Esperanza students, parents like what Vick had to say

Posted: September 09, 2009

Unlike some parents who objected to President Obama giving a first-day-of-school talk with children about the importance of studying hard, parents of students at the Nueva Esperanza Academy charter school in Feltonville yesterday said they believed Michael Vick's message of admitting he was wrong and trying to make amends should be heard.

After all, the meaning of Nueva Esperanza is "New Hope."

"I believe people deserve second chances," said Les Perez, the friend of a mother waiting for her ninth-grade daughter.

Only ninth-graders attended the charter school on Hunting Park Avenue, near Third Street, yesterday. Students in grades 10 to 12 start their first day of school today.

Parents said they had not been told in advance that Vick, the Eagles' newest and most controversial quarterback, was going to talk to their youngsters.

But of all the parents interviewed, not one was upset about it.

"I think it's cool," said Zulma Medina, whose daughter was among the 200 students who heard Vick talk.

"Honestly, if he did something wrong and regretted it and was being sincere, then I think that's a good thing," said Lucy Cotto, the mother of another female student.

The parents who gathered at the school hadn't come because of the police and television news vehicles parked outside. They were there to pick up their children who were dismissed early because it was the first day of school.

"I'm here to pick up my princess," said Miguel Gonzalez, speaking of his daughter.

"I like Michael Vick," Gonzalez said. "He deserves a chance. We all deserve second and third chances. Let the man earn a living."

Gonzalez then whispered that he wondered if some of the opposition to Vick's signing by the Eagles was tinged by racial animosity because Vick is African-American.

"He paid his dues according to the jury and the sentencing," Gonzalez said. "Now it's time for him to get back to work. What he did had nothing to do with football."

When the students poured out of the school, several said they were excited to meet a professional football player.

"It was inspiring," said Jan Reyes, 14. "I liked what he said, and I love animals too.

"I know about rooster fighting in Puerto Rico and I'm going to do all I can to help stop it.

Reyes also said he will be a manager for the school's football team this year and hopes to play football next year when he is in 10th grade. "I never met an Eagles player before," he added, with a big grin on his face.

Jorge Cruz, 14, also said he took Vick's message to heart.

"I think he was sincere and meant it when he said he was sorry," Cruz said.

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, told reporters outside the school:

"If Michael Vick can turn 10, 100, or 1,000 kids away from dogfighting, then our partnership with him would be worth it."

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