Michelle Obama visits Ballou Senior High School in 2011, encouraging them to work hard to get the most out of their opportunities for education. (Courtesy photo)
Michelle Obama visits Ballou Senior High School in 2011, encouraging them to work hard to get the most out of their opportunities for education. (Courtesy photo)

Residents of Ward 8 are beaming with pride over the recent news that the entire senior class at Ballou Senior High School, after every student applied, may be headed to college. Reportedly, this is the first time the entire senior class has taken this noteworthy step toward brighter futures.

The majority of the Class of 2017 is no different than the classes that have matriculated through the Southeast school for many years. Most are eligible for free or reduced school lunch. They come from the District’s poorest homes and, if accepted, most will be the first in their families to attend a college or university.

What makes this year’s class different is the fact that the students themselves decided they all would apply. Their efforts were supported by the school’s college and career coordinator who helped students complete applications to one and as many as 14 public and private colleges throughout the country.

Yetunde Reeves, Ballou’s principal, is clearly working in an environment that stresses that high school is not the end all of education. She and college coordinator Jamanda Porter are working with students who are aspiring for greater opportunities despite Ballou’s reputation of being a low-performing school. But with all due respect, they are no different than past administrators who desired positive outcomes for every student but faced enormous obstacles that caused them to be deemed ineffective.

This is the moment all of them would have hoped for; when students themselves declared, “Enough is enough!” and took steps to demonstrate that they believe their education and future should be taken seriously. These students have realized that graduating from high school creates opportunities for continued learning in college, the military or a trade program and that these options can lead to a better future for themselves and their families.

Ballou’s Class of 2017 is becoming Ward 8’s heroes and celebrities. They’re receiving standing ovations in churches, praise in area businesses, including Giant, the ward’s only grocery store, and in conversations at area barber shops and beauty salons.

We will be listening for more great news from these students and we hope they know the community that celebrates them will also be there to encourage and support them because they will need it.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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