Hoisted on the legacy of a community giant, the annual Dancing with the Scholars fundraiser on Nov. 12 again found fun ways to give back to the youth and community.
The elaborate, Michael Jackson-themed event, held at the THEARC community center at 1901 Mississippi Avenue in Southeast, showcased three students from Ballou, Woodson and Anacostia high schools, who competed in various dance battles for the “William O. Lockridge Spread Your Wings Award,” with local State Board of Education officials as their partners.
Inspired by the legacy of the late William O’Neal Lockridge, a champion educator and community activist throughout D.C., the William O. Lockridge Community Foundation aims to afford more scholarships and college opportunities to at-risk youth in Wards 7 and 8 through events such as DWTS.
Wanda D. Lockridge, Lockridge’s widow, emphasized the continued importance of her husband’s work and Lockridge foundation programs.
“I was always told that you cannot leave your community unless you better your community,” said Lockridge, the foundation’s chairwoman and executive director. “Because we are the village, we have to support the young people. When other people actually come out to things like Dancing with the Scholars, it shows that they also believe in the same mission.
“They believe that it is about the development of young people and they see that the youth have to expand outside of the classroom,” Lockridge said. “I came out of the same neighborhood, but if I can do it, they can too.”
Though Ballou student Trevon Allen and his partner, Ward 8 State Board of Education representative Tierra Jolly, ended the evening as first runners-up, the results were secondary.
“I think this event is very important,” Allen said. “Being young, we should never be afraid to try new things. This is actually a great way for kids like us to get scholarship money to go to college and be successfl.
“So just be yourself, because it’s always good to try new things,” he said.
In addition to the foundation’s International Ambassador’s Program, which allows students the opportunity to visit places such as Africa, proceeds from this year’s event will also go toward the Emergency Student Assistance Fund, STEM programs and the Nickelodeon-established Ward 8 Play Day, which encourages students to turn off their televisions and get out and play.
“Proceeds from events like this go directly toward taking students to places like Africa, where we show them opportunities that they did not know about,” Lockridge said. “It gives them an opportunity to start thinking bigger, to start thinking about international careers … they may not have even known were possible.”
As the evening drew to a close, Lockridge presented Ward 7 Council member Yvette M. Alexander with the Lockridge Leadership Award for her dedication to the foundation and never missing a DWTS event since the organization’s inception in 2011.
“I am so honored. I know all too well all that William Lockridge has done,” Alexander said. “So for me to be honored in his name is quite exciting for me. It’s something that has brought attention to the students over here across the river, that need it the most.
“We have to let our children know how much we care about them and be that reinforcement where they might not otherwise get it,” she said.
To date, the foundation has provided over $70,000 in scholarship awards and college assistance to 31 students from Ward 7 and 8. The foundation has also forged a partnership with Tennessee State University, William Lockridge’s alma mater, that provides special scholarships to community students.