Only about 17 percent of residents in Ward 7 have a bachelor’s degree or higher. The poverty level for children under 18 is 40 percent. The median household income in this majority-Black ward is about half the amount in Washington, D.C., and three-quarters of the amount in United States overall.
But this economic environment didn’t stop 19 high school students at Friendship Collegiate Academy Public Charter School in Northeast D.C. from receiving full college scholarships, WUSA 9 reported. Students at the school received a mixture of athletic and academic scholarships on signing day, including a cheerleader who received funds towards her education at Virginia State University. All 200 of the senior class are going to college this year.
Several students at Friendship Collegiate Academy officially sign contracts for athletic scholarships.
During the scholarship signing, scholarship recipient Jordan Marshall said, “Football was an alleyway for me, a way to get out all my frustration of the day,” CBS DC reported.
Another recipient, Vaughn Taylor, said “I stay busy, stay motivated because I have football. I have something to work towards,” WUSA 9 reported.
The achievement of Friendship’s graduating senior class comes at a critical time for DC Public Schools.
Ballou High School in Southeast D.C. also had a 100 percent graduation and college acceptance rate last year. But Brian Butcher, a history teacher, told NPR, “They don’t deserve to be walking across the stage.”
An NPR investigation found that most of Ballou’s 2017 graduation class missed more than six weeks of school. And according to district policy, if students miss a class 30 times in a year, they should fail the course. But teachers felt pressure from administration to pass absent students, according to NPR. Some teachers who were terminated last year told NPR they believe they were targeted for not passing students.
While school district officials acknowledge absenteeism is a problem, they told NPR that they can’t ignore what students experience outside of school. NPR reported that many students are dealing with trauma, family responsibilities or a job, which can make it difficult to show up to school every day. Data released last year found that 47 percent of D.C. students have experienced some kind of traumatic event.
According to WUSA 9, Marshall’s friend, for instance, was killed in a drive-by shooting at 17. Taylor was five years old when his father was murdered. Yet, both students from Friendship Public Charter School in one of D.C.’s low-income neighborhoods managed to focus on school and football and get full rides to college.
The AFRO contacted Friendship Public Charter School multiple times, but the school did not return calls.