It’s About Abilities not Deficits;

Students of All Backgrounds Find Path to College at Friendship

This year, more than 30 Friendship alumni will graduate from institutions of higher learning. Some will receive bachelor’s degrees and enter the workforce as well-rounded professionals eager to contribute to their communities. Others will earn professional or master’s degrees, emerging as experts in specialized fields.

While these college graduates are forever connected by their Friendship Public Charter School (Friendship) experience, their personal paths through high school and on to college were quite different.


Congratulations to all Friendship alumni graduating from a college or university this year!

Some lived in homeless shelters and struggled to balance Friendship’s rigorous college-preparatory classes with the social and economic challenges common among America’s homeless population. Others trudged the murky paths of urban frustration, daily confronting gang violence, drugs and extreme poverty. Many were the first in their families to attend college, and some made choices that seemingly placed college out of reach.

And then there were students who came from solid middle-class families, having parents, grandparents and other relatives who paved the way for them as college graduates.

Yet despite their diverse backgrounds, all of these former Friendship students made it to and through college.

So what was the common denominator – that unique “thing” – that each Friendship student experienced propelling them from college hopeful to college graduate?

According to Friendship Alumni Affairs Coordinator Ashref Elshazli, in addition to an intentional “college-culture,” the advisory services offered high school students play an integral role.

“Designating a class period to college preparation is significant. The relationships that can be built with a teacher who designs his or her instruction around getting students into and through college is huge,” Elshazli explained.



Friendship Alumni Affairs Coordinator Ashref Elshazli (front and center) with Friendship alumni.

Percee Goings (Columbia University, C’16) and Dominique Smith (Livingstone College, C’15) exemplify the diversity among Friendship’s recent college graduates.

Percee always knew he would attend college. A high-performer, ranked among top students nationwide, Percee comes from a close-knit, supportive family.

With 12 Early College credits under his belt before graduating from high school, Percee praises Friendship for preparing him for college and pushing him closer toward his dream of opening a school for homeless citizens.

“I’ve always wanted to help people. When I was a little boy, I wanted to open a school for the homeless, and I knew that making it to the NFL would give me enough money to do so,” he said.  “As a future Columbia graduate, I feel like I can really do it.”

Dominique, however, didn’t always consider herself college material. A series of personal tragedies – the absence of her father and loss of her mother at a young age – forced Dominique to focus more on survival than college dreams.


Livingston College graduate and Collegiate Academy alumna Dominique Smith

“Dominique was a long shot from going to college. Not only had she lost both parents as a little girl, she also lost her elder brother during her senior year of high school,” said Elshazli. “Her advisory teacher was definitely vested in her and made sure Dominique was vested in herself.”

Dominique graduated from Livingston College last year. She plans to attend graduate school and work with expectant mothers.

“Our students represent a spectrum of personal experiences.  As their educators, we must meet them where they are,” said Friendship CEO-Elect Patricia Brantley. “We know the odds they face, but we must do what it takes to get our children to and through college, and beyond.”



Friendship Chairman and Founder Donald L. Hense at Friendship Collegiate Alumni Day



Southeast Scholar Puts Safety First!



Friendship Southeast Scholar Nya Offutt


Eleven-year-old Nya Offutt is a fifth grader at Friendship Southeast Academy and a proud American Automobile Association (AAA) School Safety Patroller for her campus. As a school-age leader in traffic safety, Nya teaches other students safety tips and helps keep them safe on school grounds.

But now it appears Nya has taken her commitment to school safety to a level not frequently seen in someone her age. Currently ranked as a captain in the program, Nya took the initiative to research ways to make her campus even safer.

She was inspired when she noticed that some lower-grade students were easily distracted between the time they were dropped off for school in the morning and when they entered the building. Nya solicited the help of her Safety Patrol supervisor, Friendship Security Officer Ms. K. Lake, to help her plan a “school safety week.”

According to Officer Lake, Nya expressed interest in having Otto the Auto –  AAA’s three feet tall remote-controlled talking car – visit Southeast and engage lower-grade students in safety activities that reinforce the importance of buckling up and looking both ways before crossing the street.


Friendship Southeast Safety Officer Ms. K. Lake with AAA Patrollers Nya Offutt (far left) and Vernon Stevenson (middle)


“She told me what she wanted, and I found out how to get Otto the Auto to Southeast.  Within weeks, Otto was here teaching students in kindergarten through second grade about safety,” said Lake. “Nya did all the work. I just supported her.”

Having earned a few grades that Nya admits didn’t reflect her full potential, she is currently earning all A’s. And according to Nya, her grades have improved because of her participation in the Safety Patrol.

