2005 Winner
District of Columbia Public Schools
Innovations in American Government Awards
Innovations in American Government Awards
District of Columbia

Many urban children have little hope of attending college and attaining long-term success. Even when the public day-school system offers a strong academic program, these students may not succeed because key environmental factors work against them. Drugs, violence, crime, and teen pregnancy take a human toll on middle and high school students in urban areas. Unfortunately, the support structures that might otherwise overcome these problems may be limited or absent. When children must cope with chaotic or violent homes, when they arrive at school hungry, or when there is no appropriate place for them to do homework, they cannot excel in the classroom. Under these circumstances, students either don't graduate, or they graduate without the skills they need. Many students and families desperately want an alternative that provides the infrastructure, vision, and resources needed to help this specific group of students.

To meet the needs of these at-risk students, the SEED School opened its doors in 1998. This unique charter school offers a combined academic and boarding program that provides consistent, holistic services in a nurturing environment. The School educates 320 urban children, in grades seven through twelve, whose challenging circumstances might otherwise prevent them from fulfilling their academic and social potential. The school is located within the students' community so that students are able to maintain close family support.

SEED made the concept of an urban boarding school a reality by creating a partnership among federal, city, and private entities, thereby establishing a funding stream to support and sustain the operation of a boarding school and build a permanent campus. By assembling disparate resources and creating partnerships with entities such as the federal government, the Washington, D.C. District Council, and the D.C. Public Charter School Board, the School achieved financial sustainability. While securing the support of the city and federal governments for funds, SEED also launched a private fundraising campaign.

In June 2004, the SEED School celebrated the graduation of its first senior class with 100 percent graduation and college attendance rate. Compared with the city-wide graduation rate of 63 percent and college attendance rate of 30 percent, the SEED School is clearly making a significant impact on the lives of the district's youth. Furthermore, the SEED School shapes its students' social growth. SEED students exhibit decreased risk behaviors and increased self-esteem in comparison their D.C. peers. The SEED School stands as evidence that an urban public boarding school can provide students with an extraordinary education and be sustainable. Cities across the nation, including Baltimore, Oakland and Miami, have expressed interest in establishing their own SEED School.