Alecia Winters seemed destined to be another victim of the District’s downtrodden neighborhoods.
Her drug-addicted mother had long ago abandoned her. Her father’s drinking was leading him toward an early grave. With her older siblings building their own lives or in jail, Alecia was often home alone with no one to push her to attain a better future.
School was for hanging out with friends, not learning, and Alecia skipped more classes than she attended her first two years at H.D. Woodson High School.
“If I didn’t know the work, I didn’t do it,” she recalled.
But instead of becoming another statistic, Alecia got a jarring glimpse of her mother on the street and tried to turn her life around.
This month, Alecia will graduate on the honor roll. And with a big boost from the Hoop Dreams Scholarship Fund, she will attend Allegany College in Cumberland, Md., this fall.
“I figured, with my grades from ninth grade, that I wouldn’t be able to go to college, but Hoop Dreams taught me that some colleges would still accept me,” said Alecia, one of 83 Hoop Dreams scholars in the class of 2009 who recently were honored at the Capitol.
Alecia is one of 1,000 children from Wards 7 and 8, most of whom are the first in their families to go to college, to whom Hoop Dreams has provided scholarships since its creation in 1996 by Susie Kay, then a government teacher at Woodson.
The event started as a one-day charity basketball tournament.
“Susie had a dream and a vision that these children needed help, and she sacrificed her personal life to make sure that help has been available,”said Dennis Stolkey, a fund board member and senior vice president of information technology company EDS. “There aren’t a lot of people that have dedicated themselves unselfishly to such a cause.”
Hoop Dreams remains a resource for its graduates well into adulthood, serving as a transition for many students from school into careers.
Jermaine Gaye was a basketball star and solid student at Woodson when his mother abandoned him and his younger brother during his junior year. He slept in stolen cars and Metro stations, using school as a comfort zone and getting help from Kay.
Once Jermaine became a Hoop Dreams scholar, his mentor, a real estate agent, provided the brothers with an apartment. He spurned a scholarship to Duquesne to stay with his brother, took trade classes and is now an HVAC mechanic at Sibley Memorial Hospital who has his own apartment.
“Educational opportunities for residents of our capital should be a priority for all members of Congress,” said Rep. Patrick Kennedy, Rhode Island Democrat. “I so admire Susie’s commitment to these students. She’s opening up the doors of opportunity for these students.”
Students such as Woodson senior Tamesha Veasey, who was accepted by more than 10 colleges and plans to major in social work at George Mason.View Entire Story
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