Shootings, muggings, fires, crashes, sports and weather– all the stuff of local television. Then there are the Kirby Perkins A+ scholarship segments.
Kirby was a Channel 5 reporter who especially loved politics and sports. The station’s “High Five” series had for years celebrated high school athletes. But he thought that academic performance should also be honored.
So, back in the 1990’s, Kirby pushed for – and got – a series highlighting students who achieved academically, overcoming often some of life’s greatest challenges. Kirby (the husband of Channel Two’s Emily Rooney and a good friend) died in 1997 at the shockingly young age of 49. A year later, a scholarship fund was established in his memory to provide financial assistance to the most deserving of these young individuals, and yesterday those monetary awards were handed out. To his credit, general manager Bill Fine has kept up the scholarship program and the values it represents. [Disclosure: my husband is on the A-Plus board.]
The stories of the winners are always inspiring. Ashley Firth, a leader at Saugus High, going to the University of Vermont; Ingrid Mile of West Roxbury Academy, going to Colby-Sawyer College; Ope Olukorede from Nigeria, who graduated from Rivers and is going to Johns Hopkins; Michael Richard, graduating from Fitchburg High and going to Harvard College, with a career in medicine one of his goals; Dennis Zambrano, also from Fitchburg High and planning to attend Bowdoin. Zachary Surrette, a Mashpee High graduate going to Cape Cod Community College.
They include students who came from foreign countries as teenagers, speaking little to no English; students who had to overcome severe health problems, from tumors to autism; students from single-parent families; one student came to America after her mother died and was raised by her aunt. None of them had a “Father Knows Best” family. All of them faced serious challenges. They stayed focused and worked hard;they accomplished great things academically and became inspirational to their peers and teachers.
There’s a saying that no news is good news, and good news is no news at all. Hence, the arson, car crash and robbery mentality of many local news outlets. Highlighting these Massachusetts success stories is one of the best things local television can do. I am no longer on Channel Five’s roster, but the A-plus feature series makes me especially proud of my past association.
If you know a senior who should be a candidate for next year’s scholarship awards, check out the A-Plus part of the WCVB website and submit a nomination.