New Ballou1

WASHINGTON – The students at Frank W. Ballou Senior High School, which was founded in the early 1960s to serve residents in southern Anacostia – including Congress Heights, Washington Highlands, and Bellevue – have lots of which to be proud.

The school’s graduates include prominent athletes, film directors, attorneys, military officers and award-winning journalists.  One of its former students was named by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the greatest guitarists of all time.  Its marching band has performed in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif., and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

But in recent years nothing has students and faculty more excited than what they are calling “The New Ballou” – a  new school that includes 87 classrooms, a two-story cafeteria, a movie theater, computer labs, a culinary arts kitchen, and more.

“It feels like ‘High School Musical’,” Dareona Rose, a junior at Ballou, said, referencing the Disney movie featuring a special high school setting.

Last month, students gathered in the brand new three-story auditorium in the heart of Southeast as former Washington Mayor Vincent Gray cut the ribbon on the new facility.  The students of Frank W. Ballou Senior High School have been enjoying their new and improved high school since returning from the winder break.

The new building is next to the old high school.  The old school is under construction as a new football stadium and auxiliary field, which will be complete in August.

The new school is separated into three wings, built to enhance the body, mind, and soul, officials said. The students are thrilled to be able to do so much in their new school, especially since it is in Southeast Washington.

“A lot of people don’t think that Southeast can do good,” said Takaya Griffin, a junior at Ballou.  “It encourages us to be something in life, because we see that people care about the type of building that we’re in, so we should care about our education.”

Faculty and alumni are also excited about the new school. Former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry was instrumental in making the new building a reality. It was one of the Barry’s last projects as council representative of Ward 8.

“To go from the old school to the new school . . . it is such a privilege and an honor to have this new building,” said Melissa Jackson, library media specialist and 1986 Ballou grad.  “And it’s at no cost to the students. However, I am so sad that Marion Barry wasn’t here to see it, but hewas very involved, and I am very pleased from the front door to the back door, from the left to the right.

The “body” wing of the school has two gyms, a track, a swimming pool, and a workout room with treadmills, along with elliptical and stationary bicycles.

Jerome Wade, health teacher and head coach of the track team at Ballou, said, “I love the architecture. I love the open windows. Just the space and opportunity that it provides, the quality health and P.E. experience is great. I always say, ‘If you look good, you feel good.’”

The “mind” wing comes with 37 classrooms equipped with built-in projectors and smart boards. There are also brand new science labs, auto mechanic training space, and a mass-media classroom. The old knight mascot stands in the new library as well.  A new steel knight mascot that glows blue and gold stands in the courtyard of the school.

“What do I like about the new building?” Loretta Allen-Simmons, a math and English teacher, said. “Everything, because I was in the old one for over 15 years.  I love everything from the desks, to the lighting, to even the restrooms. There are many, many things and I just love it.”

The “spirit” wing focuses on music and performing arts. It holds the three-story auditorium, movie theater, dance studio, and the greenhouse andcosmetology training centers.

“The new Ballou is a big step for the kids in the area, because it makes you want to come to school,” said Anthony Simpson, a senior. “When you see the building and how nice it looks on the outside, you want to come inside and play the sports and be involved in everything going on.”

Junior Malik Burrell, agreed. “It gives a sense of hope to a community that has kind of become hopeless,” Burrell said. “The fact that we have a new building is like a new light and showing us towards a different direction.”