Twenty-five District students have been named semifinalists in the Outstanding Negro Students National Achievement Scholarship Program.
The recognition means that many of them will be courted with scholarship offers by some the nation's best colleges and universities, said Eugene Williams, head of testing improvement for D.C. public schools.
He said past experience shows that these students can expect to receive "tons of letters" and even personal visits by college recruiters eager to sign up successful black students.
Eleven of the semifinalists are from D.C. public schools, five more than last year. Williams said he thinks the increase is because of a new program started in June 1989 that pays 60 of the District's top high school juniors to study all summer. All of the semifinalists attended the summer program.
The six-week program, which costs the city $20,000, pays students minimum wage for every hour they participate. Students are drilled on vocabulary, assigned to read dozens of novels and offered intensive math review. They also learn testing strategies and practice taking tests.
Williams said the students increased their verbal scores by an average of 40 points and their math scores by 90 points.
Marc Gwangwa-Peters, a senior studying visual arts at Duke Ellington School of the Arts, credits the summer program for helping him improve his test scores.
He said being a semifinalist will have a "tremendous impact" on his ability to pay for college. He wants to study industrial design at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y.
"I'm so amazed," he said. "The scope of the whole thing hasn't quite hit me yet."
The students qualified as semifinalists based on their performance on the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test, a multiple-choice test taken in their junior year.
Each year, about 90,000 black high school students take the test, and 1,500 are named semifinalists.
The semifinalists must submit detailed information about their accomplishments and interests. Eighty percent are expected to qualify as finalists and compete for corporate-sponsored scholarships worth more than $700,000, according to a spokesman for the scholarship corporation.
Because her daughter Juliette is a semifinalist, Fay Acker said she hopes scholarship money will ease the financial strain of sending her to college.
Fay Acker should know. She was a semifinalist in 1964 and her husband, Daniel, was too. She said the resulting scholarship money helped pay for their college educations. "It was important to get the money," she said. "I know it was to my parents."
Jackie Knight, mother of Irvin Heard, a senior at Banneker High School, said that when she got news that her son was a semifinalist, her first thought was how it would "financially help the family," which has been struggling to save for college tuition. Although he hasn't decided where he will apply, now, she said, her son can get some scholarships. "It means he will get to college," she said. "And he really deserves to go."
The following is a list of District semifinalists.
Benjamin Banneker High School Dana E. Byrd Irvin K. Heard
Calvin Coolidge High School Meta D. Jones Kendall T. Joyner
Paul L. Dunbar High School Tadas S. Vasaitis
Duke Ellington School of the Arts Marc M. Gwangwa-Peters
School Without Walls Nia A. Phillips
Woodrow Wilson High School Juliette A. Acker Konyka M. Dunson Brigette D. Lumpkins Charles Moore
Archbishop Carroll High School Paul J. Arnold
Georgetown Day High School Marcus E. Jackson Sara C. Kaplan Melissa A. Steel
Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School Deryn E. Crockett
Maret School Ralee A. Cook
National Cathedral School Joy A. Jones Jennifer A. Turner
Sidwell Friends School Shelleye-Anne M. Bailey Mona K. Kanda Waymon C. Lattimore
St. Albans School for Boys Mark J. Johnson
Washington International School Dorothy P. Bullard Omari A. West