Why are we the Maya Angelou Schools?

We opened the See Forever Foundation in 1997 as a comprehensive program for 20 teens. That year we sponsored a school naming contest. We are pleased to share the text of that essay below.

The Winning Essay in our School Naming Contest

“Why we should name our public charter school after Dr. Maya Angelou”

by Sherti Hendrix (MAPCS, Class of 1999)

The students of See Forever need a school name that represents the power and the importance of education.

I think our charter school should be named after Dr. Maya Angelou. Dr. Maya Angelou was the first black woman to have an original screenplay produced. She has been nominated for Emmy Awards. She has published best-selling books and magazine articles. She was an active participant in the civil rights movement. She delivered a poem at the Presidential Inaugural Ceremonies for President Bill Clinton.

These accomplishments were not easy for Dr. Angelou; there were many obstacles in her way. She grew up as a poor little girl. She had only her family and her mind. She went through racism as she grew up. Her stepfather raped her. Her mother and father sent her and her brother away when they were young. She had a baby at a young age.

Her knowledge kept her going. She kept reading. She still went to school and focused on her future. She did this so she could be the person she always dreamed about becoming.

Like Dr. Angelou did when she was a child, See Forever students have had a lot of problems, too. We have problems in our neighborhoods, or homes, and inside of ourselves. But like Dr. Angelou, the students of See Forever are using hard work and education to create a new future.

At See Forever, we are surrounded by people who care about us and want us to have the best in life. At See Forever, we are in school for 10.5 hours. I never thought I could be in school for such a long time.

I have learned a lot about my history€“ more in the last nine weeks, than in the 11 years of my life in DCPS. In my social studies class, I learned about how African-Americans first came to live here in the District of Columbia. I learned how they were treated and how they lived.

I also have an elective class called Selma. In Selma, I learn about the 1960’s when black people were not treated right in Selma, Alabama and throughout the South. Back then, black people did not have the right to vote. Black people wanted to have the right to vote. It wasn’€™t easy getting it. Black people, and some white people, organized, marched, and demanded the right to vote. Eventually, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, ensuring the right to vote for all people. If we did not have people who wanted justice and fought for this victory, things would be even worse than they are now.

At See Forever, we learn to be responsible adults for the future. We each have a bank account and a Merrill Lynch account. We learn that with money in the bank we will never be broke.

I know that nobody is perfect in this world. But at See Forever I have learned one thing. You can do whatever you want to do as long as you put your mind to it, and work hard to get there!

And, Dr. Angelou knows this too. She is a bold black sister, and believes in us. She understands that, as she said in 1993, €œBlack children are the bravest, without knowing it, representatives of us all. To me, that means that no matter what bad things happen to us, we never let our self-esteem suffer. We never give up. We still go to school.

We know, and Dr. Angelou knows, that there are people who say we are criminals, drug dealers and kids who want to make the society a living hell. We know that we will prove those people wrong. The Dr. Maya Angelou Charter School will treat people by the way they carry themselves and not by their history.

It is an honor and a privilege to have Dr. Angelou as an active member of our school community. Her presence at our annual fundraiser, her visits to our campuses, and the way she invites and welcomes our students and staff into her personal and professional circles, are all shining examples of our school’€™s family-like atmosphere and structure.

Dr. Angelou’€™s life story has created a culture of support at the school that has taken her name. Each year, she comes to our annual fundraiser to share with us her troubles and her triumphs. She encourages us to become a community where the members care for and hold up each other.

– MAPCS-Shaw Campus Alumna