“I’m still working on my grades, but I’ve moved them up. Right now, I have all A’s,” she said.

Officer Lake, who reestablished the Southeast Safety Patrol in 2014, explained that most of the students participating in the program have made significant academic improvements since joining.

“When the patrollers report for duty, they look at it as reporting to their jobs. They become more responsible, and that makes them better students,” explained Officer Lake. “They are the leaders of their school and their classrooms.”

In June, AAA will honor Nya with the 2016 AAA School Safety Patrol Award for preventing a potential mishap at her school. After a second grader was dropped off for school, he became distracted by a stray kitten. The boy nearly darted towards the kitten before thoroughly checking his surroundings for safety.

According to witnesses, Nya quickly grabbed the boy, holding him close  until the coast was clear and Officer Lake arrived to assist.


Officer Lake hugs Vernon Stevenson

Nya is excited to be honored, mostly because her family and mentor Officer Lake will attend the luncheon.

“Every time I see Officer Lake, she helps me to become stronger and more responsible,” Nya said. “If I’m the little birdie, she’s the mother bird. She’s my role model. She helps me with everything.”

According to Friendship Public Charter School CEO-Elect Patricia Brantley, we all play an integral role in providing a world class education to students. “Learning happens in and out of the classroom at Friendship. Any one of us could be the person to change the trajectory of a student’s life. One acknowledgment or word of encouragement can pull the best out of a student,” said Brantley. “Nya is a role model. We are very proud of her and the great work of the Southeast Safety Patrol under Officer Lake’s leadership.”


Bigger than Basketball

Bigger than Basketball

Collegiate Academy graduate creates a magical experience for Friendship students & families 

by Derrick Watkins



Coach Johnson discussing plays with the Wolfpack.

It started out like any normal Saturday morning in Washington, DC. The air was crisp and the sun bright while residents drank coffee and “caught up” along Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Southeast.

By 10 am the parking lot of Friendship’s Southeast Campus was full, as parades of families hurried from their cars to the side entrance leading to the gym.

Inside, the rhythm of bouncing basketballs and screeching shoes against the gym’s oak floors accompanied cheers from cheerleaders wearing their schools’ colors with pride and dignity, while posing for group-selfies with their mini bands-of-sisters.

In the hallways, mothers and aunties made tight ponytails in their daughters’ and nieces’ hair, while fathers and uncles everywhere held discrete conversations with their son and daughter athletes, reminding them to apply the recommendations they’d just discussed at home the night before.

2006 Friendship Collegiate Academy graduate and former football player Coach Terry Johnson was all over the place, showing opposing coaches to their rooms and directing photographers to photo-opps.

Although it was clear to all that somebody was about to play [some] basketball, a less obvious, but equally important phenomenon had begun to slowly reveal itself – a phenomenon bigger than basketball.


As the first buzzer sounded, the Armstrong Wolfpack and the Woodridge Warriors made their ways to the floor, their faces, collectively and individually, conveying victory and pride. Seconds after tip-off, a group of like-minded spectators, including immediate and extended family, boldly showered the athletes, as if they were all just one team, with love and encouragement, yelling affirmations like, “You can do it,” and “Go Warriors! Go Wolfpack!”


Friendship families excited about the game.

Dads held children tightly as they fought urges to coach from the bleachers. Moms leaning against daughters studied all of the children with mother-eyes, ensuring safety. Big brothers and sisters yelled their siblings’ names, reminding them that everyone present was here just for them.

Southeast, DC native and Armstrong coach Terry Johnson, is the brains behind the Friendship Elementary Athletic Association. Although he initially planned to start a mentoring program in response to the number of DC boys with absent fathers, he saw a void in opportunities for all DC school-aged children to participate in organized sports.

“I wanted girls and boys to be able to play football and basketball together, as well as to learn competitive cheering,” Terry said. “We want to expose them to every opportunity to develop as big thinkers and good decisions makers.”

With encouragement from Friendship CEO Donald Hense and COO Pat Brantley to officially present his idea, Terry called on his friend and colleague, Armstrong Dean of Students Victor Bell, to help develop the academic and character development components of his athletic program.

“Friendship is committed to our students through college and beyond. We provide the platform for students to accomplish all of their dreams, knowing that they can rely on their Friendship family to support them along the way,” said Friendship COO Patricia Brantley.


Coach Johnson and the Armstrong Wolfpack.

Terry, also the head of security for Armstrong, knows first-hand the value of self-esteem and high moral character among DC youth.

