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“When I first came to Chavez, math was one of my top struggles. I wasn’t quite sure if I’d ever make it to the next grade level when it came to math. However, RISE-DC tutors helped me to understand math on a broader level, and I will be graduating in June and attending my dream college.”

Brianne, a Chavez student who graduated in 2011

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Volunteer Spotlight

In Paul's previous life, he taught math and coached tennis for nine years at the Edmund Burke School. In the class of 1987 was a gifted student-athlete, Andrew Prevost, pictured above. Andrew was instrumental in bringing Burke its first soccer and tennis championships in school history. Andrew and I kept in touch over the years, but we lived separate lives for the most part, Andrew starting a family and developing his career, and I in Anacostia. Since the summer, however, Andrew has been an incredibly dedicated college mentor to one of our members of the class of 2017. Andrew has also recruited his fellow employees at the Meltzer Group to help with the mentoring program.

Andrew remarks, “Getting back to my roots in DC and connecting with RISE has been a blessing. I'm reminded every day how lucky I am. Working with my student has been a gift for me. As we all get older and wiser, the wants and needs of material life tend to take a back seat to helping. RISE is doing incredible work; I'm just a small piece of the puzzle and fortunate enough to help.”

Focus on Ballou

For about a year, RISE has been getting to know the fine teachers and administrators at Ballou High School . Last school year we worked with students who had failed the ninth grade, some more than once.

Many of those have ascended to eleventh grade and are on track to graduate on time, but others are now enrolled in Ballou's "STAY" program, which works with over-age and under-credited students. Wherever these students are, RISE pledges to help them as much as possible, whether it is with tutoring, mentoring, or counseling toward post-secondary success.

Pictured with me is Dr. Wilbert Miller, counselor at Ballou STAY, meeting over the break to discuss strategy. Most of the Ballou STAY population is itinerant; the students need to move frequently due to circumstance that are beyond their control. RISE and Ballou STAY will be collaborating on targeted grant applications in the years to come, focusing on strategies Ballou STAY is enacting to improve academic performance and attendance. This collaboration fits perfectly into RISE's strengths and mission.

Senior Spotlight

Sierra has been with RISE since the summer of 2014, when, at the recommendation of many of her peers, she joined the CollegePrep program. In some ways she has been the “can’t miss” kid, number one in her class of 2016 and a superb dancer. How might RISE help, you may ask? Her college mentor, Ashley Nguyen, has been helping Sierra assimilate the myriad of offers and conflicting advice she is getting from coaches, teachers, and counselors. Ashley can give a disinterested voice and be a sounding board for Sierra as she figures out where to go next year.

Sierra says RISE has helped her prepare for the SAT and shown her a great variety of college options through our trips to campuses. She appreciates all the help and plans to help RISE someday after she graduates and comes back to the community.

Washing Away the Blood

Candlelight vigil

Washing Away the Blood

As thoughts of domestic terrorism and police violence intrude on those in “safer” communities, we always need to be reminded that the specter of violence has always lurked in the communities RISE has served since 2003. Five students in our programs have lost their lives to gun violence; I mention three of them in posts here, here, and here.

For several years I have been mentoring two seniors at Anacostia High who are victims. One student first lost his father, then his stepfather, to gunshots. The other young man recently witnessed a murder outside his apartment building the night before I was to pick him up for pizza--a murder, incidentally, that was not reported in the local news. When I arrived at the apartment complex at noon the next day, I was blocked by fire trucks which were washing away the blood of the victim who had lain on the ground for hours.

Amazingly, and no doubt thanks to supporters of RISE, these young men have positive outlooks and are headed for college. They could not be more different. One has a reading disability but has been lifted up by the WordSTARS program, and the other is a young man with incredible gifts: A MATHlete in our CollegePrep program, he is captain of his basketball team and will be choosing from top ten historically black colleges. Would our second young man be on the road to success without RISE? I’m not sure. On Christmas Day he called us “lifesavers” in a text message to me.

Our country may becoming more fearful and less optimistic, but supporters of RISE should take solace that RISE’s work results in more and more young people confident in their futures and with better outcomes after high school.

14 > 1

It’s data time, to let you know how your money was spent last year and what RISE has accomplished. My favorite data point is the fact that after only the spring semester of tutoring at Maya Angelou’s Young Adult Learning Center, 14 of Maya’s students passed the new GED, compared to a total of just one in the entire calendar year of 2014.

For more RISE success metrics, click here.

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