When Aaron Moore began swimming competitively at the Barry Farms pool in Southeast Washington at age 9, he already was an honor student at Savoy Elementary School.
Moore, now 18, has continued to set records for his athletic and academic achievements. On Monday, he graduated from Cardozo High School as the most outstanding male athlete and winner of the Hall-Bolden-Jenkins Award, given to the student athlete with the highest grade-point average. He was the first recipient of both awards in Cardozo's history.
Moore is captain of the school's swim team. With a 3.82 grade-point average, he was the class salutatorian. He is listed in "Who's Who Among High School Students," and he has been awarded a $4,000 scholarship to the college of his choice--the Lewis W. Roy Jr. award of the Jonathan Davis Constitutency-Scottish Rite Mason Affiliate.
In the salutatory address to his 240 fellow graduates--boys in purple caps and gowns, girls in white--Moore admonished: " If you first fail to prepare, prepare to fail. And if you are satisfied with your present abilities, don't be surprised when the rest of the world passes you by."
Later in the ceremony at the Washington Convention Center, Moore was awarded the Cardozo faculty scholarship of $1,800 and a Mayor's Medal of Scholarship (along with class valedictorian Roberta Kearney). His other awards were presented two weeks earlier at the Cardozo annual athletic banquet in the school's cafeteria.
Another studious athlete, Jo-Ann McCoy, 18, also received top honors at the athletic banquet on June 1. She was voted the school's most outstanding female athlete. McCoy, captain of the girls' basketball team graduated with a 3.3 (B+) grade-point average.
In another precedent, Moore, youngest of nine children, said he will be the first member of his family to go to college. He plans to attend Pennsylvania State University to study mechanical engineering and eventually to work in computer science.
He said it has been helpful for him to distance himself from most of his peers in the Southeast neighborhood around Sheridan Terrace apartments on Sheridan Road SE, where he lives, an area he describes as "rough and sometimes dangerous."
"A lot of the guys in my neighborhood just live from day to day. They're not trying to go anywhere, Moore said. "It's not because they don't have potential to do more, but they refuse to use any potential they have."
He said he spends two hours swimming every day after school, then studies for three hours.
"I have eight other relatives that live in the house, where I share my room with my nephew, but during those three hours I had to ignore everything else . . . until I finished my studying," he said.
Moore's mother, Shirley Moore, a maintenance worker for a health spa in Greenbelt, said "words cannot explain how proud I am of Aaron. . . . I was never able to give him the academic support he needed, but he was always able to succeed by himself."
In addition to his mother's love and support, Moore attributed his success to the encouragement and "fatherly" guidance of his swimming coach, Stanley Gainor. He said he was planning to go to high school at Dunbar before he met Gainor at an athletic event at the University of the District of Columbia. Gainor encouraged him to attend Cardozo instead.
"I don't believe that if I attended any other high school I would have had a coach like Mr. Gainor. . . . He would always advise me on the right things to do . . . . His motto for the guys on the swim team was 'books and chlorine,' " Moore said.
McCoy, who made inner-high first team in basketball and All-American honorable mention, also attributed her accomplishments to discipline and hard work.
"After basketball practice I would go home and do my homework first before considering anything else," she said. McCoy has been awarded a four-year scholarship to George Mason University. She said she plans "to study pre-law, play basketball and eventually work my way to law school."