- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 7, 2001

For 42 D.C. high school seniors, the broken promise of higher education has been mended.
Scholarships promised by a charitable foundation as the class of 1995 graduated from Bruce-Monroe Elementary School — then denied when the organization went bankrupt — are now back in their grasp, with some help from the community.
"Thanks to the funding that has been raised, we are excited about attending college in the fall," Layla Wynn, a Bruce-Monroe alumna, announced yesterday during an assembly at Cardozo High School in Northwest, where she is the 2001 class president.
One by one, 10 Cardozo students who had attended the Northwest elementary school with her marched across the stage to announce their college choices — the University of the District of Columbia and St. Marys College of Maryland, among others.
The former Bruce-Monroe students, ready to graduate from various high schools this month, have made it through a whirlwind senior year after discovering their college plans were in jeopardy.
In December, they found out that the Phoenix Foundation — a Bethesda-based charitable group —would not be able to award the college scholarships offered six years ago.
Foundation head George Abel attended the sixth-grade graduation at Bruce-Monroe in 1995 and guaranteed each of the 63 students a full ride at the university of their choice if they graduated high school. Forty-two made it.
But the organization has since folded and there is no money.
"I couldnt believe that. It was frustrating. I didnt know what to do," said Laylas mother, Paula Kiah, 49, who, like other parents, hadnt saved enough money to pay for college.
"There was nothing we could do," said former Bruce-Monroe student Paul Bern, 18. "I was thinking of going to the Marines for a while."
Thats when Cardozo Principal Reginald C. Ballard Jr. began publicizing the problem. St. Marys College of Maryland was the first to step up.
The 1,600-student state college in Southern Maryland, about a 90-minute drive southeast of the District, offered to pick up the tab for Layla and any of the students who could meet the admission requirements.
"Im thrilled to say that this very sad start of our relationship over what appeared to be a very unfortunate and, perhaps, unsolvable situation has turned into a great delight," said St. Marys President Jane Margaret OBrien.
Three of the 42 students from Bruce-Monroe will start there in the fall.
A task force was assembled by St. Marys and Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat, to match families with money from universities, private citizens, the D.C. College Access Program and the D.C. Tuition Assistance Office.
Cardozo student Jennifer Lopez, 17, is heading to Cazenovia College, near Syracuse, N.Y., to pursue her goal of becoming an elementary-school math teacher.
She said she cried when first told about the scholarship in 1995 and cried again when told she couldnt have it.
"I cant afford to pay for college because my mom, she's going to college and my brother is, too," Jennifer said.
Paul never joined the Marines, instead deciding to attend Morgan State University in Baltimore to study computer engineering.
Mr. Ballard, who received a plaque from the students yesterday, said he has no intention of stopping there.
He is working on finding mentors for the students while they are off to college.
"Four years from now, I want you to come to that graduation at St. Marys to complete this story," he said.

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