Sunday, February 5th, 2006
Bridgeport high school kids.

By Michael J. Daly
Connecticut Post

You know all about those Bridgeport high school kids, right?
Trouble, fights, walkouts, fire alarms. Keyed the mayor's car, right?

Did you hear about that de los Santos kid?

Or how about that Medina girl?

Diana De Los Santos and Carolyn Medina are seniors at Bridgeport's Central Magnet high school.

"We've been friends for 13 years," Carolyn said the other day.

The friendship started in grammar school Bridgeport's High Horizons and continued through high school.

In the fall, the friendship and pattern of same-school attendance will stretch into yet another realm.

They'll start at the same college together. And that would be at Harvard University.

The typical Bridgeport tale? Hardly.

But not as atypical as you might think.

Because there's Christian Senu, the kid going to Columbia, and Julie Lam, who's going to Wesleyan.

And there's Miguel Lopez, Anthony Chau and Victor Santos, who'll be going to UConn.

These are just some of the graduating seniors from Bridgeport Central and Central Magnet high schools.

And there's Ana Soto, the Bassick valedictorian who's headed for Wesleyan, and Lakeisha Reed, the salutatorian, who also is UConn bound.

And Patrisa Buster, the valedictorian at Harding high school, is going to Princeton.

Some 800 kids will graduate from Bridgeport's three public schools over the next few days. In their ranks are kids like these that we don't hear about all the time.

The Bridgeport school system is notoriously inefficient in publicizing its achievements, despite the best efrorts of one Michael Giannotti in the school system's community affairs office. And the fact is that every year, graduates of Bridgeport's three high public high schools go on to quality colleges, including the Ivy League, graduate and end up making the world a better place.

It's tough to get information together from the Bridgeport high schools. Understandably, they're busy.

But here are three factoids from this year:

Bassick's graduating class of 197 youngsters has received more than $1 million in scholarships.

Seventy percent of Bassick graduates are planning on further education.

For the third consecutive year, more students from Central have been accepted at UConn than from any other individual high school.

Some of these bright kids are not easy to get ahold of.

But Carolyn Medina, whose father, Max, is a member of the Bridgeport Board of Education, was able to carve a little time out of her schedule for a chat.

She's 18 years old, bright as a spring morning, and intends to study English literature at Harvard. Bridgeport public schools, she'll tell you, put her in the position she's in now.

She says she would like to be a writer.

Rarely having the opportunity to give advice to anyone who has Harvard in their past, present or future, I could not resist.

"Do you know that the only lucrative form of writing is the ransom note?" I asked her.

She laughed quickly.

Her friend Diana will study engineering. Bridgeport's public high schools, she believe, get an undeserved bad rap.

"There are so many opportunities at Central," Carolyn said. "There are so many AP courses, there are some amazing teachers and you can have such a diverse group of friends.

"There are sports okay, they don't always win but they're there," she said.

"Sure, there are some students who are out of control and they bring the bad reputation on the whole school," she said.

Over the next few days, the kids from Bridgeport's public high schools will march down the aisle, swing their tassels over to the other side, and repair back to parties, grand and small, even in the neighborhoods where the new immigrants live in the old triple-deckers and where some of these kids might be the first in the family to finish high school.

High school graduation will be time for a little sadness. There will be lots of hugging and goodbyes and some tears, but most of Bridgeport's graduates are probably going to feel like Carolyn Medina.

"I'm very excited about the future," she said.