Barrington teachers, staffers proportion memories of Boston’s mayor-elect

Boston is older than the state of Illinois, but it was up to Barrington schools in the 21st century to produce that city’s first mayor who was not a white man.

Michelle Wu, 36, who was born to Taiwanese immigrants and raised in Barrington, claimed victory Tuesday night in Boston’s mayoral race.

But already before her historic win, Wu held a noticeable place in the memories of teachers and staff members in Barrington Community Unit School District 220.

“That city is in great hands,” said Cheryl Cafcules, administrative assistant to the district director of safety and security.

When Cafcules served as administrative assistant to the associate principal of Barrington High School, Wu was her helper for four years — running notes and other errands by the building during her free periods.

“We just hit it off,” Cafcules said of Wu, a 2003 Barrington High graduate. “She was very humble and so involved. She had no lunch period.”

Among her variety of activities, she was in the Latin club, was a student mentor and played violin. During her freshman year, Wu played badminton and was on the class council.



“I think she was just wanting to spread her wings and get involved in anything,” she said.

One of her graduating class’s two valedictorians, Wu also was voted by her peers as that year’s “Biggest Brainiac.”

Her quote under her senior yearbook photo reads: “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”

Michelle Wu’s senior portrait in Barrington High School’s 2003 yearbook.

After graduation, Wu attended Harvard University, where her connection to Boston was forged. She returned to Illinois for a while to look after her mother and open a tea house in Chicago, but she moved back to Boston in 2009 to attend Harvard Law School and has been there since.

Considering how well-rounded Wu was as a teen, Cafcules is not surprised by her varied achievements as an adult.

“She was very positive and smiling all the time,” Cafcules said. “She was very family-oriented.”



Cafcules lent her sustain when asked during Wu’s first run for the Boston City Council nearly a decade ago. But she hasn’t been in touch with her former assistant for years and wasn’t aware of Wu’s mayoral bid until learning she had been elected this week.

“I had no clue, absolutely no clue,” she said.

Cafcules will retire next summer and has high hopes of doing a lot of traveling. Topping her list is Boston.

Prairie Middle School teacher Kate Ashcraft knew Wu as a girl who stood out in her noticable second class of students in the late ’90s.

“She was a kid that had a certain level of maturity about her that I definitely remember,” Ashcraft said.

She crossed paths with Wu a few years later and saw how that maturity had evolved from one of save to greater expression.

“It was interesting to see how she blossomed from middle school to high school,” Ashcraft said.

Wu’s victory Tuesday provided another opportunity for Ashcraft to proportion with her current students that their classroom had once been occupied by future achievers, including Olympians, NFL players and Tony Award winners. Each has a different significance to her students, but she could tell that Wu’s success opened several eyes.

“Their future is closer than they realize,” Ashcraft said. “Barrington produces some pretty incredible kids.”


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