WASHINGTON (WJLA) - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed of equality for children of all colors, yet the nation's capital has the largest racial achievement gap in all of the country's school districts. Only 60-percent of D.C. students finish high school, but one non-profit organization is working to turn that around.
Students in Higher Achievement's rigorous academic program start young and work hard after school and throughout the summer.
"We work with our young people to help them gain the academic skills, confidence and leadership skills they need to succeed in middle school, and then gain access some of the top high schools in the city and remain on a trajectory that includes college," says Katherine Roboff, the executive director of Higher Achievement, a program for D.C., Maryland and Virginia students.
Eighth-grader Ayinde just finished his final summer program in which the students take advanced courses in math, science, social studies and literature.
"They usually give me above and beyond, usually about two years above my grade level, just to prepare me so when I go back to school I'm already more advanced than my other peers," Ayinde says.
"They're boosting their academic skills in the summer when otherwise they might be at best maybe maintaining their skills, but at worse, experience summer learning loss and actually getting behind," Roboff says. "Once a week, they're not in the classroom but out in the community visiting museums, different places of business, and those trips also include college trips, so at the end of the summer our scholars actually go overnight on university campuses for three days and get to see what college is like."
As students ended the summer program you could see their confidence in beginning the new school year.
"I'm like the smartest person in the class and I know everything that people don't know so I can help them with their work, too," says eighth-grader Mercia Smith.
To help the students get to college, 500 community mentors work with them year-round.