Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Time to celebrate 20 years of the Freddie Mac Foundation!

Higher Achievement, D.C. Metro has a lot to celebrate this week. In recognition of the Freddie Mac Foundation’s 20- year anniversary, Higher Achievement created a video to highlight the investments made in the organization since 2000.

Over the years, Higher Achievement has grown in many ways thanks to the strong partnership with the Freddie Mac Foundation. In 2000, Higher Achievement’s operating budget was a small 200,000 dollars, and the Freddie Mac Foundation invested 13,000 dollars to impact 50 scholars. Eleven years later, Higher Achievement, D.C. Metro has grown to a 2.6 million dollar organization impacting over 500 scholars.

Thank you, to the Freddie Mac Foundation for positively impacting the lives of our scholars and the organization since 2000. Congratulations on 20 years!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Groundbreaking Study Proves Impact of Higher Achievement

About the study

Public/Private Ventures (P/PV) and Dr. Leigh Linden from The University of Texas at Austin recently conducted a groundbreaking summer study and 24-month preliminary evaluation (the study, in its entirety, will last 48 months) of Higher Achievement’s rigorous afterschool and summer academic program.

Key findings

The studies find that Higher Achievement's program signifcantly increases students' reading and math scores. Additionally, the findings point to an increase in students' desire to attend competitive high schools.

  • The longstanding Higher Achievement model is making a difference in the academic lives of motivated, at-risk students who could easily fall through the cracks.

  • Higher Achievement's intensive year-round program had a signifcant impact on youth's standardized reading and math test scores.

  • The study also shows that Higher Achievement regularly engages parents, with 64 percent of parents of children attending the program confirming at their first-year follow-up that they spoke to Higher Achievement staff about their child's progress at least once a month.

Looking ahead

Many recognize that there is not one all inclusive solution to improving student achievement, but these shorter-term results show positive momentum and concretely demonstrate the ongoing value of HigherAchievement - a program that warrants, and is undergoing, further research to demonstrate its effectiveness as youth transition from the program into high school.

Higher Achievement embarked on a national expansion in 2009 and currently operates in Washington, DC, Baltimore, MD, Richmond, VA and will open operations in Pittsburgh, PA in 2011.

DC Metro GoingPlaces! Gala – Thank You, Sponsors!

The DCMetro GoingPlaces! Gala is coming up on October 13. A big thank you and shout out to the amazing sponors who have made it possible!

If you’d like to purchase tickets or add your company’s name to this star-studded list, visit us by clicking here.

First Potomac Realty Trust
Bates White Economic Consulting
Quadrangle Development Corporation
Vornado/Charles E. Smith
Freddie Mac Foundation
Annette M. & Theodore N. Lerner Family Foundation

Stephen B. Goldstein & Antonietta Corvasce
Clark Construction
Mollie and Sam Schear
Robert H. Smith Family Foundation
Robert & Arlene Kogod Family Foundation
Arnold & Porter

Lehman Smith McLeish
Velsor Properties, LLC
The Jerry Taylor and Nancy Bryant Foundation
Metropolitan Properties
Building Maintenance Service
Douglas Development
ADI Construction
HITT Contracting
Eastern Waterproofing and Restoration, Inc
Artemis Real Estate Partners
Ratner Companies

Mayer Brown
Turner Construction Company
Eastdil Secured/Wells Fargo
Sameer and Nimisha Bhargava
Schindler Elevator Corporation
Otis Elevator

John and Carol Boochever
Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP
Williams & Connolly LLP
OTJ Architects
SIGAL Construction Corporation
Red Coats, Inc.
Cushman & Wakefield
US Bank
Holland & Knight
Raymond & Anne Ritchey
Balfour Beatty Construction
Tom & Alison Cassels
The John Akridge Company
Cassidy Turley
Admiral Security Services
Commonwealth Land Title Insurance Company - Commercial Services, Washington DC
Mark G. Anderson Consultants
Tishman Speyer
Securitas Security Services
Offit Kurman
Arent Fox LLP
GHT Limited
Pelli Clarke Pelli Architechts
The JBG Companies
Harmon Inc
VIKA Incorporated
Eng Garcia Properties, LLC
USAA Real Estate Company
Forest City Washington
The Kaplan, Small, & Gewirz Families
WDG Architecture
Wilkes Artis, Chartered
Venable LLP
Hartman Design Group, Inc.
Burns & Associates
Restoration East, Inc
The Bresler Family Foundation
Bowman Consulting Group
Kastle Systems International, LLC
Angelo, Gordon & Co.
Western Development
Capital One
Cooper Carey
KeyBank MA
The Eisen Group
Federal Realty Investment Trust
CB Richard Ellis
Kettler Inc.
Donatelli Development
Perseus, LLC
James G. Davis Construction Corporation
Pickard Chilton
Steven Roth

Scott & Jamie Hoffman
Ernie & Julie Wittich
Tadjer Cohen Edelson
Laurie Kramer & Family
Events DC

Art Display
Edge Construction
International Limousine
ECS Mid-Atlantic
Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman
JP Morgan
Bender Foundation/Blake Real Estate
Atlantic Services Group
Anna Flores
Bohler Engineering
Mitch Bonanno
Federal Capital Partners
The Ezra Company
Ted Billies
Brendan & Delphine Owen
Bruce McNair
Tracy & Adam Bernstein
Shalom Baranes Associates, P.C
Michael E. Kelley
Ober Kaler
Goldman Sachs
Morgan Stanley Smith Barney Global Impact Funding Trust, Inc.
Paul Sowter
Bruce McNair

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Power of Higher Achievement Mentors

Christa making ice cream with her three scholars, Abby, Alvir and Ryan, during mentoring at Higher Achievement.

