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Voices From Anacostia High School in Washington D.C.

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Students from Anacostia High School in Washington, D.C., challenge the stereotypes of their institution.

Beyond the headlines and the numbers: Voices from Anacostia High School


Anacostia is a historic neighborhood in Southeast Washington, D.C., and is located east of the Anacostia River, which the area is named after. According to the 2000 Census, 92 percent of the neighborhood’s residents are African American.

Those outside Southeast D.C. often see a dire public image from local-news headlines:

  • "Body Found Floating in Anacostia River."

  • "Students Arrested after Cafeteria Brawl."

  • "High School Fight Moves to City Streets."

  • "SE Apartment Building Locked Down after Fatal Shooting."

To local media and many outsiders, the name Anacostia has become synonymous with negativity, particularly crime.

With data showing that Anacostia murder rates are 625 percent higher than the national average and the risk of robbery 229 percent higher than average, according to The Washington Post, stereotypes of Anacostia aren’t baseless.

But they are one-dimensional, say students, administrators and teachers at Anacostia High School, now known as The Academies at Anacostia.

Many District residents are unwilling to dispel the negative stereotypes associated with Anacostia, but after spending time there, it is clear that a lot of positives exist that get overlooked. Last year, 79 percent of seniors at The Academies at Anacostia received their diplomas, and of those, 95 percent were accepted to college, according to The Washington Post.

Students at Anacostia have pride for their school and many assert that they come to class every day, committed and dedicated to learn. Fights still occasionally break out, but students at Anacostia are working hard to break through the barrier of violence, crime, and teen pregnancy to succeed and accomplish their goals.

In the hallways of The Academies at Anacostia are the school’s 2010-11 goals, which include a 95 percent graduation rate, 85 percent daily attendance, 50 percent proficiency in District testing, and 100 percent uniform compliance.  The Academies at Anacostia students, on the other hand, say they refuse to be defined by the headlines, statistics or outsiders’ perceptions. In a multi-faceted exploration of life at The Academies at Anacostia, members of the Southeast D.C. community tell their own stories about the school and the neighborhood. From their perspective, things look a little different than it does on the outside.