For the first time in six years, all graduates of Highland Park Christian Academy’s middle school will attend private high schools in the D.C. region, with a couple of the eighth-graders enticed by lucrative scholarships.

Mia C. Freeman, valedictorian, and Michelleh N. Wainaina, salutatorian, proudly led the HPCA eighth-grade graduation commencement Monday, June 4 in the main sanctuary of First Baptist Church of Highland Park on Sheriff Road.

Freeman will attend Elizabeth Seton High School in Bladensburg on scholarship, while Wainaina was offered a $4,500 scholarship to attend Bishop Denis J. O’Connell High School in Arlington, Va.

In their special speeches to their classmates, parents, staff, family and friends, both young ladies talked about their successes and the lessons learned during their years at the academy. They exuded excitement about their future.

“The learning environment” is what Wainaina said attracted her to Bishop O’Connell.

“They donated a lot of money to their science department and their math department,” she said. “Last year, they donated $21 million to their science department so they could upgrade it.”

Wainaina, who graduated with a 4.056 GPA, said she has a strong interest in science.

“My goal is to graduate from Bishop, hopefully get into Princeton University, which will allow me to become a doctor in the surgical field,” she said.

Freeman said, “I decided to go to Seton because when I shadowed there, it was really cool and stuff. I like their dance team and swimming.”

The scholarship offer helped make Seton “my best choice,” said Freeman, whose GPA was 4.061.

Also attending Seton in the fall are honor students Joy N. Mwaura and Jessica V. Murray, as well as Terri W. Rickard and Destiny Sloan. The dance talents of Micaela E. Smith-Waller landed her on the varsity dance team at Seton.

Rahsaan M. Thomas, Devin T. Bazemore and Javar M. Roberts all plan to attend Bishop McNamara High School.

The Highland Park Christian Academy is 35 years old, one of the oldest of the 122 private schools in Prince George’s County that provides spiritual, academic and social development for pre-K2 through eighth grade. The Academy board of directors approved a proposal to expand HPCA to include seventh and eighth grades in March 2010 and recruited the first class by the fall. HPCA is registered to become a member of the National Middle School Association.

“From preschool to middle school, our learners at Highland Park Christian Academy know they are special,” said Principal Niesha Wright, who taught math at the school before taking the helm.

“Having been an educator for 18 years, I know what makes for excellent instruction that yields optimal student achievement,” she said. “I am of the philosophy that believes that every child deserves a fair chance at receiving a quality education.”

Honor student Jace K. Joynes plans to attend DeMatha Catholic High School and said he feels prepared for the challenges that await.

“I’ve learned time management here, [as well as] organization,” Joynes said of his two years at HPCA. “You’ve got to be organized in high school so you know where everything is.

“I have a cousin who went to [DeMatha] and to Seton and they have gone to college and got pretty good jobs,” he said, adding that attending DeMatha “is the best opportunity for me to be successful.”

Other graduates, however, noted that their entire education, from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade has been at HPCA so there is a concern about adjusting to larger classes and navigating through more people.

David Ingram also will attend DeMatha.

“The number of eighth-grade students who are accepted into private schools has always been close to 100 percent here at Highland Park,” said social studies teacher Edmund Bowie. “This year it is 100 percent, but in the past, there have been some families who have elected not to apply to private schools.”

Bowie underscored the educational quality at Highland Park, not only because he has taught for a number of years at the school but also because his own son was educated at the academy.

“Absolutely, I can attest to the top-notch learning,” Bowie said. “One of those students was my son. My son went to school here. He started here in pre-K. This is the only school he ever knew until he graduated in eighth grade. He was accepted at DeMatha Catholic High School. He went there. He was an honor roll student all the way through there. He was extremely well prepared by Highland Park. And now he’s very successful at Towson University.

“It all started here in pre-K at Highland Park,” he said.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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