Higher Achievement mentors are making things happen! This week, a partnership between Georgetown Cupcake and Higher Achievement was born thanks to the hard work of one dedicated Alexandria mentor.

Christa Koskosky, an Assistant Manager at Georgetown Cupcake, started mentoring at the Alexandria Achievement Center in 2010 and successfully mobilized her company to donate over 1,000 personalized Georgetown Cupcakes for three of Higher Achievement DC Metro’s regional events this year.

“As you can imagine, my scholars were excited to learn that I worked at Georgetown Cupcake and the good news quickly spread throughout Center! I had other scholars asking me if I could bring in cupcakes for their birthday or their mom's birthday or their brother's birthday--it was pretty adorable,” said Christa when asked about her inspiration behind her idea.

“I realized that I couldn't meet all these needs, so I decided to approach the management at Georgetown Cupcake to see if they would be interested in supporting Higher Achievement. Needless to say, they were eager to support an employee who works with such an upstanding and wonderful organization.”

Higher Achievement creates lasting change – putting individual students on a path to success, breaking the cycle of poverty for families, and strengthening the social fabric of communities. A champion of Higher Achievement’s mission, Christa builds awareness around education and middle school youth by mobilizing her personal network in support of Higher Achievement’s mission, always looking for ways to support the organization and its middle school scholars.

Since opening in 2008, Georgetown Cupcake has donated tens of thousands of cupcakes to charitable causes. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter, and check their community page regularly for information on exciting upcoming fundraisers and events.

Thank you Christa and thank you Georgetown Cupcake!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Five Higher Achievement Scholars Attend International Leadership Camp in Rhode Island

On July 17th, five Higher Achievement scholars departed Washington, DC for Providence, Rhode Island to attend the weeklong Youth United for Global Action and Awareness (YUGA) Leadership Camp. The YUGA Leadership Camp is a peer education program designed to help youth build their leadership skills and gain in-depth knowledge on issues affecting youth around the world. The opportunity was made possible through the generous support of Plan International USA, who reserved five spots for Higher Achievement at no cost to the program or our families.

Johnnie (Ward 6), Destyni (Ward 6), Gabby (Ward 4), Zavier (Ward 1), and Olaoluwa (Ward 1), were chosen for the experience as strong representatives of Higher Achievement and their fellow scholars. Together, these five scholars participated in youth-led workshops on a variety of topics, such as: religious acceptance, HIV/AIDS, and the earthquake in Haiti. In the afternoon, scholars had their choice of more typical camp activities like kayaking, hiking, and arts and crafts.

For many scholars this was a week of firsts: first time away from their family, the first time flying on an airplane, the first time they had to worry about ticks! Although there was uncertainty about what camp would be like, they each returned with smiles on their faces and appreciation for the experience. “I did not think the camp was going to be that fun. I thought we would just sit in a classroom and learn like at school,” said Olaoluwa. “I was so wrong. Camp was amazing and we got to do fun stuff and learn in an interactive way”.

YUGA was more than just a cool experience for these scholars; it truly expanded the lenses through which they view their world: “Camp not only showed me that many people have less than I do, but that I can do many things in my own area to help others”.

At Higher Achievement, we work with scholars to be global citizens who are active participants in their community. The partnership with Plan International USA allowed our scholars to engage more fully in this process, helping them to embark on a great journey of self discovery, pushing them to think about the world outside of their own communities.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Baltimore Scholars visit Ober|Kaler Law Offices

This summer, a group of Higher Achievement scholars received a unique opportunity to visit OberKaler Law Offices in Baltimore. Over the summer, sixth grade scholars studied the Bill of Rights as a part of Higher Achievement’s social studies curriculum. Scholars were quick to respond to the lawyer’s questions and impressed the professionals with their knowledge of the law.

Jordan Grissett, a sixth grade scholar from East Baltimore, shared her knowledge of the Eighth Amendment by confidently providing the group an example of cruel and unusual punishment. “It would be like if I stole a candy bar and then got sentenced to 20 years in prison.” Throughout the tour scholars asked lawyers questions about everything from their choice of career path, to their college experiences, to the day-to-day responsibilities at OberKaler.

