A fatal failure long ago gives a new principal a mission

Alan Borsuk

Jim Wilkinson took it personally when Juan Perez murdered two men.
Certainly he had sympathy for the victims, Joseph Rivera and Michael Ralston. But he didn’t know them.
The issue was Perez. Wilkinson felt he barely knew him – and that was the problem. Perez had been one of Wilkinson’s students the previous year when Perez was 15 and a freshman at Marquette University High School.
Almost everybody at Marquette High barely knew Perez. He never asked for help. He stayed to himself. He got mediocre grades, but he wasn’t failing. And he left the school after that freshman year. Instead, he got involved deeply with a gang.
A tense, angry confrontation between members of two gangs in a restaurant on Feb. 13, 1993. A slap. Insults. A couple guns. And, in short order, the teenager was receiving a 60-year sentence.
Almost 18 years later, both Perez and Wilkinson feel they have changed for the better.