Commentary: Urban Students Need A College Degree

Donald L. Hense | 3/27/2012, 1:30 p.m.

This year, 124 Friendship high school students--89 at Friendship Collegiate Academy and 35 at the Academies at Anacostia--earned D.C. Achievers Scholarships, helping them pay for college. The D.C. Achievers Scholarship Program, ably led by Herb Tillery, is worth $6.2 million to our students, but that figure does not convey the world of opportunities that this support will open up for our young men and women.

By providing a comprehensive range of support, which ensures that our students are accepted to college and are successful there, we have raised expectations. Our flagship charter high school, Friendship Collegiate Academy, has a 95 percent graduate rate--22 percentage points higher than D.C.'s traditional school system. And 100 percent of its graduating class is accepted to college. At Anacostia, a turnaround public school that Friendship runs in partnership with District of Columbia Public Schools, 90 percent of graduates are accepted to college. In the second year of the turnaround process, the high-school graduation rate was 79 percent, up from 57 percent since before our partnership at Anacostia began.

We have raised the awareness of our young people--and the communities and society in which they live--of what they can achieve. Sadly, it seems we still need public figures to realize the urgency and importance of attending college as a goal for urban youth. Our young people's lives and futures depend on it, as do our communities.

Donald Hense is chairman and founder of Friendship Public Charter School.