Scholars received warm welcomes from employees in every department at the law firm as they toured the building. Particularly impressive to the scholars were the massive library, the company’s computer server which took up a full room and the views from individual employee’s offices. At the end of the tour, several scholars expressed interest in exploring law as a future career. One scholar, however, who always thought he wanted to be a lawyer, indicated that the tour had actually made him realize he wanted to pursue another career path.

Sometimes, learning what you don’t want to do can be just as valuable as learning what you do want to do. Higher Achievement exposes scholars to opportunities that ignite their interest and allow them to be thoughtful about their futures.

Higher Achievement Scholars visit Pennsylvania State University

Extensive research shows that more than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be attributed to unequal access to summer learning opportunities. Higher Achievement seeks to close this gap through rigorous, high-quality learning opportunities year-round. The program culminates in a three-day, two-night college trip where scholars attend college classes and stay overnight in student dorms.

This summer, our Alexandria and Ward 1 scholars visited Pennsylvania State University, where they experienced college- level chemistry firsthand. This amazing opportunity would not have been possible without the personal and financial support of Bob and Anne Marshall. Their investment in Higher Achievement has created the opportunities and resources necessary to ensure the success of our scholars – huge thanks to them for their commitment and passion!

Loud controlled explosions and colorful bright lights fill the room Mr. Todd and Mr. Phillip, two scientists from the university, demonstrate and explain a chemical reaction.

Budding scientists!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Richmond Unite - We Need Your Vote!

Higher Achievement is excited to be in the second round of the Richmond Unite effort to raise dollars for organizations that directly improve the future of Richmond youth. In order to continue moving through the process, we need your help!

We must receive 500 votes by September 8th. You can cast one vote once a day, every day! Votes can be cast by anyone anywhere in the world, so please forward to friends and family far and wide!

Here’s how it works:

  • Visit

  • The first time you visit the site, you must register to vote by providing your email address and a password.

  • You will receive a confirmation email then you will be able to login to the Richmond Unite website.

  • Select the Higher Achievement logo amidst the logos on the page. It will open our profile.

  • Click VOTE!

By receiving 500 votes by September 8th, we’ll receive critical local funds and recognition to propel our work.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Higher Achievement and Reach for College! Launch 9th Grade Institute

This summer, Higher Achievement, in partnership with Reach for College!, piloted the first-ever 9th Grade Institute for rising 9th grade alumni. The program was intended to aid with the often-difficult transition to high school for students attending schools without a summer bridge program. “This program gives students an early start at looking at their progression to the ninth grade and helps them build an understanding of the academic choices that exist beyond high school,” says Kenneth Parker, Director of Programs, Reach for College!

A small group of alumni were in the first pilot group, which involved team-building activities and three modules or courses: Achievement in High School, Basics of the Collegiate Experience, and Career Exploration. The curriculum, written by Higher Achievement and Reach for College! staff, was intended to be hands-on and interactive. Achievement in High School involved student-written and performed skits on peer pressure, a Q & A session with Higher Achievement alumni currently in high school, and goal-setting lessons. Some of the goals scholars articulated for their first year of high school included “I will be more open and social in high school by joining at least 2 clubs and making 3 new friends by November” and “to get the honor roll in all 4 quarters in my first year in high school.” Scholars spent much of the Basics of the Collegiate Experience course researching information about 4-year colleges and universities. They then designed their own colleges and acted as the Admissions Committee, reviewing mock applications and accepting, rejecting, or waitlisting those candidates. In Career Exploration, scholars learned career advice that they can both put into use immediately when applying for summer jobs, as well as things that they will use once out of college and in the career world. They learned about informational interviews, how to write a resume, and participated in mock interviews, where they were evaluated and given feedback about how to improve. In addition, scholars were able to participate in Career Shadow Days at the Department of Fine Arts at the George Washington University and at the Office of Civil Rights at the US Department of State. The pilot program was enthusiastically reviewed by scholars and staff, in the words of Paris, “the most important thing I learned was asking for help and not to be afraid of asking questions. I will make the best of my time in high school by prioritizing.”Higher Achievement staff will follow through with program participants in their 9th grade year.

Princess: “I learned to be more social and not isolate myself but to also keep my options open and not limit myself. I was scared about meeting new people and making friends, but now I know to just be myself and I’ll find the right group.”

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

21st CCLLC Summer Institute

Throughout the 21st CCLC Summer Institute this week there has been lots of discussion around the convergence of afterschool programs and extended learning initiatives, in parallel with the government's efforts to address ESEA. There are several key issues that remain at the core of these discussions:

  • The need for schools and community-based organizations to effectively partner so students can experience more learning but not more of the same.

  • The need to leverage the power of communities to bring additional talented, caring, and committed adults into our schools and supporting our youth

  • The need to ensure that afterschool or extended supports meet the needs and demands of individual students and don't force families and youth into programs they don't want or need.

  • The need to look creatively at funding sources, both public and private, so that schools and CBOs can weave together dollars and programs that reach every student

  • The need to continue driving school improvement through high-quality support programs, and ensuring that student performance data is shared with all partners toward that end.

Follow us at @higherachieve for more thoughts and dispatches from the conference.

