Paul Warren says a big difference is that the Washington Jesuit Academy has a built-in network of alumni—graduates of Jesuit high schools and colleges. Last year’s Jesuit Gridiron Classic, an annual football game between Georgetown Prep and Gonzaga, raised more than $100,000 for the school. Local Catholic girls’ schools have supported Washington Middle, but none can raise that kind of money at one event.
Sister Mary says that if she tells the girls “no excuses,” she has to say the same thing to herself.
In a city with notoriously low graduation rates—in 2006, only 49 percent of DC kids graduated from high school on time—98 percent of Washington Middle’s alumnae are attending or have graduated from high school. Girls have gone to dozens of good local high schools, including Archbishop Carroll, Georgetown Day, César Chávez, Georgetown Visitation, and School Without Walls.
When students graduate, they sign a paper that gives Washington Middle access to their high-school records. Kim Hopwood, director of student life, visits each graduate at her high school at least twice a year. She checks their grades and encourages them to join clubs and make friends. Many struggle to fit in. “Whether it’s academic, cultural, or social, it’s hard,” she says.
Sister Mary is not naive. She knows these girls will be fighting the odds the rest of their lives. Still, she’s hopeful. “It’s not about fixing somebody or making somebody who you want them to be,” she says. “Every student has God-given gifts.”
More Groups Helping Kids
Many area groups are working to help young people build a better future. Here are ten doing excellent work.
Brainfood uses cooking to teach life skills and promote healthy living. High-schoolers take cooking classes, listen to lectures, go on field trips, and do community-service projects. 1525 Newton St., NW; 202-667-5515.
College Summit gives college-admissions support to disadvantaged students. The program helps kids navigate test-prep courses, college visits, and applications. 1763 Columbia Rd., NW, Second Floor; 202-319-1763.
Community Bridges works with low-income girls between ages 8 and 15. It stresses academics, health, leadership, and conflict resolution. 620 Pershing Dr., Second Floor, Silver Spring; 301-585-7155.
D.C. Creative Writing Workshop partners with three schools in Southeast DC. Kids meet with professional writers, learn to journal and write poetry, and publish three literary magazines. 601 Mississippi Ave., SE; 202-297-1957.
DC Scores combines soccer, creative writing, and community service in an after-school program for more than 700 students at 23 elementary and middle schools in DC. 1224 M St., NW, Suite 200; 202-393-6999.
Escuela Bolivia provides leadership programs to Latino families. Offerings for kids include college-preparation workshops, mentoring with Latino professionals, and language classes. 2801 Clarendon Blvd., Suite 216, Arlington; 703-228-2560.
Higher Achievement gives year-round academic enrichment to talented middle-school students in DC and Alexandria. The goal: to get kids accepted at college-prep high schools. 317 Eighth St., NE; 202-544-3633.
Latin American Youth Center runs a range of programs—from foster placements and gang prevention to music classes and mentoring. It serves mostly Latino and African-American youth in DC and Maryland. 1419 Columbia Rd., NW; 202-319-2225.
Sitar Arts Center helps kids discover their creative talents and offers a safe place to go after school. The comprehensive arts program includes music, dance, drama, creative writing, and visual arts. 1700 Kalorama Rd., NW, Suite 101; 202-797-2145.
Words, Beats, and Life uses hip-hop to get kids in DC’s Wards 1 and 7 excited about learning. The program offers workshops in DJing, graphic arts, creative writing, fashion design, and more. 1525 Newton St., NW; 202-667-1192.