Reprinted from the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
July 1, 2007
School chief's role model is 18-year-old
William Cala guest essayist
Since my return to the Rochester area in 1997, I have spent countless hours in Fairport schools. Back in '97, Hannah, Bailey, Meredith, Sara and Katie were just finishing the first grade. I feel that we all grew up together learning about life and what is important in this world.
The incredible smiles that we see today in their senior photos are direct views into the beauty of their inner beings and their souls. All of these young women were extraordinary human beings and incredible role models to underclassmen in a building of more than 1,700 students.
Last spring, my wife, Joanne, and I came to know Hannah Congdon quite well as she and a group of Fairport students traveled with us to the tsunami-torn areas in India to do volunteer work in the orphanages in Cuddalore. Over those two weeks, we discovered that Hannah was a giving, caring and God-inspired soul.
How many students would choose India's devastation for their spring break? I told Hannah and the rest of the group that I wish I had had their courage at their age to do what they were doing to help the poor of the world and relieve their misery.
I often refer to Hannah and the kids from the India trip as the core of the next generation that will undo the mess our generation has created. It is humbling yet inspiring to know that our youths can have such a tremendous impact on the world and its future. I am not embarrassed to say that one of my role models is an 18-year-old who taught me an awful lot in India and in the halls of the Fairport schools — this young woman with a comic's sense of humor and enough energy to light up the world.
Our earthly world has been terribly shortchanged by the departure of Hannah, Bailey, Meredith, Sara and Katie, but the heavens have been immeasurably brightened by five of God's prized angels.
Cala, superintendent of Fairport Central School District 1997-2006, now is interim superintendent, City School District.