Walcott instills work ethic in southeast Queens students

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Newly appointed city Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott completed an alma mater tour of the schools he attended in the borough with an early-morning visit to his Hollis middle school last Thursday.

Walcott, who has been going to schools across the borough, went to several classrooms at both IS 192 and the Pathways College Prep School, both of which are located within 108-89 204th St., and talked about his experiences there when he was an adolescent.

The chancellor urged the sixth- through 12th-graders to work hard because their education goes a long way in life.

“I came to this auditorium to tell you I was you,” the lifelong southeast Queens resident said. “It’s so important to let you know that we believe in you.”

Walcott was joined by state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-At. Albans), City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and state Assemblywoman Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village) as he took questions from the eager students.

The chancellor, who dropped off his grandson at PS 36 in St. Albans, his former elementary school a day after he was chosen to replace Cathie Black last month and returned to Francis Lewis HS three weeks ago, recalled fond memories of his time at middle school. He said his favorite subjects were science, English and history and he enjoyed playing basketball with friends.

Walcott reminded students that he was not at the top of his class by any means, but what he lacked in perfect grades he made up in determination.

“I worked hard and I studied hard,” he said.

The chancellor went to the school’s popular robotic room, where students put on a demonstration for him. Walcott was amazed not only with the level of detail the middle schoolers put into their work, but also their passion for engineering.

“To me, [robotics is] way above my grade level, but it’s exciting,” Walcott ´╗┐said.

The robotics team, which competed in this year’s Junior First Lego League Exposition in Manhattan in March, enjoyed talking with the chancellor.

“Usually, we don’t get that many visitors here,” said robotics team member Vince Francois, 13.

Walcott also went to Pathways classrooms and also saw them work on science programs in their chemistry lab as well. The Pathways students go from grades 6 through 12 and follow a strict academic curriculum that prepares them for college.

Walcott, who holds two master’s degrees, said that educational foundation´╗┐ is for all careers, even as future chancellors.

“It’s a job I never dreamed of, but it’s a job I wouldn’t have gotten without a solid education,” he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Updated 10:41 am, October 12, 2011
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