Rachel Gwaltney, Chief of Programs

Monday, July 25, 2011

Higher Achievement featured on USA9's Heros Segment

Higher Achievement DC Metro was featured on WUSA9's Heroes segment - a spotlight on organizations and people in the DC region who are doing good work in the community. Thanks to WUSA9 for coming out to our Ward 7 center to film - our scholars loved meeting you and sharing their stories!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Higher Achievement Launches New After-School and Summer Learning Program in Richmond with Ribbon Cutting at Boushall Middle School

Program to help close the achievement gap for middle school youth in at-risk communities

The future for Richmond’s youth is brighter this summer. Higher Achievement, in partnership with Richmond Public Schools and with the support of Altria, has launched its nationally-recognized academic program in Richmond with two new achievement centers for middle school students on Richmond’s Northside and Southside. Today, Higher Achievement, Richmond Public Schools, and Altria celebrated the launch with a ribbon cutting at Thomas C. Boushall Middle School.

The ceremony featured remarks from Superintendent Dr. Yvonne W. Brandon, Altria Vice President for Corporate Affairs Jennifer Hunter, Community Leader James E. Ukrop, and Higher Achievement Richmond Executive Director Eleanor R. Kootsey. The program also featured a performance by the 120 new Higher Achievement Richmond scholars, remarks from 6th grade scholar Jose Campos about his choice to join the program, and remarks from Higher Achievement alumna Carmen Payne about the impact the program has had on her success in life and in college at Virginia State University.

“Higher Achievement scholars, in 5th and 6th grade, are making huge investments in their future. They’ve willingly committed to spend 650 hours per year – in addition to 900 hours in school – learning math, literature, science, and social studies,” said Eleanor R. Kootsey, Executive Director of Higher Achievement Richmond. “This is a stunning commitment, and it pays off in spades. We consistently see better grades, higher test scores, and increased attendance from scholars in our program, and once they’ve completed it, 95% of Higher Achievement scholars advance to top academic high schools, and 93% go on to college.”
Higher Achievement’s launch in Richmond was announced at a press conference in October 2010, and since that time, Higher Achievement has enrolled over 120 students into the program and is recruiting 120 volunteer academic mentors from the Richmond community to support it. The ribbon cutting ceremony marked the official opening of Higher Achievement Richmond, and celebrated Higher Achievement’s partnership with Richmond’s public schools, leaders, and community partners.

“In Richmond, we have focused much of our reform on the middle school years,” said Superintendent Brandon. “As part of that initiative, we have partnered with Higher Achievement and Altria to open after-school achievement centers at Boushall and Henderson middle schools. These centers will provide our students with a safe haven for homework assistance and other academic enrichment opportunities.”

“Higher Achievement has a proven program that will help prepare Richmond’s middle school students for top high schools and colleges,” said Jennifer Hunter, vice president of Corporate Affairs, Altria Client Services. “It is important for the Richmond community—including businesses—to get to know the great work that Higher Achievement is beginning here and support its efforts through giving their time and their resources.”

Over the past five years, Richmond Public Schools has experienced a 14% decrease in middle school enrollment. Nearly 90% of students attending Northside and Southside middle schools qualify for free and reduced meals. 92% are minority student populations, and 36% of the families live below the poverty line. Higher Achievement’s rigorous after-school and summer academic program gives youth from at-risk communities their best chance to succeed in middle school, and will help close the middle school achievement gap for Richmond’s young people living in underserved, low income neighborhoods.

“We know that we can help Richmond’s young people succeed. We also know we can’t do it alone,” said Kootsey. “Every member of this community has a role to play in improving education and increasing opportunities for our children. Whether you’re a parent, neighbor, or business leader, you can help – mentor, donate, or spread the word. I truly believe that together, we can help close the achievement gap for Richmond’s youth.”

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

One Thousand Dollar Grant from First Book for our Scholars

We’re excited to share that First Book has provided Higher Achievement with a $1000 grant to buy books for our Washington, DC area centers. Among other things, we were able to get two sets of Encyclopedia Britannicas to be used as a prizes for our Olympics of the Mind competition later this summer.

First Book is an outstanding non-profit that is addressing the illiteracy among children in low-income families. To date, First Book has distributed more than 80 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving these children – and it continues to do so at a rate of 18,000 books a day.

First Book is uniquely positioned to become a leader in providing digital resources so that children in need don’t miss out. No matter how formats and technologies change, children from low-income families will still need access to rich and varied content. First Book is helping guide the publishing industry as it evolves so that all children can benefit from new technologies and flourish as readers.

President Truman said, "Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers."We believe all children deserve an education that will transform them into the leaders of tomorrow. Our thanks to First Book for sharing this vision and for partnering with us to make it a reality!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy Summer Learning Day!

Today is National Summer Learning Day - a time for communities across the nation to celebrate the importance of high-quality summer leanring opportunities in the lives of young poeple.

Why is this so important? A few facts:

  • Most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months – and score lower on standardized tests at the end of the summer than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer. This is especially pronounced for disadvantaged students, who slip in both math and reading.

