Friday, December 9, 2011

With Renewed Faith in Their Program, D.C. Families Celebrate the Holidays

Students from Kuumba Learning Center perform during the
annual D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Holiday Party.
More than 570 families participating in the highly-successful D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) attended an annual holiday party hosted by the D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation yesterday.

Parents and kids turned out to celebrate the holidays with arts and crafts, music from OSP students, and lots and lots (and lots) of food.

The party included music performances by OSP students.  A band from Calvary Christian Academy opened the evening, while families also heard carols from the Nannie Helen Burroughs School and a djembe drum performance by students from Kuumba Learning Center.

And an OSP freshman attending St. John’s College High School played “The First Noel” on the violin.

But some of the loudest cheers (other than when Santa Claus made an appearance) came when the Alliance for School Choice announced the winners of its first annual Poster and Essay Contest for OSP students.  The contest asked participants to submit an essay or poster in response to the following statement: "Why I love My School & the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program."

With more than 20 prizes given out, the grand prize (a Visa gift card worth $500) was given to Justin Snead, a second grader at Naylor Road School.

The grand prize winner,
7-year-old Justin Snead.
In his winning essay, Snead wrote:
My favorite subject is science because my mom comes to my school and does science projects with my class. 
I am glad that I can come back to Naylor Road School.  The DC Opportunity Scholarship Program and my mom helped me go there.
But prizes weren’t the only thing on the agenda.

The families also got an aforementioned visit from Santa, who brought plenty of gifts including books, toys, and school supplies.

Students and a parent pose with Santa Claus at this year's
annual D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Holiday Party.
Families had a lot to celebrate this year, after advocates and countless D.C. parents fought tirelessly for the program to be saved. Their work paid off, as in April, the program was expanded and reauthorized  for five years.

The D.C. OSP was originally enacted in 2004. This year, 1,615 students participate in the program—a 60 percent increase over last year.

An evaluation of the program conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Educational Studies found that participants had a 91 percent graduation rate, 21 percentage points higher than those interested in the program who did not receive a scholarship.

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG

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