Grace Dickerson says all children want to be successful, but they need the tools to make it happen.
“It's not enough to say you can be anything you want to be, you've gotta provide the supports for that,” said Dickerson, the founder of New Community For Children.
For 30 years, Dickerson has advocated for D.C. children of all backgrounds to get the education they deserve. In 1988, she founded the “New Community”—where students from kindergarten through 12th grade receive educational support every day after school.
“Say for instance I was stuck on homework or something, they would always come back and help me out with anything,” said Connor Scott, a nine year old who is part of the program.
The program also focuses on the students' emotional well-being.
“After school you need to have something that builds another level of self-esteem,” Dickerson said.
Children take part in activities like music and art, as well as yoga and photography. They also have their own garden.
“I like coming here because we get to garden and then we get to taste them,” said nine-year-old Aliyah Matthews.
Kofi Ross-Minor says Dickerson led her to this program for her two daughters, who she says are now more responsible and motivated since starting last year.
“Her suggesting new community- this could be a good deal for your kids not just being able to house one but both of my kids…and providing them both with educational support…that was awesome,” Ross-Minor said.
When her daughters get a bit older, the program has SAT prep classes, and provides college application help as well. Dickerson says graduates of the program are succeeding at top colleges and in careers—which she calls the biggest reward.
“It's very addictive to see kids being successful…it really is… and there’s nothing you can compare to that,” Dickerson said.