Mayor Walsh and the importance of educational opportunities

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2016/03/04/mayor-walsh-and-the-importance-of-educational-opportunities/

Mayor Marty Walsh (D) considers access to quality education, especially for underprivileged children, his greatest responsibility. As the son of immigrant parents who worked hard to send him to good schools, Walsh witnessed firsthand both the challenges and benefits of different types of schools in the Boston area.

After taking office in 2014, Walsh promoted the standard issues one might expect, such as increasing employment and public safety. But education has remained his central focus ever since he was a state representative from the 13th Suffolk district.

“I’ve worked closely with traditional public schools, charter public schools, and private schools for my entire career in public service. As mayor I support all the schools, teachers, and students in our city.”

Walsh was born and raised in Dorchester, where his mother and father settled down after emigrating from Ireland. His experience growing up with immigrant parents influenced his decision to enter politics. Walsh explained, “I learned how important it is to work hard, build strong community, and give back, because that’s how immigrant communities survive and thrive. I also got a good appreciation of what opportunity means to people who came to America with very little, and what America means to people around the world. So those experiences probably gave me a natural bent toward public service and elected office.”

As a result, the mayor has made facilitating success among disadvantaged groups a top priority in his administration. “I want to make sure we are a city and a country where those values get rewarded with real opportunity.”

Mayor Martin Walsh reads 'Make Way for Ducklings' at St. Brendan's School in Dorchester as part of Read Across America Week. (Mayor's Office photo by Don Harney)

Mayor Marty Walsh reads ‘Make Way for Ducklings’ at St. Brendan’s School in Dorchester as part of Read Across America Week. (Mayor’s Office photo by Don Harney)

Walsh faced serious setbacks when his grammar school education was interrupted at the age of 7. He contracted Burkitt’s lymphoma, a rare form of cancer. During his treatment, he was forced to miss most of second and third grade, and repeat fifth grade. His parents sought out the best education they could to help their son.

“The young people (at Boston International Newcomers Academy) are embracing the American Dream and putting up very impressive academic achievements. The students and teachers there made me very proud, and we’re going to build on that kind of success.”

Walsh described their efforts: “Our church community was very important to my parents, and I attended Catholic schools from grammar school through high school. I went to St. Margaret’s School in Dorchester, which was our parish school and is now the Columbia campus of Pope John Paul II Catholic Academy. For high school I went to Newman Prep (now the Newman School) in the Back Bay. That was a great opportunity to experience another side of the city.”

Walsh’s personal experiences shaped his views on providing a good education to a wide cross-section of children in the city, especially in public schools. “As mayor I have no greater priority or responsibility than education. For one thing, public schools provide the only opportunity that many underprivileged kids have to move up and reach their dreams. I’m extremely proud of the Boston Public Schools, because they are among the very best urban school systems in the country. But we have plenty of work to do.”

Since private schools are often beyond the reach of lower income parents, Walsh emphasized that Boston’s public schools should remain a desirable choice for families. “I want every family in our city to see the Boston Public Schools as a great option for their child,” he said.  “I’m working closely with our Superintendent, Dr. Tommy Chang, to make that a reality. Among other things, we are expanding Boston’s nationally renowned pre-kindergarten program, we have extended the school day in several schools, and we are opening up the advanced work curriculum to more students.”

Mayor Martin Walsh joins Richie Paris and other Fire Fighters at the Dorchester YMCA for Operation Warm Coat Drive. (Mayor's Office Photo by Isabel Leon)

Mayor Marty Walsh joins Richie Paris and other Fire Fighters at the Dorchester YMCA for Operation Warm Coat Drive. (Mayor’s Office Photo by Isabel Leon)

Walsh feels that all types of schools have a role in Boston’s educational landscape. He made a point of saying that he values public charter schools and private institutions, and not just traditional district schools. “I’ve also said many times that I appreciate everyone who is working to educate children in our city. I’ve worked closely with traditional public schools, charter public schools, and private schools for my entire career in public service. As mayor I support all the schools, teachers, and students in our city.”

In the future, Walsh plans to continue helping immigrant families flourish in their new life in Boston. He also stressed the importance of offering a variety of services so they can assimilate well in the city. Walsh identified two initiatives that illustrate how diverse city organizations can facilitate this process.

“Our Office of New Bostonians works closely with immigrant communities to help everyone adapt and thrive in Boston. We provide everything from legal advice to translation services to cultural celebrations.”

The other initiative he cited was a specialized school in Dorchester for immigrant children: “In education, we work hard to make sure students who are learning English have the support they need to succeed. It was a thrill for me recently to visit the Boston International Newcomers Academy in Dorchester, a BPS high school that specializes in educating young recent immigrants. The young people there are embracing the American Dream and putting up very impressive academic achievements. The students and teachers there made me very proud, and we’re going to build on that kind of success.”

“I want everyone, whatever their starting point, their talents, or their interests, to have that same freedom to explore and that same opportunity to thrive.”

The mayor also stressed that young people should have access to many different types of education.  “I want everyone, especially young people, to know that there are many paths to fulfilling your dreams,” he said. “In my Administration we support a wide variety of educational and career paths: from arts and science-oriented high schools, to summer jobs at businesses and hospitals, to apprenticeships that lift low-income workers out of poverty.”

Walsh cites his own background as evidence that children of immigrants and other less advantaged groups can be successful in America. His aim is to ensure that Boston students have equal access to quality educational opportunities, similar to those that enabled him to succeed.

“My dream came true in Boston, but it wasn’t a straightforward path,” he said. “I started my career in construction, and went back to complete my college degree when I was a State Representative. I want everyone, whatever their starting point, their talents, or their interests, to have that same freedom to explore and that same opportunity to thrive.”

Contact Mary McCleary at [email protected].

Comments

comments