From Shipley classrooms to Wall Street, Akinwole “Aki” Garrett ’00, a successful man by any standard, has been able to excel in any environment he steps into. He has met the likes of Chance the Rapper and worked with companies as big as Disney. Now, he is working in entertainment, still chasing his dreams and striving to be his best self.
Aki credits Shipley for helping to develop the mentality and aspirations that helped to make his dreams a reality. “If you can’t see it, you can’t strive for it. You’ve got to be able to see something to believe it’s possible,” he explains. Shipley provided Aki the opportunity to interact with people of different races and socioeconomic backgrounds than his own. It allowed him to see the different possibilities for life, beyond what there was in his hometown in South Philadelphia. About his time at Shipley Aki makes certain to note, “I never felt less than [at Shipley]… but what it did was it opened my eyes to the possibilities of what hard work, dedication, focus, intent, intention, and just commitment could help you to achieve in life.”
For Aki, Shipley did more than just provide a new environment and point of view, it allowed him to discover and pursue passions he never knew he had. From discovering a love for music that ultimately led to his current role with REVOLT Media & TV, to being the captain of the cross country and basketball teams, Shipley constantly pushed Aki out of his comfort zone. Specifically, Aki cited one example: in 11th grade he ran cross country, even though he thought it would make his asthma flare up. While he didn’t perform well in his first race, he was surprised that he had survived and managed to remain conscious the entire time. Garrett credits this experience for establishing very important ideologies in his life, “What it taught me was… don’t succumb to fear… it [also] taught me this notion of endurance… you’re going to feel good at certain parts, you’re going to feel terrible at certain parts, and at the end, you're going to feel exhausted, but once you cross that line, the reward on the other side is even sweeter than the pain that you had to endure to get there.”
Aki held true to this belief, as he tirelessly worked to achieve his lifelong goal of working on Wall Street, then, years later, took another fearless leap into the entertainment industry to follow his dream. “Excellence in all that you do,” states Aki, is one of the many qualities that led him to his current position, and one that is imbued in all Shipley students. Once he knew what he wanted to aspire to, Aki realized that it would take more than qualities such as fearlessness and endurance, he knew he would have to be the best. This idea of absolute excellence evolved from a quality to a lifestyle. A lifestyle that not only allowed Aki to achieve his main dream of working on Wall Street, but also one that kept him from growing complacent after his successes. “I’m more intrinsically motivated than extrinsically motivated… it’s me against the best version of me.” Now, Aki still has much to strive for. “My biggest career goal now is being in the C-suite, whether it’s chief strategy officer, chief business officer, chief executive officer—that's the next step.” In his constant drive to one-up himself, Aki has taken his career to places that not even he expected it to go.
While Garrett thanks Shipley for giving him tools for personal success, he is equally thankful for the lessons in service that the School provided him as well. “This is what I love about Shipley: there’s the academic part to Shipley, but then there’s also the citizenship part to Shipley.” Giving back to your community, however one might define it, is something Aki lives to do. The senior service projects were particularly profound, exposing Aki to the sense of purpose and satisfaction that giving back can provide. This spirit of service, along with fond memories of different Shipley alumni, like Koma Gandy ’91 and Robb Armstrong ’81, whom Aki looked up to in his younger years, made him want to continue to give back and inspire the youth in the same way that he was inspired. Sitting on boards, donating, volunteering, and even doing interviews, are all ways Aki shows thanks to the places that made him who he is today, “And so I find myself in communities where my plant was watered. Now I’m trying to water the future plants so that they can grow and blossom.”
Matt Spencer ’23 is a senior at The Shipley School, where he has attended since PreK. He wrote this profile as part of an internship with the Marketing Office in the summer of 2022.
The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.