him and thrived on SHC’s freshman basketball team. However, it become abundantly clear that he would be unable to play at the Division I level. As he got older and made the varsity team, playing time started to dwindle. It was clear that if he wanted to be a Division I athlete he would have to find another way. He used his dedication, commitment, and grit to excel both in the classroom and another sport: track and field. By the time he graduated from SHC Kailan was as a scholar athlete (maintaining a 3.0 gpa or better throughout the season), Block Club Member, Campus Tour Guide, oOpen House Volunteer, and guest speaker at both the SHC Spring Sports Family Gathering as well as his high school graduation.
As mentioned earlier, Kailan’s goal was to become a Division I basketball player. Although he never achieved that goal, he used his work ethic to earn an academic scholarship to Seattle University, where the coach agreed to let him walk on. He had finally become a Division I athlete.
Upon arriving to Seattle in the fall of 2016, he was met with many questions of how he ended up on campus. “Do you have an athletic scholarship?” “Did you get more financial aid because you are Black?” Coming from a private high school that did have a larger number of Black students than many other traditional Catholic high schools in the area made the transition to Seattle University even harder when being met with these kinds of questions. Worst of all, it seemed as if everyone on campus who Kailan interacted with assumed he was there for sports. Never did it cross their minds that he was there because he had the grades, test scores, and determination to get there on his own. He noticed that these preconceived notions, combine with the color of his skin led people to look at him as “just an athlete” as opposed to a student-athlete.
Although defeating at times, Kailan didn’t let what people said to him get the best of him. He used this as motivation to prove to himself, and others that he was more than an athlete. More importantly, he used it as motivation to prove to others that Black student-athletes on college campuses were more than just athletes. In his senior year at Seattle University, Kailan was selected as a Student Representative on the first ever Seattle University Athletics Department Racial Equity Working Group. While a part of this committee he conducted a qualitative research study analyzing the Black student-athlete experience, isolation, microagressions, exploitation, and sometimes blatant racism that this Black men and woman faced while being on campus. He was then able to present the main findings, along with what he believe were good recommendations/solutions to each major finding from the study. He also interned at Equal Opportunity School, a local non-profit using data and analytics to help more Black, Brown, and low-income students get into AP/IB classes. At the end of the year, Kailan was recognized with the Individual Mission Award, awarded to the student-athlete who best embodies the core values of Seattle University.
Even though Kailan was recognized for many of his accomplishments at SHC and SU, it didn’t take away from the difficult experiences he endured at both institutions. He now works at the University of Washington as an Account Executive on their Pac-12 Sales team. He is hoping that his time at UW will help him towards his long-term career goals of working within athletics to help athletics departments across the nation fully support their student-athletes, and help them to see their Black and Brown men and women on campus as more than athletes.