Althea Evans told her grandmother three years ago that she would be valedictorian of her high school class. Earlier this month Evans graduated at the top of her class at Anacostia High School with a list of accomplishments that includes a Georgetown University award for scholastic achievement, a Naylor-DuPont academic award and a Women's Bar Association award.

At a recent banquet honoring the District's top high school seniors, Evans attributed her academic excellence to the encouragement she gets at home.

In an interview during the banquet, she recalled getting her first library card when she was 3 years old. Her mother, Gwen Evans, encouraged her to use the card regularly. Today Evans loves to read and finds schoolwork easier because of it.

"Behind every good student is a good family," Evans said. "I feel sorry for students who don't have {supportive} parents like I have."

Evans and 143 other students from the District's 15 public high schools, were honored by the school district last week in "A Salute to Academic Excellence." As a representative from each school expressed the sentiments of his or her peers during the ceremony at the National Press Club, the recurring theme was that the road to a good education begins at home.

LaMark Goodwin, one of Dunbar's honored students, said his mother, Marva Barnett, and his uncle Harvey Barnett have always encouraged him and kept him on the right track. "My goals are to be a productive, prosperous and influential member of society always," said Goodwin, who will become a scholarship student in Cornell University's engineering program this month.

A 17-year-old National Merit Scholar, Goodwin said achieving academic success has not always been easy. "There is definitely a lot of peer pressure -- drugs, friends telling you to do this or that. To succeed you have to keep your priorities straight."

To encourage this attitude, the Board of Education recognized scholastic excellence by high school seniors. "The responsibility of education is to enable students . . . to pursue their goal of {reaching} maximum potential," said Phyllis Young, Board of Education member-at-large. "We also give awards to encourage students . . . to continue to reach even higher levels of excellence."

In addition to rewarding academic achievement, the District school system sponsors enrichment activities such as academic clubs and vocational associations to enhance the students' ability to compete and persist.

Evans held a part-time job, served as senior class representative and as a member of the student government and participated on the school's cheerleading team while maintaining the highest grade point average of her class. She said it is a matter of budgeting time and making a commitment to excellence.

The 17-year-old Southeast resident said she wanted to attend Wilson High School in Northwest because it is "an academic school." But her grandmother, Mary Evans, encouraged her to attend her neighborhood high school.

"Anacostia is now in its renaissance period," Evans told the more than 200 guests at the awards ceremony. "People like to put us down and say we're not as smart or academically inclined {as other students}, but now students and teachers {at Anacostia} are rebelling against this stereotype."

The other students seemed to agree that negative stereotypes associated with the District's academic programs were about to be broken. Their accomplishments alone are considered proof of success in the schools. Eastern's Dorothy Seay promised that the group would continue to reach their individual goals. "We will succeed," she said confidently. "We will make you proud."

The following is the list of students who were honored:

Anacostia: Althea Evans, Marcia Anderson, Benjamin Day, Samuel Delane Jr. and Michael Malry.

Ballou: Dawana Branch, Charlean Thompson, Troy Barbour, Steven Sprannum, Valerie Francies, Sheila McDowell, Rapatrick Murrell, Tracie Parker, Carmella Washington and Gail Sydnor.

Banneker: Allison Jolly, Chioma Ogburkiri, Knikki Childs, Jacquline Cooper, Tina Dempsey, Sara Cormeny, Daniel Levine, Joseph Razza III, Marc Williams and Juliette Wilson.

Cardozo: Elizabeth Goodwill, Renee Cooley, Marguirita Castillo, Dimeterice Chandler, Claudia Hernandez, Nicole McCrea, Veronica Ledbetter, Ainsley Simmons Jr., Antonio Wellington and Natalie Wilson.

Coolidge: Linda Lawson, Frederick Davy, Deborah Bush, Tamia Gordon, Kim Law, Thomas Lawrence, Barbara Milam, Mun Liu, Angela Miller and Indriani Persaud.

Dunbar: Tarsha Bennett, Leslie Coney, Charles Banks III, Taunya Ferguson, LaMark Goodwin, Jacqueline Lee, Deea Morgan, Michelle Starks, Crystal Taylor and Wendell Thomas.

Eastern: Jo Anne Swinton, Valerie Littlejohn, Tammy Aiken, Sharron Blyther, Delores Colbert, Alva Edwards, Tonya Long, Teia Pittman and Dorothy Seay.

Ellington: Anne Washington, Znezdana Rogie, Leslie Delaine, Charlotte Dooling, Cassandra Henry, Shalonda Perry, Christopher Samson, Farien Tyler, Alix Karomzay and Dennis Jeter.

McKinley: Laurelle Robertson, Jaimie Brown, Julie Reed, Natalie Beckwith, Jennifer Dupree, Roxanne Harrington, Tracy Mixon, Molette Pendleton, Robert Shanklin and Cynthia White.

Multi-Cultural Career Intern Program: Raul Manzanarez, Ethiopia Wondemu, Morena Orellana, Michael Pile, Santos Adela, Yamilet Davila, Aliette Domercant, Haile Fessaha, and Silvia Hernandez.

Roosevelt: Vinh Nguyen, Tara Pace, Carla Langshore, Paul Bascomb III, Anita Burnette, Maria Creighton, Kimberly Davila, Shaun Patterson, Kimberly Purvis and Mary White.

School Without Walls: Jane Sharp, Sheila Coble, Conley Dooley, Sarah Garske, Carol Griffin, Johnny McGuigan, Pamela Owens, Sara Nisenson, Michael Walden and Howard Young.

Spingarn: Ronnie Thaxton, Yolanda Morris, Terrie Smith, Jacqueline Bowles, Patricia Brown and Brenda Contee.

H.D. Woodson: Elvon Cumberland, Lisa Collins, Terri Bellamy, Terrance Carroll, Michael Goodman, Angela Hill, Stephanie McNeal, Judia Turner, Kevin Wiley and Chantuea Wright.

Wilson: Peter Ferren, Michael Spector, Rosalina Pereira, Victoria Agbro, Julienne Bollerud, Nathaniel Green, Coates Lear, Carbelito Mendoza, Mardi Strejcek and Kerri Thompson.