  • The cost of re-teaching material when students return from summer is more than $1,500 per child – more than $18,000 during their K-12 education.

  • More than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. As a result, low-income youth are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college.

Higher Achievement scholars are beating these odds, and we're proud to be a part of the summer learning revolution. Through our program, hundreds of young people in Washington DC, Baltimore, and Richmond won’t spend the summer in front of a TV or on the street. They'll learn math, science, literature, and art. They’ll take field trips. They’ll read books. They’ll stay overnight at a college – attending college classes and seeing, many for the first time, what options are available to them beyond high school. They will come back to their classrooms in the fall fully prepared and ready to excel in the year ahead.

In honor of Summer Learning Day, we put together this short video of Higher Achievement families talking about what our Summer Academy means to them. Enjoy - and help us spread the word!

Happy Summer!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The 5th Annual International Children’s Festival

Higher Achievement is thrilled to be a part of the 5th Annual International Children’s Festival! This will definitely be a great day for families, scholars, and staff and we hope you can join us!

Meridian International Center’s 5th Annual INTERNATIONAL CHILDREN’S FESTIVAL Saturday, May 21, 2011 (10:00 AM - 03:00 PM)

Hon. Eleanor Holmes Norton,
Honorary Patron
Sponsored by Meridian International Center and THIS for Diplomats in cooperation with Cultural Tourism DC and Higher Achievement.

A part of Cultural Tourism DC’s Passport DC program celebrating world-class culture in the Nation’s Capital throughout the month of May.

INCLUDES: Cultural activities, displays, and food tastings along with international dance, music, and storytelling performances.

ADMISSION: $10 per person, Children 12 years & under free(One adult chaperone required per every four children under 12. No strollers allowed in exhibit area.)

Participating Embassies: Australia, Bahamas, Bahrain, Brazil, Brunei, Chile, China, Egypt, El Salvador, Fiji, Gambia, Ghana, Guatemala, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Nepal, Norway, Poland, Saudi Arabia, St. Kitts and Nevis, Turkey.

Performances by

  • Almaz Getahun

  • CapoeiraDC/Embassy of Brazil

  • El Tayrona

  • GALita Children’s Theatre/GALA Hispanic Theatre

  • Hora DC/Embassy of Israel

  • Kirov Academy of Ballet of Washington, DC

  • KO’ ETI Paraguayan Folk Dance/Paraguayan Cultural Center

  • Natyabhoomi School of Dance

  • Nomad Dancers

  • Raqs Jameel and Saffron Teen Belly Dance/Joy of Motion Dance Center

  • Rumah Gadang Group – USA/Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia

  • Silk Road Dance Company

  • Sri Lanka Youth Dance Group of Washington, DC

  • Sushmita Mazumdar

  • Umanda Weerasinghe

  • Wong People/Chinatown Community Cultural Center

Please purchase tickets in advance, quantity is limited.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Advocacy Day on the Hill #a4AChallenge

There are so many champions of afterschool programs in Congress! Today I was able to talk about the importance of 21st CCLC funding for afterschool and summer programs with staff representing all of Higher Achievement's states: DC, Maryland, and Virginia. We are ready to see what happens with the next phase of ESEA reauthorization and the FY12 budget process, but we can all agree that:

--Afterschool and summer programs have proven positive effects on students (both academic and behavioral), and the supports they provide are especially critical for poor and minority youth.

--Partnerships between community-based organizations and schools bring the best of both worlds together! Students need lots of choices for learning and other activities that look and feel different from school.

--Now, more than ever, the federal government needs to invest in our youth. Nonprofit organizations leverage 21st CCLC dollars to bring more public and private dollars into schools and to the students that need them the most.

Great to see so many advocates out today - and exciting to hear about the impact this work is having across the country!

- Rachel Gwaltney

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Role of Research for OST Providers #a4aChallenge

Quick thoughts from today’s conference session on research.

Afterschool and summer programs make dramatic impacts on lives and communities – but its only through rigorous research and evaluation that we can make that case. Examples of benefits/outcomes that have been proven through research/evaluation:

- Proof of improved academic outcomes (grades, test scores)

- Analysis outlining that higher dosage of OST learning produces better results

- Youth with the greatest risks realize the greatest benefits of these programs

- Improved feelings, behaviors, safety, and in-school behavior

- Health and wellness benefits

- Productivity – working parents miss less work and work more hours when children are in programs. Saves $50-300 billion in lost productivity! Every dollar invested in afterschool saves taxpayers $3 in school-related costs – and even more when you include crime and other secondary costs!

Not only will solid research provide suggestions/lessons for program improvement based on the outcomes listed above, but it can allow your organization to advocate in a widespread way for afterschool programs – to make the case externally for the value of afterschool, and raise awareness about its impact.

Win win!

- Rachel Gwaltney

Middle School Innovation: Policy and Practice #a4aChallenge

For all students, middle school is a time of extraordinary challenge. Students experience significant social and emotional changes as academic expectations increase. On average, grades and test scores plummet during the transition to middle school and continue to decline through 8th grade. Schools become more dangerous places, and students become more likely to disengage from family, experiment with unhealthy behaviors, and devalue education.

