Inspiration Award Presented to Friendship Collegiate Academy
Gaston Caperton presents the Inspiration Award to students at the Friendship Collegiate Academy in Washington, D.C.
On April 30, Gaston Caperton enthusiastically presented a trophy to this deserving school at its Inspiration Awards Ceremony. Caperton was joined on stage by Donald L. Hense, chairman of Friendship Public Charter School; Victor Reinoso, deputy mayor of education in the District of Columbia; Friendship Collegiate's principal Peggy Pendergrass; Arsallah Shairzay, director of the school's AP program; and several Friendship students. The ceremony was a true celebration of the school's success and achievement in winning this coveted award, which recognizes the country's most improved high schools.
On the morning of the ceremony, Friendship Collegiate Academy T-shirts were distributed to all students and guests to wear for school spirit. On the back of each shirt was a long and impressive list of those students who had taken AP® courses.
Friendship's improvements in their AP program did not go unnoticed. It is the school's goal to have every student take at least one AP Exam before graduating. This spring, the school plans to administer nearly 600 AP Exams, compared to only 62 in 2005. The staff and students take strong pride in this progress. The need to succeed and the eagerness to prepare for college resonate in the classrooms on Friendship Collegiate Academy's Carter G. Woodson Campus.
Principal Peggy Pendergrass—the school's fearless leader—is dedicated to creating a culture of learning. "You have to believe that all students can learn and be successful," she said. "I am inspired every day when I wake up. This is an award for the students—they are doing amazing work."
In a Student's Own Words
One student in particular, senior Maya Foster, embodies the success of this award-winning school. Maya, who describes AP courses as being "on point," is a teen mom who is currently struggling to decide where she will go to college next fall—the University of North Carolina or the University of Virginia—because both schools have accepted her. Ask her about college? She says, "Bring it on!"
Maya entered Friendship Collegiate Academy as a sophomore. She spent her freshman year in a big public school that lacked the support system and family-like atmosphere that Friendship has created. Maya admits that had she stayed at her previous high school and had a baby, she would probably be in a GED program.
On the contrary, Maya scored a 4 on her AP Psychology exam last year. "AP changes you as a student, and the teachers here will break their back and go out of their way to make sure you succeed," she said. "Education does not stop after school hours." It is no surprise, then, that after Maya had her baby, staff members videotaped her classes so that she would not fall behind. They even babysat for her while she took exams. Such dedication to students is hard to come by, and Maya considers herself one of the lucky ones.
It's stories like Maya's that make Friendship a school of inspiration. "This school and its teachers have simply been facilitators for your excellence," Friendship's chairman Hense told the students. Nearly all of Friendship's students are African American, and many live in economically disadvantaged communities. Bucking a national trend that shows a lower number of African American students attending college, Friendship makes college preparation an integral part of the school's mission.