“I was always one of the smartest kids in school, but I made bad decisions; some of which could have destroyed my entire life,” he said. “That’s why we do not bend on our expectation of excellence from our athletes. Today is much bigger than basketball. Look at all of the fathers here. And this is nothing compared to how many usually come!”


Terry Johnson and Victor Bell

With Victor’s support, athletes in the program are consistently monitored for academic and social growth with progress reports and informal conferences with teachers. Each athlete must maintain a 2.5 GPA or greater, and make impeccable strides toward model student behavior. And when they don’t meet those standards, athletes endure consequences, which may even include missing a game.

Of the more than 200 athletes, including cheerleaders, active in FEAA, 100% have maintained 2.5 GPAs, while Armstrong’s basketball team is currently carrying a 3.0 GPA.

“If we teach them early, by the time they get to high school they’ll be ready for the academic and social challenges they may face,” said Victor Bell. “We are preparing them for college and life after college.”




Woodridge Coach Marcus Thompson gets his warriors fired up!

An active dad of a four-year-old son attending Armstrong, Terry says that this is just the beginning of his vision, citing expansions next year to include soccer and T-ball.

“I completed three years at South Carolina State University, where I studied electrical engineering. Some of the decisions I made kept me from finishing, but the same teachers that helped me get into that program – Peggy Jones, Cherice Green, and Carlos Richardson – never turned their backs on me. In fact, I am very close to them all right now. They held me accountable for my actions, but never stopped believing in me.”

According to CEO Donald Hense, Friendship doesn’t give up on students. “Our teachers and school leaders don’t throw students away simply because they’ve made bad choices. Our students are our investments toward making the world a better place.”

For more information on upcoming games, or to support the Friendship Elementary Athletic Association, contact Terry Johnson at tjohnson@friendshipschools.org.



The Washington, D.C. Black History “Continuing the Legacy” Oratorical Competition

In following the footsteps of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, founder of Black History Month, it is important to take the time to acknowledge the accomplishments and the legacy of African-American men and women who influenced the way in which we live today. It is imperative that we take their lessons and accomplishments as inspiration for our own success and legacy. This Black History “Continuing the Legacy” Oratorical Competition will give students across Washington, DC, the opportunity to learn about the past and look toward the future.

For rules on how to enter click here: www.friendshipschools.org/contest.

Please share this with any student living in Washington, D.C. Thank you!



Black History Month Educational Resources

Check out these great resources to help you learn more about black history during the month of February! If you have more resources to contribute please share them in the comments section below.


Museums and Memorials  

Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial

1964 Independence Avenue Southwest, Washington, DC 20024

Website: http://www.nps.gov/mlkm/index.htm

Newseum (“1965: Civil Rights at 50” Exhibit)

555 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest, Washington, DC 20001

Website: http://www.newseum.org/exhibits/current/civil-rights-at-50/


African American Civil War Memorial and Museum

1925 Vermont Avenue Northwest, Washington, DC 20001

Webstite: http://www.afroamcivilwar.org/

Frederick Douglass National Historic Site

1411 W Street Southeast, Washington, DC 20020

Website: http://www.nps.gov/frdo/index.htm

National Museum of African American History and Culture

1400 Constitution Ave., NW Washington, D.C. 20004

Website: http://nmaahc.si.edu/

Anacostia Community Museum 

1901 Fort Place SE Washington, DC 20020

website: http://anacostia.si.edu/ 

Online Educational Resources


Black History Month 2016

Hello Friendship Family!
Today starts the beginning of “Black History Month”. During this month, we highlight the achievements and contributions of African Americans to the United States. Black History Month first began in 1915 with the founding of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) by Carter G. Woodson and A.L. Jackson on September 9th. In 1924, the ASNLH, along with other black historians and literary scholars, decided to name the second week in February “Negro History and Literature Week”, which was later renamed “Negro Achievement Week”. In 1926 “Negro Achievement Week” was expanded to the entire month of February, which led to what we now call “Black History Month”. This month, Friendship PCS will continue the ASNLH legacy by highlighting the achievements of African Americans both past and present.  We will also provide resources and information about “Black History Month” events in our schools and in the District of Columbia. 
Today’s information is provided by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (as it is now known) website. To find out more about the ASALH or Black History Month visit their website www.asalh100.org

It’s Open House Season!

Enrollment season has begun! Take some time to visit our many campuses to see which Friendship school is right for you! Click the link below to see our open house schedule for December – February!  Don’t forget to enroll through myschooldc.org and make Friendship PCS your #1 choice!  OPENHOUSES15_16

15_16Open House

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