Excel Academy Public Charter School is an all-girls school in Anacostia with students from preschool up to sixth grade. The culture of an all-girls school emphasizes sisterhood and community among scholars. Every Friday afternoon at the end of the day, the older grades get together for their “community celebration” in the cafeteria. Witnessing this celebration has been one of the highlights of my time at Excel so far. They hand out awards to students for various reasons that emphasize not only scholarship, but also friendship, leadership, hard work, and so on. They cheer for one another and sing songs together, with lyrics that say “I make you better, you make me better.”
They show the importance of community. This emphasis is apparent in the way these girls act—they are constantly helping each other. The older kids jump at every opportunity to aid the younger kid. Whether they are opening their milk cartons at lunch or helping them carry things that are too heavy, there is always someone willing to step up. Students constantly ask what they can do to help me with my various projects at the school, looking for a way to be more involved. This sense of community among the students has been overwhelmingly encouraging and one of the things I love most about Excel. Being in an area of DC and a school with very few resources and various struggles, the foundation of the relationships they have created here at Excel will help these girls throughout their entire lives.
I’d like to share this TEDx Talk by Rita Pierson that talks about this sense of community and empowerment, explaining the importance of relationships that kids make while they are in school and the positive impact of a great role model in the life of a student.