NEWS BLOG: Vandals and valedictorians: the School of the Arts incident


Hearing about the vandalism at School of the Arts, handiwork by mostly school seniors, many of people probably shook their heads and thought, "What can you do? Kids will be kids."

SOTA's principal, Brenda Pacheco, said she was saddened by what appeared to begin as a prank escalated to damaging the school.

But I couldn't help thinking about a young Mexican girl living in Chicago featured on MSNBC's Morning Joe early Monday. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, in a conversation about that city's education issues, praised the girl for being the top student in her graduating class. Her parents sell oranges on the roadside in Mexico. Their daughter, however, has seized an opportunity to climb out of poverty. In the fall, she'll join the ranks of freshmen at Northwestern, one of the country's finest universities.

There are children like this young girl in schools all across this country, including here in Rochester. One of the top performing students in city schools this year is a young girl whose family is still living in one of the poorest countries in Africa. She seized an opportunity, too.

Rochester has been struggling to find the key to educational success for its students for years, with little progress to show for it. Our graduation rate lumbers around 50 percent. Still, these young women and thousands of youngsters like them have often experienced poverty and witnessed unimaginable atrocities.

But they recognized the value of receiving a free public education in this country. And their achievements are a stark contrast to so many American students who ignore the opportunities in front of them. While thousands of city students decide not to attend school, there are millions of children around the world that would gladly fill their seats