Sunday, December 16, 2018

Diego's Story

We at RISE first met Diego when he was a junior.  He is yet another student who inspires us.  He will be graduating from Anacostia High in 2019.  Whenever I am having a bit of a bad day, I think about students like Diego and keep forging on.  Here is his story.  

"I live in Anacostia in Southeast Washington, D.C.  Growing up in Southeast has its challenges.  In my neighborhood there are homeless people and trash everywhere.  I also see a police presence every day.  Two years ago my close friend, Kevin, was shot to death a few blocks from my school and a few blocks from my house.  Last week another student from our school was killed.  When I was four, my sister, who was 21, had to become my parent.  It has been hard for my sister to manage her job and to take care of me.  We have struggled with bills, sometimes selling personal belongings just to keep the lights on.  

I have stayed away from gang banging neighborhoods and separated myself from others so I can start to focus more on school and sports. I was a captain of my football team for two years and I made first-team conference in 11th grade.  I was a part of the student government association my 11th grade year.  I have made the honor roll most quarters.
I am planning to attend North Carolina-Central University and to become a sports broadcaster.  I am thankful for RISE for the opportunity to go to college and be successful."


Back in 1983, I announced to the Edmund Burke School assembly that our #1 tennis player’s league tournament championship was “priceless.”  No amount of salary at an engineering or accounting firm could compensate for the satisfaction of working with a kid for three years and see him achieve great things.

Thirty-five years later, I had the same feeling last weekend when one of our MATHletes from 2010, Josh, graduated from North Carolina A&T.  Josh graduated from Anacostia High School in 2013.  He and I are not sure, but we think perhaps five of the 150 or so graduates of that class have finished college.

RISE has worked with over 500 Anacostia students since 2010.  Six of these students have lost their lives.  A few have graduated from college, but it is an uphill climb.  Anacostia students are not as well prepared for college as many of their peers.  A relatively small tuition bill can derail their plans.  Family distractions can necessitate their return home.

Josh learned how to be self-sufficient once he learned he was in the wrong college for him freshman year.  On his own, he transferred to North Carolina A&T, the highest rated public historically black college in the country.  One of only a handful of history majors at A&T, Josh is applying for an assignment with Teach for America.

Josh had his ups and downs while in college, but he persevered.  His role model and guiding light, his grandfather, died in early 2018. One of things I love most about RISE is we stay in touch with our alumni.  RISE will always be around for Josh, if only to ask, "How is it going?"  In Josh's case, it should be going just fine.