- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 25, 2004

When Ballou High School in Southeast began making headline news last year — mostly because of violence — people in both the public and private sectors took notice and some of them decided to act. While their relationship with the school is indeed good tidings, the best news of all is that Ballou students and faculty themselves committed good deeds.

The Ballou Marching Band came in second place last weekend in a national competition in California that pitted the 86-member band against 100-plus competitors. In addition to their second-place finish, the students won a trip to Disneyland, where they proudly strutted their musical stuff in a holiday parade.

Ballou almost didn’t get to the competition, since it came up short on financing the California gig. But the D.C. media, which had been reporting on the troubles at Ballou, publicized the band’s dilemma, and thousands of dollars in private and public donations poured in.

The financial assistance for the band’s trip capped off a year of problems at Ballou. At the start of the 2003-04 school year, a student stole mercury from the school’s science lab, forcing the school building to close for more than a month. The very day that students returned, fights broke out. Then a gunman who got inside the school earlier this year left one student dead and a couple of others wounded. The principal was dismissed under a cloud, including allegations of mishandling school funds. Another Ballou student was killed this year. The bloodletting and assorted mayhem forced city authorities to consider placing police officers inside and outside Ballou and other high schools. Parents and students alike believed Ballou would not recover.

While all is hardly well at Ballou, some frowns are seemingly being turned upside down by the willingness of the community at large to put children first. The District’s chief technology officer, Suzanne Peck, and hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons are working with Ballou staff on a scholarship. Bethesda Naval Hospital is partnering with Ballou on mentoring programs. Staffers at The Washington Post also continue to pitch in.

The community heard Ballou’s cries and responded accordingly. Of course, much remains on the social and academic fronts at Ballou, but for now, we applaud those who came, and are coming, to the aid of Ballou. Our heartiest applause, though, is reserved for the students at Ballou High. Congratulations.

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