- The Washington Times - Friday, August 4, 2006

Students in the Youth Leadership Foundation program concluded their summer session last night with a musical version of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” at Howard University.

“We’ve found that it’s a great way to boost leadership and confidence in the girls in a very fun environment,” said Ann Vitz, a foundation director. “Some of these girls have always dreamt of being a singer, and the next thing they know they’ll be singing in a choir class, then performing in front of a group.”

The summer program is designed for minority students with average grades, foundation officials say, because so much about education is focused on under- or over-achieving students.

“It’s so important to work with average students because there are so many students in the middle who are not motivated,” said Michael Barvick, the executive director of the program. “If you see the statistics, they’re absolutely appalling. What stands out most is the dropout rate (which is about 40 percent). The kids who come to our programs are in a transition period, and we motivate them to finish high school and take more advanced classes.”

Students take academic classes in the morning and elective classes in the afternoon. However, there are separate programs for boys and girls. The elective classes for the girls focused on performing arts because they help build their self-confidence, which is often low at a young age, said Mr. Barvick.

About 130 girls and 100 boys participated this summer in the program, which also included personal mentoring.

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