“It was a great day for me,” Nwaneri, 17, of Hyattsville said of her acceptance. “I just screamed.”
On Tuesday, when the honor student is expected to be awarded her diploma, she will be one of the last out-of-boundary graduates to participate in Quest. The program now only draws from minority students who live in Roosevelt’s Greenbelt neighborhood.
Parents, students and some school officials have been lamenting the end of the special transfers into the Quest program, arguing that the path into the county’s top school has become too narrow.
“They wouldn’t have the opportunity to be here” without special transfers, said Reginald McNeill, Roosevelt’s principal, as he looked at a couple of students sitting at a conference table in the school office. “The experience that these kids are given can’t be beat.”
Prince George’s district leaders say they are trying to create challenging programs at other high schools so students countywide have more choices.
Nwaneri’s desire to attend Roosevelt, outside of her Hyattsville neighborhood, is not unusual in Prince George’s.
About 2,000 students apply to the highly regarded science and technology program at the school, but only 250 students are admitted. Nearly 300 apply for Quest, which allows the high school students to take a curriculum similar to that offered in the science and technology program. The school accepts only 30 in that program.
Applying to out-of-boundary schools is common across the Washington region each year, as parents vie to get their children into the top schools in their systems. But in Montgomery and Fairfax counties, parents have more high-performing schools to choose from than do parents in Prince George’s.
McNeill said he has received calls from anxious parents at his home about the entrance process for Roosevelt, a school of 2,551 students.
“I constantly get calls from parents [who live throughout the county] asking, ‘Is there any way I can get my child in?’ ” McNeill said. “My wife got a call the other day from a young man who went through the program, and he wants to know how his younger sister can come to Roosevelt. They live in New Carrollton or Lanham. I had to let them know she can’t. . . . It’s difficult to hear parents pleading, and there’s nothing I can do to assist them.”
Quest, which began as the Black Male Achievement program, was created with the same goal as the Meyerhoff Scholars Program at the University of Maryland Baltimore County to increase diversity among future leaders in science and engineering, school officials said. Robert and Jane Meyerhoff began that program in 1988, providing scholarship money, mentoring and research assistance to black males who were interested in pursuing a doctoral degree in math, science and engineering.