"Dancing with the Scholars" guest judges Council member Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7) and Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D-At- Large) join WOLCF founder Wanda Lockrigde on stage for a dance to celebrate their November birthdays. (Corey Parrish/The Washington Informer)
"Dancing with the Scholars" guest judges Council member Vincent Gray (D-Ward 7) and Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D-At- Large) join WOLCF founder Wanda Lockrigde on stage for a dance to celebrate their November birthdays. (Corey Parrish/The Washington Informer)

“Dancing with the Scholars” returned to THEARC community center Saturday Nov. 12 for its seventh installment, continuing the annual effort to support students in Southeast with a Hollywood theme that dazzled judges and guests alike.

The fundraiser, modeled after the hit television show “Dancing with the Stars,” showcased the dance skills of three students from Woodson, Ballou and Anacostia high schools, who partnered with officials from the State Board of Education (SBOE) in a competition for the “William O. Lockridge Spread Your Wings Award.”

This year Ballou High School senior Reniya Brown and Markus Batchelor, Ward 8’s representative on the education board, took first place in the completion.

“My partner was a much quicker study than me,” said DWTS first-timer Batchelor of his dancing skills. “I sure got an education over the past weeks.”

Despite the hard work needed to learn and perform the dance routines, he said the cause will keep him coming back as a DWTS participant.

Inspired by the legacy of the late community and education activist William O’Neal Lockridge, the William O. Lockridge Community Foundation (WOLCF) hosts the event to support its efforts to provide scholarships to at-risk youth in Wards 7 and 8.

Markus Batchelor, the Ward 8 SBEO representative, and his partner Reniya Brown won the 7th annual “Dancing with the Scholars” competition representing Ballou High School. (Corey Parrish/The Washington Informer)

This year, the foundation honored Washington Informer Publisher Denise Rolark Barnes for her commitment to its work.

The foundation has awarded more than $83,000 in scholarships since its inception in 2011.

“We try not to turn anyone away,” said Lockridge’s widow, Wanda Lockridge, who founded and leads the foundation in her late husband’s name. “The scholarships vary based on what is raised.”

This year, she said DWTS helped raise more than $55,000 which will help provide the foundation’s academic scholarships, emergency student assistance fund, transportation assistance fund and international ambassadors program which gives Ward 7 and 8 middle school students and all-expense paid travel opportunity to an African nation.

“I hope to participate [in DWTS] next year,” said Terra Minor, 16, of the H.D. Woodson High School dance duo.

Minor, a junior and participant in the foundation’s 2013 trip to Cameroon, danced alongside SBOE Vice President Jack Jacobson.

Next year, she will be eligible for a Lockridge scholarship, which she said will help her attend her “dream school,” Southern University in Baton Rouge, La., to pursue a degree in IT digital media and join one of the university’s band dance teams.

Longtime participant Mark Jones said he will definitely be back. Though he said he does not even dance socially, he remains enthusiastic about the program to honor the legacy of William O. Lockridge.

“William mentored me on the board,” said the Ward 5 SBOE representative and member of the Anacostia dance team. “He was the most consistent political officer as far as education goes. He is the only person to serve on every iteration of the school board.”

William O’Neal Lockridge moved to D.C. in 1979 and immediately took on a number of public service roles, including advisory neighborhood commissioner, PTA president, president of the Ward 8 Democrats and president of the Alabama Avenue Task Force.

For more than 15 years, before he was elected to the then-Board of Education in 1983, he worked for D.C. public schools as a biology teacher, truancy officer, parent advocate and a teacher coordinator.

Starting in 1998 William served as the vice president of the Board of Education, chairman of its finance and facilities committee and then as a Ward 8 representative on what became SBOE where he advocated for new schools and resources for students in Wards 7 and 8 until his untimely death in 2011.

Jones, now currently the longest-serving member on the SBOE, also stands as the longest-serving SBOE participant in DWTS, participating in all but one of the events.

This year he and his partner Nighya, Blount, 17, represented Anacostia High School and for the first time finished second in the competition, a feat he and his partner are proud of.

“We had to make some adjustments for Mark, but we had a lot of fun performing and knowing that is what for good outcome [for college],” said Blount, a senior and returning DWTS contestant.

Blount hopes to be a scholarship recipient this year so she can attend Virginia Commonwealth University next fall to study biology and dance to advance her dream of becoming a forensic anthropologist.

Individual choreographers coached each team, also a first for the program. Kyra Hayes (Team Woodson), Adriane Gill (Team Ballou) and Naim Green (Team Anacostia) put together two 90-second dances for the DWTS competitors.

The foundation also announced its partnership with the nonprofit organization the Big Brown Get Down to provide tutoring services to students attending schools in Wards 7 and 8.

Scholarship applications will become available on the foundation website in February.

Tatyana Hopkins – Washington Informer Contributing Writer

Tatyana Hopkins has always wanted to make the world a better place. Growing up she knew she wanted to be a journalist. To her there were too many issues in the world to pick a career that would force her...

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