That meant he entered Dartmouth College with credit for at least five courses under his belt. Still, he was overwhelmed during his first semester at the New Hampshire Ivy League school because he was assigned two five-page writing assignments — longer than any assignments he’d completed in high school, he said.
“It was the most daunting task,” said Brown, a rising senior at Dartmouth. “I didn’t even know where to start.”
Students almost universally said writing is a significant challenge when they get to college. Darryl Robinson, a Georgetown student and 2011 graduate of Cesar Chavez, a D.C. charter school, said it was his first college writing assignment that taught him how much he had to learn.
Asked to analyze a memoir, Robinson wrote a simple plot summary. He hadn’t known how to develop an argument and back it up. His paper received a D-
minus, as he recalled in an opinion piece he wrote for The Washington Post last year.
“Other Georgetown freshmen from better schools had been trained to form original, concise thoughts within a breath, to focus less on remembering every piece of information,” Robinson wrote. “My former teachers simply did not push me to think past a basic level, to apply concepts, to move beyond memorizing facts and figures.”
Robinson went to Georgetown as part of the Community Scholars Program, meant to give low-income and first-generation college students the support they need to succeed at the elite school. He worked hard during that first year, he said, and now feels like he belongs.
Carrington, this year’s Dunbar valedictorian, is participating in the same Georgetown program. He plans to start school this summer, living on campus and taking two courses as he gets to know his new world.
A sports fan, he wants to major in business and someday serve as the general manager of the Washington Nationals, or maybe the Redskins. His teachers say they have no doubt that he has the patience, the fortitude and the smarts to make that happen.
They point to his commitment to playing second base for Dunbar’s baseball team, which was winless for three seasons until April, when Carrington hit a home run on the way to a victory.
“He’s extremely driven,” said his coach, Jeffery Anderson. “He has a plan for his life, and he knows what he wants to do.”
His mother, Valerie Carrington, still frets. “For the next four years, you have to do well,” she said to her son days before he graduated. “I’m going to be praying.”
Stuart, the AP English teacher, said that Johnathon Carrington will be playing catchup in college.
“As a teacher, you always wish you could have done more,” Stuart said.
In the valedictory speech to his Dunbar classmates Friday, Carrington acknowledged the challenges ahead.
“Our future will not come easy,” he said. “We achieved a great milestone in our life today, but it’s up to us to continue our road to excellence.”