The challenges of middle school are exacerbated in at-risk communities, where students are more likely to lack quality schools, quality out-of-school-time activities, and positive role models — and where they are more likely to be surrounded by poverty, to encounter violence and gangs in their neighborhoods and schools, and to face significant barriers to learning.

This morning's Afterschool for All Challenge conference session, Middle School Innovation: Policy and Practice, was a great deep-dive into the unique issues facing OST middle school providers. Some takeaways for these providers:

- coordinate with city and school services with the goal of attaining a seamless integration with the principal and school

- learning should be hands-on and project-based - focused on real-world application active learning

- face the unique needs of middle school students head-on - provide peer learning and structured leadership opportunities that support middle school youth... ultimately giving youth a sense of belonging, a place where they matter.

- have diverse and authentic staff/volunteers who are passionate about what they do - people who young people want to be around and can look up to!

- devote attention to program culture - be deliberate here

- monitor quality and outcomes!

- expose youth to future possibilities/career/college aspirations beyond their own communities

Stay tuned for more from the conference!

- Rachel Gwaltney, Chief of Programs

Friday, April 15, 2011

The 2011 Green Apple Awards: Above and Beyond!

The 2011 Green Apple Awards:

Above and Beyond!

On May 12th, Higher Achievement DC Metro will celebrate the graduation of 63 8th grade scholars at its 11th annual Green Apple Awards. The event will certainly be a night to remember as we honor the years of hard work and excellence that our scholars have spent on their quest for top high school placement. This year’s class was extremely successful in this quest with acceptances at: The School Without Walls, Benjamin Banneker Academic High School, the Edmund Burke School, and Gonzaga College High School, just to name a few!

In addition to these accomplishments, this year we are honored to welcome James H. Shelton III, Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement, as our keynote speaker. Mr. Shelton, a former Higher Achievement scholar, will speak to the scholars about his path to success and the importance of working hard and setting high goals. We are also extremely proud to honor two local partners who have truly gone above and beyond in their dedication to Higher Achievement and its scholars: Noblis and Douglas Jordan.

DATE: May 12, 2011

TIME: 6:30-8:30

LOCATION: The Lincoln Theatre, 1215 U. St. NW

Monday, April 11, 2011

Why STEM is Vital for Out-of-School Time Programs

After the disappointing results on PISA and NAEP, it’s no surprise that policy makers, educators, parents, and communities are talking about science in American classrooms. What’s often missing in these discussions is the important role of OST in teaching important academic skills and inspiring a passion for science. Higher Achievement is excited to see Education Week take on the subject in their recent report on Science Learning outside the Classroom.

Higher Achievement recognizes the need to create opportunities for substantive engagement with science both in and out of the classroom. We are responding to this need with a comprehensive approach by integrating STEM (an interdisciplinary approach to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) into our academic program. Through exciting afterschool seminars and summer curricula, we are implementing hands-on and inquiry-based learning of science curriculum across all grades. To support the integration of STEM curriculum, we are building staff development and volunteer trainings that ultimately help scholars develop skills related to scientific thinking and foster a passion for the subject.

This report is a must-read – and articulates much of what Higher Achievement believes about the vital role of out-of-school time programs in science learning. - Sophie Huntington Director of Curriculum and Instruction Higher Achievement

Friday, April 8, 2011

Join Higher Achievement for Global Youth Service Day

Global Youth Service Day 2011

Sunday, April 17 from 9:00am - 12:00pm

Magruder Park, 3901 Hamilton St. Hyattsville, MD.

Higher Achievement will be partnering with the Anacostia Watershed Society (AWS) to take part in the 2011 Global Youth Service Day. Youth, families, mentors and staff will come together to clean up the Anacostia River by removing invasive plants surrounding the area on Magruder Park. The service project includes an educational component in where the AWS staff will talk about the watershed and the history and ecology of the area, and will be sure to point out interesting native plants and animals.

All youth participants under the age of 18 are required to fill out a permission form in order to participate in the project.

Directions: From Queens Chapel Rd. take Hamilton St., go by the Safeway on the right, pass 38th St., go about one block and the entrance to the park will be on your right. The closest Metro station is West Hyattsville (green line). From the station you can walk about 10 blocks down Hamilton St. and the park will be on your right.

We strongly recommend that you wear long pants and closed-toe shoes

Questions? Contact Amanda Babine at

Monday, April 4, 2011

Make the Call Today to Save Service

From Save Service:

The government is currently operating under a short-term resolution that will expire Friday, April 8th. As that deadline nears, House and Senate leadership have resumed high-level budget negotiations in hopes of drafting a FY11 budget bill that has enough support to pass both chambers and end the current legislative stalemate.

Right now Congress is deeply divided and the end-game is very uncertain. That’s why you need to pick up the phone today and ask your Senators to pass a year-long spending bill that funds the Corporation for National and Community Service. Remind them that these programs work in every state and have deep support in local communities.

