- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 1, 2005

The SEED School of Washington, D.C., aims high, striving to offer high-quality college-prep education to inner-city children while hitting the mark with an ever-lengthening list of high-profile supporters.

At a benefit dinner Tuesday night in the Kennedy Center’s Roof Terrace Restaurant, the charter school’s founders, Eric Adler and Rajiv Vinnakota, were still happily recovering from last month’s whirlwind visit to their Northeast campus by Prince Charles, his new wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, and first lady Laura Bush. Mr. Adler said the Prince of Wales peppered him with well-informed questions, was refreshingly “self-deprecating” and expressed a sincere wish that the royal visit would “shine a light on what you’re doing.”

The school is hardly stumbling in the darkness, however, considering the political and financial power of supporters who helped raise $100,000 in endowment funds Tuesday night. Among them: Alma Powell, who was the school’s first commencement speaker, in 2004; C. Boyden Gray, awaiting confirmation as U.S. ambassador to the European Union; Sen. Joe Lieberman and his wife, Hadassah, the dinner’s honorary co-chairmen; Sen. Paul Sarbanes, who received a special tribute from SEED School students; FBI Director Robert Mueller; Lucky Roosevelt; Greek Ambassador Alexandros Mallias; and former Greek Ambassador Alexander Philon and his wife, Helen.

Tabes bore blue-and-white-striped tablecloths and such names as “Eros” and “Aphrodite,” thanks to the influence of the Philons, who in 1998 helped co-found the classics program in the nation’s first (and still only) urban public boarding school in partnership with the Society for the Preservation of Greek Heritage.

“As a little girl, I always found myths very soothing.” Mrs. Philon said while discussing the intensive semester-long study of ancient Greek culture. “We thought it might help the students to move beyond” their disadvantaged circumstances.

Every year the Philons host a group of eight SEED students with top grades in the classics program on a two-week tour of Greece that includes a stay in their family home on the island of Spetse.

“It changed my life,” said 17-year-old senior Durrell Lewis, who visited in 2004. “I felt really good about myself.”

Many of the students in the first two graduating classes have gone on to top-tier colleges, a result, according to believers in the SEED School philosophy, of a highly structured study and activity schedule with 24-hour-a-day monitoring and encouragement. The current senior class is stellar, Mr. Adler said: “We’re going to have an unbelievable college admissions year.”

Mr. Lieberman, one of many who praised SEED during the dinner, said the school brought to mind a saying in the Talmud: “If you save a single life, it is as if you’ve saved the whole world.”

Christina Ianzito