Those Honorable High School Sophomores
By Bob Branco
We often hear about the alleged dumbing down of education, how history and civics aren’t taught as much as they should be, how common core is hurting our children, etc. With that said, I would like to tell you a heart-warming story about a group of high school girls who are setting a very good example for today’s students.
Recently while I was going through my emails, I found a letter from a young girl who learned that I attended Perkins School for the Blind many years ago. I didn’t know who she was, but it was obvious she had done some research. In her letter, she told me about a project she was working on, and asked me if I’d like to be interviewed about my experiences at Perkins. I told her that I would be interested, and asked her to call me at a time convenient to both of us. Several days later, she, along with two of her classmates, called me as a team. Each girl took turns asking me questions about Perkins. Did I think that the town of Watertown accepted a school for the blind? What were my teachers like? How did my education at Perkins compare to public school? Etc. As the interview progressed, I found out the purpose for it. These three high school sophomores were working on a project for National History Day, and they chose Perkins as the focal point. I congratulated them on their efforts and their desire to do this.
While these girls were doing their research, they didn’t realize how perfect their timing was. It just so happened that the next day I hosted a reunion of former Perkins School students at a restaurant in Boston. This is an annual event where approximately 40 to 50 former students go to eat, socialize, and remember old times. Where the girls were anxious to learn about Perkins and about blind people, I invited them to the reunion. I told them that while I was glad to help them during the phone interview, they would get much more information at the reunion. Imagine how their teacher would feel knowing that they interviewed 40 blind people at a reunion besides seeking out one on the phone? To me, this is a lot of extra credit. By the way, the reunion was on a Saturday, a day where there is no school. The school where these girls go is several miles from Boston.
As it turned out, two of them attended the reunion. Their parents brought them there and back. They went around the room talking to all of us about our experiences. They recorded highlights and took thorough notes. They probably spent at least an hour and a half at the restaurant with us. When the girls left, I asked my guest to give them a round of applause for a job well done.
Another angle to this story is that prior to the original phone interview, these girls found out that I had written a book about my 8 years living at Perkins. At the reunion, I offered to send them a complimentary copy of my book as a gesture of thanks for their dedication to a special community project. I also decided to make these girls honorary members of my group, and I will invite them to more Perkins School reunions.
To help these girls with their project even further, I decided to arrange a tour of Perkins for them immediately after our reunion was over. However, there was no need for me to do that. The girls arranged their own tour and were very inspired with what goes on at the school.
I would like to see more of this in schools? This type of community effort reassures me that despite all the nonsense we hear about concerning education, there are still kids and teachers who work hard on civic projects.