Each of Boston’s 2012 high school valedictorians came a long way since that first day as freshmen, but quite a few of them had already traveled a greater distance than many of their classmates. Of the 39 students graduating at the top of their class, nearly half are foreign-born. They immigrated to the United States from Albania, Vietnam, and Malaysia; from Nigeria, India, and Morocco; from Haiti, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic. Many entered Boston’s schools knowing little English and little about American ways. Yet with dedication, hard work, and the support of parents and teachers, they have earned one of the highest honors a high school student can aspire to.
This is anything but a new phenomenon. Foreign-born students annually make up a significant share of Boston’s valedictorians. They are a heartening reminder that the extraordinary achievement of America’s immigrants is as old as America itself, and that America’s outsize role in the world owes an incalculable debt to those who are Americans not by birth, but by choice. Too many people fear that the United States is being swamped by foreigners who drain our coffers and strain the bonds of American culture. Were they to view the roster of Boston’s public school valedictorians, they might begin to realize how deeply misplaced such fears are.