by George J Elbaum
Boston Latin School (BLS) is a public “magnet”/”exam” school founded in 1635, making it the oldest school in the United States. It serves an economically and culturally diverse population of 2350 students in grades 7 to 12. BLS seeks to ground its students in a contemporary classical education as preparation for successful college studies, and the result is a very impressive 99% college acceptances of its graduating students. BLS accomplishes this with the aid of Small Learning Communities for grades 7 and 8 to ease the transition into its demanding academic environment, which includes a challenging honors curriculum with 24 Advanced Placement courses in addition to the regular course offerings. In addition to its outstanding academics, BLS also offers extensive extracurricular, athletic, community service and artistic opportunities such as its outstanding choral and instrumental music wherein its students are selected to play with the Boston Pops. BLS was named a 2011 “Blue Ribbon School of Excellence”, which is the U.S. Department of Education’s highest award, and its reputation in Boston is best described by the city’s premier newspaper as follows: “Latin – the nation’s oldest public school – is a place of vaulting aspirations, an exam school that occupies a singular spot in the city’s civic pantheon.”
My presentation was to the 8th grade English class of teacher Molly McDonald-Long, whose pride in BLS plus enthusiasm for her students were evident and infectious. She organized this event and was supported by History teacher Joe Gul and Cate “the Great” Arnold, U.S. History teacher and adviser to BLS’s YOUTHCAN. Facing History and Ourselves’ Judi Bohn arranged my talk, as she has most of my talks in the Boston area.
After my talk at BLS I gave another one the next day at MIT, then returned to San Francisco and gave 5 talks during the next 2 weeks, so only yesterday did I finally read the many “thank you” notes from BLS students, some containing lovely graphics drawn by the students. My “thank you” for these notes to all of you, and below are excerpts from these that particularly resonated with me.
- Thank you very much for your kindness and generosity as you told us about your tough experiences. I loved your story.
- Keep Going Strong!!!
- Your story really inspires me and makes me feel grateful for the things I have and the life I live.
- It really opened my eyes, and I hope that now I will be able to do the right thing and help others in my life.
- I really can’t explain how much your speech has opened my eyes to what it really was like through a first-person lens.
- Your childhood was taken from you, so I hope you now HAVE FUN. Travel the world, not because you have to run and hide, but for enjoyment.
- Thank you for teaching me not to be discouraged and to follow my dreams.
- You have really inspired me to work harder in school and be kinder to people. Thank you again.
- My grandparents were Holocaust survivors too.
- I hope that many more people can hear your story.
- PS: Thanks for getting me out of History & Math.