By Mark F. Gray, AFRO Staff Writer, [email protected]

What started as a regular school day at Frank W. Ballou High School for senior Syamyia Beach, turned in to a life changing moment.  Beach, who carries a 4.2 grade point average, while taking an advanced placement curriculum, had her dreams answered when she unexpectedly earned a full scholarship to George Washington University (GWU) on March 19.

Since 1979, GWU has provided full scholarships to D.C. high school students through its Stephen Joel Trachtenberg Scholarship Program.  The program covers tuition, room and board and books during her four years of study as she pursues a degree in interior design on the Foggy Bottom campus.  Over the last three decades more than 170 local students have earned degrees through the collaborative efforts of the University and the D.C. Public School System.

Syamyia Beach, a senior at Ballou High School in Southeast, D.C., received a full tuition scholarship to George Washington University through the Stephen Joel Trachtenberg Scholarship Program. (Courtesy Photo)

“This means the world to me because it’s something I’ve always wanted,” Beach told the AFRO.  “GW was always my number one choice for college ever since I toured there in the sixth grade.  I went back two times and did separate presentations on it.  After I did all my research I knew it was the perfect school for me.”

Beach has been preparing for the multi-tasking rigors of college by serving as an active member of various clubs and organizations on the Ballou campus while also working and remaining in community service.  She is a member of the Ballou student government and part of the student advisory committee for the D.C. Board of Education.  In addition to working a full time job at the Holiday Inn on Capitol Hill, Beach also finds time to mentor school age kids as a math tutor.  Her extra-curricular activities have given her a laser focus and drive to succeed.

“GW is a high academic readiness school so I know the personal and student life is run perfectly,” Beach said.  “The students are always prepared and know everything they need to know to be successful because the [staff] and that showed me the students really care about each other.”

GWU’s ongoing commitment to providing this scholarship to D.C. public high school graduates provides more than just the wherewithal to continue their post-secondary education. It represents a genuine synergy and personifies how public private partnerships can collaboratively influence the community.  Students see how their peers earn a path to college through academic discipline that impact future graduating classes.  It also epitomizes how the link between an institution to its surrounding community can produce quality citizens who become leaders and solid contributors to its workforce.

“Often times when people think of Southeast [D.C.] they don’t think of high expectations for academics,” said Dr. Lewis Ferebee, Chancellor of DC Public Schools.  “This is an opportunity for us to dispel that myth not only at Ballou but throughout the D.C. Public School System.”

“There are these pieces outside the classroom that define them in a lot of ways,” said George Washington’s Dean of Admissions Costas Solomou.  “It’s their commitment to the community, it’s their leadership and passion for what they are about to study so they can go on to do some really great things.”

Pragmatically, however, the scholarship lifts an enormous financial burden off a family being led by a single mother.  With tuition of $34,000 annually the interest rates on student loans may have forced Beach to enroll at another college. Now she can maintain her focus of becoming the first member of her family to earn her college degree.

“I wanted to provide Syamyia with the best things in life and knowing that is what it has gotten her this is so great for me,” said Toni Davis, Beach’s mother.”