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Beginning Their Next Chapter as Leaders

Muriel Hairston-Cooper | 7/2/2013, 3 p.m.
Twelve seniors representing D.C. Public and Charter High Schools were recognized for their commitment to community service, their academic achievement ...
District of Columbia students received 2013 Comcast Leaders and Achievers scholarships earlier this spring. They gathered for a group shot with John Conwell, vice president of Government and Community Affairs for Comcast; D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray; and Thomas Tucker, senior director of Government and Community Affairs for Comcast. (Courtesy of Comcast)

Four years ago Hagos Hagos was 14 and not overly excited about having to complete community service hours as part of the requirements to graduate from Benjamin Banneker High School. Assigned to work with elementary school children at Turkey Thicket Recreation Center in Northeast in an after school program, Hagos looked forward to the end of the project. “Honestly, I was just trying to fulfill my requirements,” he said.

Fast forward to May 28, 2013, that’s when Hagos and 11 other seniors representing D.C. Public and Charter High Schools were recognized for their commitment to community service, their academic achievement and leadership skills. Each received a $1,000 scholarship from the Comcast Foundation as part of its Leaders & Achievers program.

“I wrote my essay for this award about my community service experience,” said Hagos. “One of my teachers said he knew it came from my heart. At first I was an introvert with the kids but then I started to stand up and tell them they had to do their homework and study hard,” he said.

“We began to bond and they began to tell me they wanted to be a strong student like me. This experience showed me how big a role model I was to them and that’s why I am a leader because a leader is someone who can be a positive influence and stand up for what they believe.”

Since 2001, the Comcast Foundation has awarded more than $17.7 million in scholarships to 17,000 students nationwide. Students write an essay which is reviewed by individual school guidance counselors or principals.

The program is competitive as noted by D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray who attended the ceremony at Comcast in Northwest. “We have at least 3,000-4,000 seniors among all of the high schools in the District and the fact that the 12 of you were selected is a phenomenal accomplishment,” he said.

The students are planning to attend local and out of state colleges in the fall. Naje Crawford, 17, will attend Bowling Green State University in Ohio and major in international relations. Naje, her two brothers and cousin were raised by Carlotte Crawford, their great aunt who lives in Northwest. Beaming proudly Carlotte Crawford said “today shows that all my work to encourage her to strive for the best is working. She took my words and went with it.”

“Children are a living message that we send to future generations,” said John Conwell, vice president of Government Affairs. “This event was created to honor you because you will make a difference in peoples’ lives.”

Others agreed.

“Our intention is to shine the light on you for your achievements and your work for positive change,” added Thomas Tucker, senior director, Government and Regulatory Affairs and program emcee. “We began putting this event together about three months ago,” he said. “We have a commitment to the community.”

And the future leaders have a commitment to the city.

Darnika Thompson, of Southeast is 19. She plans to attend the College of Southern Maryland and major in computer science. “I would like to open an IT company,” she said “And yes, I would come back to D.C. because this is where I started. I think part of being a leader is to take advantage of opportunities but also to bring others along with you.”

2013 Comcast Leaders and Achievers® Scholarship Recipients from the District of Columbia:

Kyndall Brown, Duke Ellington School of the Arts; Naje Crawford, Washington Mathematics Science and Technology Public Charter School; Victor Dinarte, Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy - Capitol Hill Campus; DeLante Fludd, Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter School; Lesha Gadsden, Spingarn High School; Lamia Gary, Hospitality High Public Charter School; Hagos Hagos, Benjamin Banneker High School; Arnasha Jones, McKinley Technology High School; Michael Smith, Dunbar High School; Tina Starr of Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy - Parkside Campus; Darnika Thompson of Friendship Public Charter Schools - Collegiate Academy; Rodrigo Umanzor of Columbia Heights Education Campus.