Visit to find out how to call - they'll provide a number that links you directly with your Senator, background info on the bill, and detailed talking points for your call.

AmeriCorps and other community service organizations help make our work at Higher Achievement possible - please take a moment today to make your voice heard.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Save the Date - June 3!

The First Annual Higher Achievement SUMMER FUNdraiser!

This event will be a salute to summer featuring good food, good friends and lots of FUN! The first Higher Achievement event of its kind, this extended Happy Hour is the perfect way to kick off a Friday night in the District. Stay tuned for a link to purchase tickets.

WHO: You and your friends, coworkers, neighbors – spread the word and bring them all!

WHAT: A good time for a good cause – Open bar and appetizers for $50!

WHEN: Friday, June 3, 2011 from 7:00-10:00pm

WHERE: STROGA Studios, in the heart of Adams Morgan at 18th & Columbia Streets, NW Check out more pictures of the beautiful venue, here:

WHY: Two-thirds of a child’s learning loss takes place during the summer months. This summer, your $50 ticket purchase will provide ten Higher Achievement scholars with access to FUN academic opportunities like engaging electives, field trips and an overnight university experience, ensuring they return to school on track to graduate.

AFTER PARTY! $3 mixed drinks and domestic bottles down the street at Town Tavern!

Meet some of the young people your donation will support by watching this video about LOVE that the scholars made for Valentine’s Day

Click here to purchase tickets!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Higher Achievement Triathletes!

We're so inspired by our scholars' hard work and dedication that we're putting ours to the test - a team of Higher Achievement staff members and supporters have joined up to train for and complete the Kinetic Sprint Triathlon in Spotsylvania, VA on May 15th! The race will consist of a 750 meter swim, 18 mile bike ride, and 5 kilometer run. In addition to this physical challenge, team members are also charged with raising at least $100 each in support of Higher Achievement. This is the second year we've competed (pic from 2010 above), and we can't wait!

We're pretty tough (and we're getting even tougher by the day!) but we can't do it alone. Here's how you can help:

Join our Triathlon team

Are you looking for a fun way to meet your fitness goals and raise money for a great cause? Join us! The team will offer training and fundraising support for all members – and will even feature a few friendly competitions to inspire success on all fronts. If you are interested in participating (or completing just one of the events as part of a relay team) please email Mike Di Marco ( for more information.

Help us reach our fundraising goal

Help us reach our fundraising goals (and make crossing the finish line on May 15 that much sweeter). Click here to donate online. To make sure your gift is counted towards our goal, please write “Triathlon” in the designation line.

Spread the word

Share this post with your networks. This is a super fun way to get involved in Higher Achievement, reach your fitness goals, and support our young people – and you definitely don’t have to be a triathlete to join us (although we’d love that too). All are welcome!

Throughout training, we’ll be posting pictures, updates, and news from the team on our blog and on Twitter (@HigherAchieve). Stay tuned!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

ACTion Alexandria

Our friends at ACT for Alexandria have launched a very exciting tool that empowers citizens to make positive change in their community.
From their website:

ACTion Alexandria is a web-based platform that brings together neighbors and local nonprofit organizations to exchange ideas, coordinate efforts, and solve problems in our community.

How does ACTion Alexandria work?

ACTion Alexandria works closely with local government and nonprofit organizations to collect and prioritize community needs and turn them into actions and challenges for citizens.

  • Each week, ACTion Alexandria features a new action that targets the need of a local nonprofit organization in the form of donations of goods, services,and/or funds.

  • Citizens can help solve large-scale community problems by submitting their solutions to challenges hosted on the site.

Visit to learm more about this fabulous initiative - and help us spread the word!

Maryland Out-of-School Time Network's Advocacy Night

Rashard, Zybriah, Del. Tarrant

Last week, our Higher Achievement Baltimore team attended the Maryland Out-of-School Time Network (MOST) advocacy night in Annapolis. MOST organized the event to bring together OST providers from across Maryland to highlight the importance of afterschool and summer programs – and to raise awareness and mobilize support for two pieces of legislation being considered by the Maryland General Assembly during this legislative session.

Ashburton 7th grade scholars Zybriah Murphy and Rashard Gilliard met with Delegate Shawn Tarrant (District 40) to discuss the importance of OST programs like Higher Achievement to youth in Maryland. Zybriah recalled that during one of her classes her teacher introduced a concept that Zybriah had already learned in Higher Achievement’s Summer Academy. She emphasized to the Delegate that students need extra support and opportunities to succeed during the critical middle school years. She also recognized that the hard work she does at Higher Achievement will pay off when she is ready to explore her high school options.

Rashard’s literature mentor, Mr. Andre Wood, was also on hand and described the rich discussion that Higher Achievement literature lessons have inspired between Rashard and his fellow scholars. He described the deep and sticky cultural issues that scholars might not have a chance to explore in school, such as the 19th century policy that took Indian children from their families and placed them in white schools in an attempt to assimilate them and destroy Indian culture. Mr. Andre, an employee of Constellation Energy, is one of 90 Baltimore citizens who have committed to one night a week of mentoring middle school scholars and supporting their academic enrichment in preparation for top high school programs.

