Hundreds of D.C. high school juniors have received excellent news in recent days: They are the recipients of Achievers scholarships, meant to help promising city students pay for college.
The Achievers scholarships, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and administered by the nonprofit College Success Foundation-District of Columbia, provide as much as $55,000 over five years of school.
This year, 316 were selected for the scholarship. More than a third — 111 students — attend Friendship Collegiate Academy, part of the largest charter school network in the city. An additional 41 students attend Anacostia High School, which is run by Friendship in partnership with the traditional school system.
“We start really early trying to get kids oriented toward college,” said Donald L. Hense, chairman of Friendship’s board of trustees, describing pre-kindergartners’ trips to local college campuses and dual-enrollment opportunities that allow high school students to earn university credit.
Hense said that the Achievers scholarship, coupled with the D.C. Tuition Assistance Grants — which provide city students up to $10,000 a year to defray the cost of out-of-state tuition at public colleges across the country — have made college a possibility for many students.
“You have kids who are able to walk out of high school into a college with $20,000 dollars a year,” Hense said. “Most colleges and universities would love to have a kid walking in the door with that much of their tuition paid for.”
The Achievers scholarship is open to students in six schools with a high percentage of low-income students. Besides Anacostia and Friendship Collegiate, those schools are Ballou (38 recipients this year), H.D. Woodson (42 recipients), Maya Angelou (40 recipients) and Thurgood Marshall Academy (44 recipients).
Winners receive not just money but also support services during their senior year in high school and throughout college.
The College Success Foundation-D.C. has selected more than 1,700 Achievers since 2007. Donald E. Graham, chairman and chief executive of The Washington Post Co., serves on the organization’s board of trustees.