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updated: 3/3/2011 9:29 PM

Wheaton College students like Daley's education focus

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The schools that Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley spoke about at Wheaton College during a campus visit Thursday were more than just a talking point for Brandon Warren.

The 18-year-old Wheaton College freshman attended Urban Prep Charter Academy, a boys school on the city's South Side that Daley championed as a success story in Chicago education. Last year, the school reported that 101 of its 107 graduates headed to college, just a few years after officials shut down a school in the same neighborhood. The remaining students either joined the work force or the military.

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Warren said he attended the speech, which early on was dominated by talk of the city's educational system, to get more of a sense of what Daley felt was important.

"Education was a good thing for him to speak on," he said. "That's been really lacking (in Chicago). That's been my experience growing up in the community."

During his 45-minute speech, Daley touched on several aspects of public policy, including Chicago's international standing, his part in the creation of a mayors' consortium that brought suburban mayors together and, most prominently, education.

"(In the past) there was a lack of real understanding that education is the answer to all the social ills that we have," Daley said during the speech.

A full house packed Barrows Auditorium on the school's campus for the speech.

After the event, Chemistry Professor Larry Funck said Daley's appearance would serve the students well because he was candid about what his work meant to him.

"He spoke personally from the heart and talked a lot about his own passion for public service, and I think that was a very good thing for our students to hear," he said.

Daley was brought in primarily because of his friendship with former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, a Wheaton College graduate who introduced the Chicago mayor who has led the city for 22 years.

Marcey Wennlund, 18, said she was a big fan of Daley and was excited to see him speak. She said she was impressed to hear about the charter schools in Chicago.

Growing up in the Western suburbs, she said Daley's statement that the city and suburbs were intertwined resonated.

"Growing up around here, you always heard of the political machine in Chicago and what their effects are on the suburbs," she said. "It's such a privilege to have these connections here."

As for Warren, the Urban Prep graduate who now resides on campus said his educational foundation included both parents, which not many of his classmates could say. He also said he agreed with Daley, who said the city's segregated communities need to work toward integration.

"Education is one of the big conduits toward integration," Warren said. "Those things can start if we have a better educational system."

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