D.C. HIGH SCHOOLS

Nine Seniors Win Scholarships to GWU

From left, Samuel Collins Jr., Emily Persons and Minh Phan from Banneker high school were awarded Trachtenberg Scholarships to G.W. University yesterday, three of nine D.C. students to receive full scholarships to the school.
From left, Samuel Collins Jr., Emily Persons and Minh Phan from Banneker high school were awarded Trachtenberg Scholarships to G.W. University yesterday, three of nine D.C. students to receive full scholarships to the school. (By Kevin Clark -- The Washington Post)
By Theola Labbé
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 16, 2007

Even as the college acceptances rolled in for high school senior Samuel Collins Jr. of the District -- a stack of letters from the University of Maryland and Catholic, American and George Washington universities -- the one thought that loomed in his mind was how to finance his education.

Yesterday, the 17-year-old senior at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School got his answer -- a full four-year scholarship.

Collins was one of nine D.C. students who learned yesterday that they had won awards to George Washington University worth $200,000 each.

"I don't even have the words to explain this," Collins said after a special senior assembly at the Columbia Heights school, where university President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg presented the scholarships that bear his name.

The awards started in 1989 as the Presidential 21st Century D.C. Scholars Program as a way to reward city students and encourage them to attend college. It was later renamed after the university president. The program has awarded more than $13.5 million to D.C. students.

Most D.C. public school students don't graduate from high school, and less than 10 percent graduate from college, according to a report released in October by the State Education Office. The awards program is one celebration of student success despite those odds.

Banneker had four winners: Collins, Jimmy Gomez, Emily Persons and Minh Phan. The winners from School Without Walls were Serena Wong, Kristin Smith and Marcus Hendricks. Sesen Gidey won from Woodrow Wilson Senior High School in Tenleytown, and Emily Olmstead won from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts.

The scholarship is open to students from the 16 high schools in the D.C. school system who apply to the university. Students from charter schools are not eligible, said Thaddisa Fulwood, who led the university selection committee.

After students apply to the university, guidance counselors recommend them for the scholarship. This year, 35 students citywide were recommended for the awards, Fulwood said.

The selection committee looks at a student's academic achievements, including grades and SAT scores, along with teacher recommendations and activities outside the classroom.

In addition, all of the students were interviewed, and the university looked for that extra special quality, Fulwood said.

"We want students who are going to be leaders on campus," Fulwood said.

Sharong Persons, 47, mother of Emily Persons, said that she had known about the award for about 10 days and that it was hard to keep it a secret from her daughter, especially as she continued to stress about college scholarships.

Her daughter was also accepted to MIT and is waiting to hear from other schools. Persons said she wouldn't pressure her daughter to go to George Washington, because it is her decision to make. But she had her own opinion.

"It's going to be real difficult to walk away from this," Persons said. "She'd better have a very good reason."


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