District Students Receive G.W. Scholarships at the €New Ballou€

James Wright | 3/31/2010, 11:05 a.m.

Ballou Student Shines, Wins Trachtenberg Full Four-Year Scholarship

Several District high school students got the surprise of their lives during a ceremony at an embattled high school in the District.

Nine seniors who attend schools scattered throughout the city received full four-year scholarships to attend one the District€s most prestigious universities during an awards ceremony, Wed., March 24 at Ballou Senior High School in Southeast. The Stephen Joel Trachtenberg Scholarship awards program sponsored by George Washington University in Northwest attracted hundreds of students, faculty, staff and guests to the school€s auditorium to salute scholarship and excellence.

The university's president, Stephen Knapp, along with D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), Andre Johnson, staffer for D.C. Council member Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7) and George Washington alumnus Will Alexander, attended the ceremony.

"Today, we have the great pleasure of awarding Trachtenberg Scholarships to nine seniors who will soon graduate from District of Columbia schools," Knapp said.

"They will join the 116 District students who have achieved this distinction since the program began 21 years ago and we look forward to welcoming them to campus next fall."

Despite its reputation as a crime-ridden high school, Ballou has transformed itself and now calls itself €the new Ballou.€ The school has received accolades over the past year. The nationally-ranked Ballou Knights€ marching band participated in the 2009 Macy€s Thanksgiving Day parade, the football team was the runner-up in the DCIAA championship last year and its boys€ basketball team was the runner-up in the Abe Pollin City Title Game the latter part of March.

Ballou senior Isaiah West received thunderous applause from the audience when his name was announced as one of the recipients of the scholarship that covers tuition, room and board, books and fees. The 19-year-old Southeast resident said he was grateful for the chance to study at the prestigious university.

"This feels great," said West, who will attend the university's School of Public Health and study exercise science and pre-med.

"I want to study medicine and to someday become a surgeon. I want to save people's lives."

Along with West, other recipients included Angela Bonham (Dunbar); Yuhana Gidey (Wilson); Andrew Haynesworth (St. John's College High School); Nicholas Kelly (School Without Walls); Torrin King (Banneker); Maritza Sanabria (Sidwell Friends); Metasebia Temesgen (Banneker) and Ikechukwu Umez-Eronini (McKinley Tech). The students said that they plan to major in a variety of fields that include medicine, economics, marketing, international affairs, psychology and civil and environmental engineering.

George Washington selected the students based on class rank, grade point average, SAT scores, course of study, teacher recommendations, leadership qualities, community service and other extracurricular activities and achievements as well as demonstrated need. Students are nominated by their high school counselors and then participate in a scholarship application and interview process before being selected.

Recipients must be District residents who attend a D.C. high school, whether public, private or charter.

The scholarships, valued at more than $200,000, are renewed annually provided the recipients meet the university's academic progress standards. So far, the graduation rate for participants in the program is nearly 90 percent, university officials said.

Barry said the fact that West received a scholarship and the awards ceremony took place at Ballou, indicates change.

€Hello, new Ballou,€ the Ward 8 Council member shouted to wild cheers from the crowd.

While he praised the George Washington scholarship recipients, he also had a message for other students.

€Education is the most important thing in your life,€ Barry said.

€You have to have a high school diploma to flip hamburgers these days.€

The former four-term mayor urged students to study and €not to run with the wrong crowd.€ Furthermore, he told students to ignore unkind words like €bama€ or €nerd€ that might be hurled by their peers to dissuade them from putting education first.

Some Ballou students, he said, will see him very soon. The council member said that he plans to teach chemistry two days a week at the school.
€You will have a tough teacher,€ Barry, said with a smile.

Seyoum Gidey attended the ceremony to see his 17-year-old daughter, Yuhana, receive her scholarship. The experience is not new to him. Two of his children are past recipients of the Trachtenberg Scholarships and attend George Washington University.

€This is a good experience and a good thing the university is doing,€ he said.

€It is making a difference in my children and they will be able to reach the world through the university.€