By Christina Charlery
“We honestly take pride in our school,” said Stanley Diggs, a senior who is enrolled in the Anacostia’s ROTC program and plans to join the military after graduation.
“We actually everyday come in here committed, dedicated to actually learning. And when people put us down it kind of makes us feel bad, but we use it towards our advantage to strive for more.” Daneya Taylor, a senior who will be attending University of Maryland Eastern Shore next year to study early childhood development, also did not hesitate to defend her neighborhood.
“It’s not as bad as everybody make it seem like we’re this bad Anacostia,” she said. “We have fights but we don’t have as many fights as everybody make it seem. There’s stuff that goes on at school that goes overboard outside on the news and stuff.”
During her four years going to school in Anacostia, she is most impressed by the dedication of her teachers.
“At other schools you normally won’t see teachers that are actually committed to their jobs,” Taylor said. “Other teachers just say you going to do this, then I’m going to get my money, so I don’t care if you do it or not. These teachers at Anacostia are actually committed to their jobs.”
Antoine Douglas is a senior who plans to attend George Mason University to study either graphic design or mechanical engineering.
“There’s so much good going on it the school that they don’t highlight,” he said. “My experience has been great, all four years. I’ve enjoyed it.”
Douglas’s focus on boxing has translated into a focus on academics throughout his high school career.
“I got into boxing through my biological cousin, now my foster father. He was an amateur boxer but couldn’t follow through with his career. He adopted me and my brother and asked if we wanted to go to a boxing gym,” Douglas said.
Knowing that underclassmen look up to him, not only for his impressive academic record but also his boxing skills, he encourages his fellow students to achieve success.
“People see me at school and say, ‘You’re sharp.’ I say, “I started out just like you. I wasn’t born with the great skill of boxing embedded in me,” Douglas said.
When asked what his relationship with other Anacostia students was like, Douglas said, “I treat everyone the same. We’re a support group, mentors to each other.”
Melanie McKie, a senior, said, “The headlines are always about violence, never about the good, positive things students do.”
McKie said she hopes to attend Penn State University Park Campus to study political science and criminal justice with a minor in history.
An honor roll student currently enrolled in eight classes, McKie still manages to be part of her school’s basketball team, cheerleading team and indoor track team. Her involvement in the school’s activities has been a source of pride, she said.
“I love my school and I love D.C. too,” said McKie. McKie thinks of herself as a role model on her high school campus.“I care about the whole school as one, not just my senior class. It’s about everybody. Everybody affects the school. If one person messes up it affects the whole school.”
One of the students McKie mentors is Shytasha McMan, a freshman who is also on the cheerleading squad. But McMan doesn’t share some of her peers’ positive feelings about The Academies at Anacostia. “My mother didn’t want to send me there first but she sent me there anyway. I didn’t want to go to the school. I used to go to Coolidge. I had fun, but she took me out,” said McMan. “Anacostia does not encourage us to go to college at all. They really don’t. To me, they really don’t care about us.”
Although McKie does realize not everyone will have an ideal experience at the Academies. “I’m not going to make Anacostia into something it’s not. You have people in the school that aren’t for school, they’re not on that right track yet, “McKie said.
For students like Shytasha McMan, McKie does not give up hope.
As with any other high school, The Academies at Anacostia houses more than one kind of student. Although many may face more obstacles than the average teenager – such as poverty, violence, and teen pregnancy – the college acceptance rates tell stories of success that are familiar to McKie and her classmates. .
Some Anacostia residents, such as mother of three Octavia Thomas, aren’t willing to take that risk.
“I plan on leaving D.C. and moving my kids out to the suburbs. I’m going to let them do elementary school here and then have them moved by junior high,” Thomas said. “Only because I grew up in D.C., I know how convenient it is to get into things out here like crime, drugs, and being with the wrong crowd and doing the wrong things.”