Charter school graduates first class, all headed to college

42 seniors graduated as the first class of Washington Latin Public Charter School on Georgetown Unversity's campus on Friday, June 8, 2012. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
Graduates Marvin Browne, 17, is heading to Occidental College and 17-year-old Zana Holden- Gatling is going to Mary Baldwin in the fall. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
Washington Latin Public Charter School's first graduating class presents itself during the ceremony at Georgetown University on Friday, June 8, 2012. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
Head of School, Martha Cutts adjusts a colleague's robe before graduation on Friday, June 8, 2012. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
Washington Latin Public Charter School's graduation in Gaston Hall of Georgetown University on Friday, June 8, 2012. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
Graduates 18-year-old Salam Abdul-Ali plans to attend American University in Paris, while her friend, 18-year-old Charlotte Hoffman, right, will attend Goucher College. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)
Of the 42 graduates, 16 students enrolled in the school during its first year as sixth graders. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)

Megan Cloherty,

WASHINGTON – Graduating seniors of Washington Latin Public School crossed the stage and received their diplomas Friday, enjoying the long anticipated moment that was not only a first for the graduates, but for the school itself.

The school started six years ago with fifth, sixth and seventh grade classes and only 174 students. Now, it is home to more than 500 students in fifth through 12th grades. Students who attend represent every ward of the District.

To reach its first graduation is an accomplishment for the charter school, but beyond the ceremony is the school’s true success: all graduating seniors are headed to college.

Head of School Martha Cutts attributes the students’ achievement to the faculty’s commitment. She also acknowledged the parents who took a risk in enrolling their children in a then unproven institution.

“They took an enormous leap of faith,” Cutts says. “They believed in a mission and those of us trying to implement that mission and today those kids are going to get their diplomas and every single one is going to college.”

Marvin Browne, 17, is one of the school’s original students.

“I know everybody,” he says. “We’ve come together and built a strong bond that’s not going to break.”

Browne and his fellow classmates are used to firsts. They have always been the school’s seniors, as graduate Salam Abdul-Ali points out.

Given the spelling of her last name, Abdul-Ali, 18, will be the first in the class to graduate. She is headed to the American University in Paris in the fall to study language and culture.

“I was so excited. So excited,” Abdul-Ali says about getting her acceptance letter. “That’s when it kind of hit me that I’m going to college.”

The group of graduates earned more than $2 million in scholarships thanks, in part, to the classical education and strong community the charter school provided, they say.

The momentous occasion was celebrated in Georgetown University’s Gaston Hall. The school was sponsored by the university’s classics department to use the campus for the ceremony.

Washington Latin Charter is renting its current buildings off 16th Street and is hoping to find a permanent home by August 2013, according to Cutts.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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