Success and academic excellence were the chief topics yesterday at a luncheon honoring 28 of the District's valedictorians from public and private high schools.
"You are winners today and you can be winners tomorrow," said Benjamin H. Alexander, president of the University of the District of Columbia, who addressed the valedictorians at Howard University.
Hosted by "Frontiers International," a nonprofit service organization, the luncheon was part of the group's effort to find college money for the graduating students.
"My main concern right now is to get ahead," said Walter Lorenzo Braxton, 19, who just graduated from the Armstrong Adult Education Center, "and school is what I am most worried about." Braxton would like to study chemistry, and he may learn Monday whether he has been granted as much scholarship money as he needs.
"You'd be surprised at the number of youngsters who come out at the top and don't get scholarships," said Freddie Brown, president of the organization. "We want to make sure that the parents and students are aware that money is available to them, and put them in contact with the right sources." The organization also gives a $1,000 award to one student a year.
Elizabeth Perez, who arrived here 13 years ago from Ecuador, has already obtained scholarship money to study business administration at Georgetown University. She is graduating with honors from St. Patrick's Academy. She said her goal is to have her own business, but she also sees possibilities for social action through business. "I think of business as a way to do away with separations between people by working together with everyone," she said.
As much as anything else, the luncheon yesterday was a celebration of the black community's history and family traditions. All but three of the valedictorians present were black, and all were surrounded at their tables by proud relatives and neighbors. Also present were Col. West Alexander Hamilton, in whose name the $1,000 yearly scholarship is given, and Gladys Roberts, who was a valedictorian in 1922.
At the luncheon, Katie Byrd was almost as excited as her daughter, Veotria Alvita, about the events of the day. Veotria, who graduated from Anacostia High School, will be the first member of the family to attend college. She will study medicine at Fisk University in Nashville. "I always wanted to be a nurse," Katie Byrd said, "but my family were farmers, we couldn't afford it."
Veotria does not know if she will be awarded scholarship money, "but it doesn't matter, 'cause I know we'll find a way," she said.