2017 Senior Challenge Academy: Week 1

The first week of the Senior Challenge Academy is always exciting, as we meet the seniors who represent the top one percent of over 2,000 DC public and public charter school seniors who completed the One World Cornerstone this year. These students come from all eight wards and nearly every public high school in Washington, DC. They have committed to spend the next six Wednesday evenings preparing to present their arguments on stage at the historic Howard Theatre on April 12, competing for $15,000 in scholarship funds. Building on the work they started in their classes, they will reshape the topic they selected for their essays and craft a targeted, 90-second pitch that identifies and problem and argues a solution for a college or career issue that is important to them.

From the moment the first students arrived, it was clear that this was a special group. Students quickly gathered with their classmates, but a few recognized students with whom they had gone to elementary or middle school and reconnected! Students took notes as our Director of Teaching and Learning, Steph Bunton, went over the timeline and schedule for each Wednesday, and their faces lit up when she put a photo of the Howard Theatre on the screen. This is the end goal: presenting on stage at the renowned theatre in the historic Shaw neighborhood, with hopes of winning a scholarship.

After receiving an overview of the Senior Challenge Academy, students were treated to an exemplar pitch from McKinley Tech teacher (and One World Teacher Leader) Desiree Sansing, a preview of the 5 Ps in action from teaching artist Drew Anderson, and a brief introduction to characteristics of quality visual design from graphic artist Heather Elliott. Students then gathered into small groups to talk about their argument topics (more on that next week!), followed by a quick trip over to the Howard Theatre, where students stood on stage and looked out into the audience, when the reality of this opportunity started to fully register, generating much excitement. In just a few short weeks, these students will be able to turn their passion and energy for this project into a finished product - as well as have their knowledge of writing and research tested, engaged, and refined.

Over the next six weeks, these seniors will move closer and closer to that finish line, and each week we’ll give you a glimpse into the 2017 Senior Challenge Academy. We hope you’ll be able to join us on April 12 to experience the final result!

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