Boston’s valedictorians show their immigrant spirit

Bich Cao is one of Boston’s many foreign-born high school valedictorians.
boston globe
Bich Cao is one of Boston’s many foreign-born high school valedictorians.

Ziqiu Zhang was born in China, in a district of Shanghai from which thousands of families were forced out to make way for a Disneyland theme park. Bich Cao was brought to America from Vietnam at age 6, knowing not a word of English. Aderly Estrada was a newcomer from Peru, Roberte Francois from Haiti, Evette Thompson from Ghana. They are just a few of Boston’s 2014 high school valedictorians, a remarkable number of whom were born outside the United States.

It has become a predictable occurrence: At one public high school graduation after another, the senior-class student taking top honors is an immigrant. The foreign-born are disproportionately represented among the high achievers: Twenty-seven percent of Boston residents come from other lands, compared with 46 percent of this year’s valedictorians.

The nation’s political debate about immigration is as unsettled as ever. To a distressing degree lately, it has been focused on kids — from the proposed DREAM Act that would legalize the status of some students and veterans who were brought here as minors to the alarming influx in recent months of unaccompanied children from Central America, many of them fleeing pervasive violence and poverty.


Seal-the-border conservatives look at the entry of large numbers of young immigrants and see only a problem to be solved. The inspiring presence each year of so many foreign-born students at the top of their class should remind all of us that they are also, and just as importantly, a blessing to be esteemed.