Kirby Perkins was a great political reporter, a lot of fun and a good friend. He died of a heart attack 14 years ago at the shockingly young age of 49. While he rubbed elbows with every significant politician of the time, his most lasting public legacy comes from the series of profiles he initiated at Channel 5 called A+.
The station had long done a series called High Five, hailing stand-out athletes who also did well academically. But Kirby believed that society shouldn’t value performance in sports more than performance in academics. So he started the A+ series to celebrate high school students who did well academically, often against great odds. After his death, Channel 5 and Kirby’s widow, Emily Rooney, former Channel 5 news director and now anchor of WGBH’s Greater Boston, started the Kirby Perkins A+ Scholarship Fund, to award scholarships to some of those A+ students. [Full disclosure: my husband, Jim Barron, sits on the board of the Fund.]
Dorchester High’s Long Dang
is the son of Vietnamese immigrants who never finished high school. He is valedictorian of his class, a champion debater and a leader in improving the sense of community at Dorchester High. He is going to Williams College.
Pingree School’s Thuly Tran
is the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, whose family fled to a refugee camp in Malaysia, then to the Philippines and eventually landed in Lynn, Massachusetts. Described by a teacher as “an intellectual firecracker,” Thuly is fluent in at least four languages (including English, Mandarin and Spanish) and is off to Wellesley College in the fall.
Hull High’s Jamie Clasby
had to grow up fast when her father, a firefighter, was paralyzed when a fire set off an explosion that lodged a bullet in his spine. She was six when it happened. He died when she was 15 years old. For years, Jamie was fully involved in caring for him while her mother worked fulltime. In everything she does, she follows her father’s exhortation that “Clasbys never quit.” Now off to Bridgewater State, her story is one of dedication and hard work to honor her father.
Boston English High’s Juan Colon’s
father was incarcerated for five years, and he too had to grow up very fast, learning what road he wanted to go down. He chose education and hard work, went to the top of his class and is president of the National Honor Society. Helped by school programs and mentors, Juan now mentors other young people in the community. He is going to Boston College this fall.
Quincy High’s Gerald McCarthy
has been blind since birth. Adopted from the Philippines, he is at the top of his class and a musician, playing piano, clarinet, guitar and tympani. He also composes and sings in a cappella choir. He will attend Eastern Nazarene College.
Taunton High’s Jasmine Payne
grew up as the daughter of a disabled single mother . Despite very tough times in a strapped household, she emerged as an excellent student, sings in the school’s show choir, is a leader in school council, a debater and a varsity athlete. She views her mother as a model of persistence. Jasmine going to Spellman, wants a career in international relations.
Rooney exhorted these outstanding scholarship recipients to look beyond their immediate concerns and stay plugged into the news of the world. Awareness of global issues, she reminded them, is important to the community and to their own success.
Channel 5 meteorologist and feature reporter David Brown has done an outstanding job reporting on the A+ nominees. He immerses himself in their stories and is a genuinely enthusiastic booster.
If you’re interested in the Kirby Perkins A+ Scholarship Fund, check it out on thebostonchannel.com http://www.thebostonchannel.com/aplus/index.html
, If you want to contribute, mail to the Kirby Perkins A+ Scholarship Fund, WCVB-TV, 5 TV Place, Needham, MA 02494.
Looking at these outstanding young people, I can only think how proud Kirby would be of this aspect of his enduring legacy.