2017 College & Career Senior Challenge Event Recap

The College & Career Senior Challenge is a core part of the One World Program, celebrating the hard work and dedication of the top 1% of DC public and public charter school seniors who participated in the program during the school year. Nominated by their teachers, these students took part in a six-week workshop on Wednesday evenings at the Shaw Library, where they refined their topics from the in-school portion of the program and developed a 90-second argumentative presentation to deliver to a panel of judges. This year, we were honored to host the event at DC’s historic Howard Theatre, thanks to the generous in-kind donation of the beautiful space.

Around 4pm, the seniors brought their visual presentation boards to the fairground, where they would later speak informally with the community about their research, then headed upstairs to the balcony for snacks and last-minute practice of their oral presentations. While the seniors prepared, we welcomed the 2017 Student Ambassadors and their families for a celebratory reception before starting the main event. These students represent the top 1% of the students we work with in grades 6-10 who have participated in a series of Writing Workshops to refine their writing toward publication. In light of the organization's 10-year anniversary, we combined several aspects of our programming into one big celebration.

Five o’clock came quickly, and the seniors took their seats on stage, eager for the show to begin. Our board member, Grace Katabaruki of Venture Philanthropy Partners, welcomed attendees and played the part of emcee, explaining the process of the College & Career Senior Challenge. Then, the competition commenced, during which students shared passionate, well-researched arguments on topics such as paying college athletes, gender equality, and the affordability of college and education for undocumented immigrants.


Malik Norman, Phelps HS

Paying College Athletes

Sharika Hester-Scott, Luke C. Moore HS

Minimum Wage

Jason Reyes, EL Haynes PCS

Small Business

We took a quick break before moving into the second round of student presentations to recognize the two groups of judges who generously provided their time and expertise.

Following the seniors’ presentations, guests were invited to review the presentation boards and learn more about the topics that students had selected. Since each student only had 90 seconds to present their argument on stage, the boards allowed them to convey further details on the personal relevance of their topic, as well as additional information such as extracurricular activities and plans after graduation. During this time, the scores were tabulated and winners identified.

Aiden Pearson, Phelps HS

Male Nursing

Jocelyn Gamez, Roosevelt HS

Women in Politics

Fredric Wood, Eastern HS

Cost of College

Before announcing the winners of the 2017 College & Career Senior Challenge, we invited the 2017 Student Ambassadors to take the stage to have their excellent writing recognized. The Student Ambassadors represented DC public high schools from across the city, as well as several public charter schools, and topics included police brutality, the cost of college, the electoral college, and mass incarceration. We are excited to publish these students’ essays on our website in the coming months! To get a sense of what inspired them to research and write on these topics, please take a look at this brief video.

Following the Student Ambassador celebration, we called Desiree Sansing, one of our most influential teachers and the Co-Director of the Teacher Leader Team, to announce this year’s Global Educator Award recipients. We know that all of the student success we see through our program is because of the teachers. Out of over 100 teachers we worked with this year, we honored 4 exceptional teachers as Global Educators for their dedication to building the knowledge and skills students need to confront the cultural and global issues of today and prepare for the college and career opportunities of tomorrow.

Finally, it was time to announce the winners of the 2017 College & Career Senior Challenge. We were joined on stage by Quentin Wodon (The World Bank), Manon Matchett (The Community Foundation of the National Capital Region), and Brian Pick (DC Public Schools) to announce the winners.


Scholarships were awarded to the following seniors:

  • $5,000: 1st Citywide - Tyonna Parker, Banneker HS, Gender Equality
  • $3,000: 2nd Citywide - Zoey Velasquez, Dunbar HS, Women in Aviation (STEM)
  • $2,000: 3rd Citywide - Diego Uceda, EL Haynes PCS, Financial Aid for Undocumented Students
  • $1,000: Group 1- Kela Stancil, Banneker HS, Sexual Assault on College Campuses
  • $1,000: Group 2 - Juliah Bobo, Eastern HS, Athletic Scholarships
  • $1,000: Group 3 - Kennea Carter, EL Haynes PCS, Sexual Assault on College Campuses
  • $1,000: Group 4 - Selvin Castillo, Roosevelt HS, Racial Bias in Education
  • $1,000: Group 5 - Khadijah Nixon, McKinley HS, Sexual Assault on College Campuses

To close out the event, we were treated to a keynote speech from Antwan Wilson, Chancellor of DC Public Schools. Chancellor Wilson spoke about the value of student-centered, research-based writing assignments and acknowledged the work of the 24 seniors on stage behind him. It was an excellent conclusion to the event, especially considering that DC Public Schools has used the One World Program as a Cornerstone unit in 10th and 12th grade classrooms for the past two years.

Lastly, our CEO and Founder, Eric Goldstein, took the stage to close out the evening with an exciting announcement. An anonymous donor had pledged $500 for each of the 16 seniors who didn’t win one of the scholarships! Eric then thanked the students, their families, the judges, and event guests, and invited folks upstairs for a celebration of 10 years of student-centered writing.