Saturday, December 16, 2017

Delonte's Story

Delonte is a RISE senior who thanks to RISE's supporters is applying to colleges, visiting colleges, and will continue to receive support once he enrolls in college.  He is a gifted athlete and also a talented student.

"When I was younger our family got evicted every winter.  We didn’t always have the clothes to wear outside the house.  We even would wear the same clothes for school every day for two weeks.  Once we became homeless and were living in a motel for a month, without transportation to school.

My mother had me at a very early age, 16, and I’ve seen her struggle for a very long time now.  All I want is to help provide for her.  Unfortunately, I don’t know my father.  My mother has had boy friends who I saw were not a good example of a male figure for my life.  One time I had to sleep on the train for a week straight because one of step fathers and I got into an argument and he put me out while my mother was out of town and didn’t know. 

My only outlet for me outside of home is football, which is a big part of my life but it’s more than just that.  Football was always that outlet that that I could take my anger out in.  I started when I was seven years old.  I have had the same teammates and built a bond with them.  To me they are like my second family.  I am having a good season this year, with three interceptions, one for a touchdown that won a game for us.  When I’m on the field I think about why I still play, who I’m doing it for, always thinking about the struggle I see my mom and siblings go through and what they expect from me.  This weighs on me a lot so much that I cry almost every week about my situation and how I just want to become more than what I am now.

If I don’t make it in football, during my college years I want to study statistics or be involved in physical therapy.  In school, my favorite subject is math, but chemistry is very interesting to me because you learn so much about the science world and important things in your life.  In those two subjects I have gotten good scores and grades throughout middle school and high school.  Those two subjects are also involved throughout the world, so being proficient in those subjects will help me in other positive ways.

My mom and siblings have moved to be with my grandmother in North Carolina.  I currently live with my friend in SE Washington, DC, still in school, doing my best to receive a scholarship from any D1 school but any school possible.  I see better things in my future that no one seems to believe I can do.  I still want to provide the very best for my mom.  She dropped out in 10th grade while she was having me.  I don’t want to follow her path.  I just want to make life better for myself while helping my mother and the rest of my family."

Our Neighborhood High Schools in Transition

Thanks to the generosity of its supporters, RISE has been working with two high schools in the lowest income neighborhoods in the city, Anacostia Senior High School and Ballou Senior High School, since 2010.  In 2014, RISE and Anacostia High School ended their partnership, and this past August, RISE and Ballou High School did as well.   

Ballou’s principal was reassigned in late November after reports that the school was graduating students who did not meet minimum requirements and were absent for more than ninety days in a year.   

Our goal at RISE is to work with principals and schools to help their kids succeed – to pass and excel in their classes, to attend school consistently, and to reach beyond high school to college.  Despite all the chaos around them, more than forty Anacostia and Ballou students in RISE's College Prep Plus program have forged ahead to make college enrollment and completion a reality. 

High schools in Southeast Washington, DC, face many challenges.  It takes strong leadership plus support of the school system and numerous other partners to help students develop the skills and knowledge that will serve them into adulthood.  

However, passing students who attend less than half their classes and forcing teachers into ethical dilemmas that impact teachers' careers, as happened at Ballou, do not serve students well.  Working in such an environment is difficult for RISE.  Schools have pressures to produce better data such as better attendance, fewer suspensions, better scores, or more college matriculation.

It is not easy for school leadership and teachers to achieve positive results when more than 90% of the students live in single-parent households, most live in poverty and struggle to meet their basic needs, and they are surrounded by violence, drugs and other forms of abuse. 

Even in the most challenging of circumstances, we see and celebrate students’ success.  We hope to see Ballou and Anacostia High Schools overcome their challenges of leadership and staff retention, and with the support of community partners and supporters, persevere to meet their students’ needs.  These are environments where RISE can be of maximum service and value to their students.