Kirby Perkins was a Channel 5 reporter with a breadth of interests who especially loved politics and sports. The station’s “High Five” series of profiles has long celebrated high school athletes. But Kirby thought that academic performance should be equally honored.
His efforts led to WCVB’s “A+” series, highlighting students who achieved academically while overcoming some of life’s greatest challenges. Shockingly, in 1997, at the age of 49, Kirby (the husband of WGBH’s Emily Rooney and a dear friend) died. But “A+” lived on. A year after his death, Emily, Channel 5 executives and colleagues, and friends established a scholarship fund in Kirby’s memory to provide financial assistance to the most deserving of these accomplished students.
Over 20 years, more than 100 scholarships totaling over $300,000 were given out, and on Thursday the last group of outstanding young people were presented with scholarship checks (full disclosure: my husband, Jim Barron, has been honored to serve on the award committee). As in past years, the group is highly diverse in racial, ethnic and cultural background. These young people have battled ill health, poverty, language barriers, and family dysfunction yet stayed the course of completing high school, and are now bound for college.
Listening to their compelling stories was inspiring. One student, emancipated from her parents, has bounced among various relatives but has virtually grown up on her own. She will be paying for college by herself, as she has been surviving for years.
Despite the daunting challenges these students have faced, they have done sports and arts, worked after-school jobs, and still found time to volunteer to help others. Their stories left few dry eyes among station executives, alums and current staff participating in the event.
This final year’s scholarship winners included Brianna Seaver – Taunton High School, Ivan Sebuufu-Bazitya – Worcester Academy, Kit Nguyen – Holliston High School,Merline Mathieu – Boston International Newcomers Academy, Michael Nderitu – Leicester High School, Nazanin “Naz” Beigi – Fitchburg High School, Nicholas Correia – Brimmer & May School, Orgelio “Jay” Soares – Greater New Bedford Regional Voc-Tech, Pamela Francisco – Foxboro High School, Taylor Goodman-Leong – Lawrence Academy.
All of them are driven to succeed, despite the travails that have confronted them. They have worked hard and never given up hope. They are an inspiration to those coming after them and a reassurance to us older folks that the younger generation should be capable of overcoming the mess that we older ones have left in this world. Kirby Perkins would have been proud of each and every one of them, and this Channel 5 initiative was a fitting testament to his vision and hard work.
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Thanks to my dear friends Jim and Marge fir both supporting the scholarship and a lifelong friendship – Emily