Now, Coakley is an assistant principal at Peru High School, a career field he picked up after retiring from the Air Force in 1993. He said his experiences at King George Elementary and throughout adolescence played a role in his choice to pursue a job as an educator.
“It had a very big bearing on me going into education because when I was at that younger age integrating into an all-white school, there were a lot of figures in my life that were motivators to me,” Coakley said.
“I can reflect back onto my football coach, who was someone who gave me that structure and that guidance to always achieve.
“I feel that through integration I was able to get that.”
Coakley is also the director of the Town of Beekmantown Youth Commission, a position that harkens back to a desire to give back in athletics, much like he wanted to do with education.
It was through a connection with the Youth Commission that he was asked to speak at this year’s commemoration.
“Definitely it (his story) enlightens and brings to focus some of the information about Dr. Martin Luther King,” said Maxine Perry, commissioner for the Martin Luther King Day Commission.
The Plattsburgh commemoration has taken place for more than 20 years, and Coakley’s presentation won’t be the only one Monday.
Perry said public officials, among them one from the City of Plattsburgh Mayor’s Office, along with two high-school students who received scholarships from the commission will also speak.
‘FOR WHO THEY ARE’
Coakley said his speech is an opportunity to give back to the community that he feels very comfortable in.
“We are, as far as equity goes in the North Country, very conscious of giving every individual the opportunity to be successful and to be a part of the community,” he said.