On a Friday-morning visit to Perkins School for the Blind, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh shook hands with Perkins student Anicia, 19, and asked where she was from.
"I live three blocks away from you!" she responded, rattling off an address in the Boston neighborhood of Dorchester, where Walsh grew up and still lives today.
Walsh’s trip to Perkins was a chance for the mayor to learn more about the school’s educational programs, which serve students who are visually impaired from Boston, as well as their classmates from cities and towns across New England.
Walsh discovered a number of Boston connections during his hour-long tour of the Perkins campus.
In the school’s museum, tour guide Kevin Hartigan pointed to a photograph of South Boston, where Perkins was located from 1839 to 1912. The lot at the corner of East Broadway and H Street is now a Tedeschi grocery store, but it once was home to Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan, Hartigan said.
Walsh squinted at the black and white photo.
“That’s unbelievable,” he said. “I know exactly where that is.”
Walsh was accompanied on his visit by Boston Disabilities Commissioner Kristen McCosh. The pair met with Perkins President and CEO Dave Power and Superintendent Ed Bosso before listening to a performance by the Perkins Chamber Singers.
Later, they stopped by the Hilton Building, home to Perkins’ Deafblind Program, for a special presentation by a young student from Boston.
Perkins preschooler Cameron, 4, lives in Dorchester with his family. His mother stood nearby as he shook hands with the mayor and handed him a colorful painted canvas emblazoned with the letter B. The artwork was painted by Cameron and his classmates during art class.
“B for Boston,” Walsh exclaimed. “That is so awesome, thank you.”
Cameron is one of 12 students from Boston enrolled in Perkins’ day and residential programs. In addition, 17 babies receive services from Perkins’ Infant-Toddler Program, and 10 older students participate in Perkins Short Courses held on weekends and during school vacation weeks.
As he prepared to return to City Hall, Walsh described his visit to Perkins as a learning experience – both about the school’s history and its modern-day initiatives.
“It was my first visit to the school and I’m really impressed,” he said. “Before I walked in here I didn’t realize that Helen Keller – who I read about in school – was taught here.”
In the future, Walsh hopes his administration can help support Perkins’ efforts to boost employment among individuals who are blind or visually impaired.
“We’re going to look to hire people who go to school here, in the city,” he said. “When you think about the public sector, it should be the public sector for everyone, not for some.”