Thanks for MOST for organizing the event and for their continued work advocating for OST programs – read more about their efforts and the upcoming legislation here.

Friday, March 4, 2011

DC Scholars Meet Rep. Norton!

On Monday, six Higher Achievement scholars visited Capitol Hill to meet Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and take a tour of the Capitol building. Scholars from Wards 1, 4, 6, and 8 participated in the field trip, taking advantage of this wonderful opportunity during a day of no school for most other students in the District. Scholars were able to have a private meeting with the Congresswoman (thanks to Ward 6 mentor David Lyons for setting it up!) as well as a personal tour of the Capitol Rotunda and the Senate Floor Gallery. At the end of the visit, scholars rated the trip a 10 out of 10, even though they had to walk through the pouring rain just to make it on time!

Big thanks to Rep. Norton!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Join Us! Higher Achievement's Sixth Annual Literary Love Poetry Performance

On February 23, twelve of our amazing scholars will perform original poetry at The Kennedy Center as part of our sixth annual Literary Love Poetry Performance! Because we just can’t wait to show you what our scholars are made of, here’s a sneak peek:

Hope you can join us on the 23rd!

The Family Theater
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
2700 F Street, NW Washington, DC 20566

Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Doors open at 7pm
RSVP to Abigail Cohen at 202.375.7715 or

Friday, January 21, 2011

National Service: An Investment We Can't Afford to Lose

From The Chronicle for Philanthropy:

Nonprofit lobbyists will have their hands full in the new Congress. House Republican leaders have already said they want to bring a big chunk of federal spending this year back to 2008 levels.

But now a group of conservative Republicans says that’s not enough. The Republican Study Committee, a bloc of more than 165 members, unveiled a proposal Thursday that would end a range of federal programs that benefit charities and their clients.

Among its proposals:
* Eliminate AmeriCorps and other national-service programs.
* Abolish the Agency for International Development.
* Close the national endowments for the arts and humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
* End Department of Energy grants to help low-income people weatherize their homes.

National service programs like AmeriCorps are not a drain on our resources – quite the opposite. They provide support systems and opportunities that not only make our communities better, but that help our communities function – especially when economic times are tough. Higher Achievement has been fortunate enough to host several talented VISTA volunteers and AmeriCorps direct service members, and we see every day the impact that these tremendous programs have on community-based organizations, the youth and families we serve, and our communities at large.

Because of the expanded capacity made possible by VISTA volunteers over the past three years, we have: expanded and improved our volunteer recruitment, management, and retention practices (critical to securing long-term positive academic outcomes for scholars); developed and implemented new family engagement strategies based on best practices in the field; engaged new funders and champions to ensure sustainability; piloted an alumni engagement strategy to ease the transition to 9th grade; and developed programmatic partnerships that provide social services safety nets to our most at-risk scholars and their families.

Midway through our first year hosting direct service AmeriCorps members at our DC Achievement Centers we are already seeing them make great strides to improve our services to scholars and families, as well as deepening our school partnerships. One Member at our Ward 6 center, Ms. Amelia, embodies the impact of this program. Amelia noticed that a group of scholars in her study hall, who all had the same science teacher at school, were earning Cs in that class, even though she knew they had been very engaged in science over the summer at Higher Achievement. Amelia met with the teacher, and learned that the scholars had been completing their assignments incorrectly. She and the teacher worked together to identify improvement strategies, and she began working with those scholars in a special extended study hall, focused on their science assignments. By the time report cards were released, all of the scholars had increased their grades to an A. Without the expanded capacity at Center to drill down deeply on scholars’ individualized needs in the classroom, we would never have been able to help shepherd such dramatic improvement. The AmeriCorps program allows Higher Achievement to increase its full-time Center staffing by 50% at nominal cost to the organization, and our scholars are already reaping the rewards.

AmeriCorps and other national service programs are making a dramatic impact on the capacity of community-based organizations working in the most at-risk communities across the country. We know without a doubt that economic opportunity for our country begins in our schools, homes, and on our streets. If we are to see the reap the rewards tomorrow, we must invest in those places today.

- Richard Tagle
CEO, Higher Achievement

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Higher Achievement Honors MLK Day!

Higher Achievement will be partnering with both Greater DC Cares and The DC AmeriCorps Leadership Council in recognition of service on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Brushes in hand, Higher Achievement staff will help paint the Family Health and Birth Center in Northeast DC, in order to help it meet health code regulations. The center provides services to hundreds of low income families around the DC area, insuring healthy deliveries and development of children and their families.

The Family Health and Birth Center’s mission is to provide family centered community based primary health care services with a focus on prevention. Additionally, the center provides maternity and birth care, health care services, integrated family development services and improvement of the health status of families in the surrounding community.

Get live updates and photos of the event by following @higherachieve on Twitter. There will be live tweets from Higher Achievement Staff on the progress of the project.