First Lady Visits Old Congress Heights School: to build a playground

Revitalization continues for the Old Congress Heights School. This past month over 500 volunteers from the ward 8 community and beyond, joined First Lady, Michelle Obama and the Kaboom Organization to build a playground at Old Congress Heights School, now occupied by Imagine Public Charter School.

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The school has recently undergone major reconstruction headed by a team from the District Development Group (DDG) and Congress Heights Community Training Development Corporation (CHCTDC). The multi-million dollar project was finished early this year and opened its doors to Imagine in February. The school was once housed inside the Brighter Day Ministries Church campus location in the 500 block of Alabama Ave. SE, but today its enrollment has grown. The school has a waiting list well over what its capacity could hold. Parents are calling about getting their children in slots as soon as they are available. Principal Stacy Scott said, “I am excited about the school’s growth! I have been here since its inception and to look at what it has amassed to today is just wonderful.”

The school is unique in that it is tuition-free and offers the first “dual-academy” single-sex academic program in the city. Boys and girls are separated starting in 1st grade, creating a Boys’ Academy and a Girls’ Academy housed under one roof. Principal Scott said, “We emphasize academic achievement, character development and student leadership.”
Pre-K4 Teachers Deanna Dykes and Kourtney Woodard said they enjoy the dual academy academic program. Deanna said, “It gives students the opportunity to learn at the level they need to without gender interferences.” Kourtney said, “There is a clear difference in academic achievement when the two genders are separated than when together. The girls are more comfortable alone and the boys are better when they are alone.” Deanna also said the behavior is much better due to the educational structure system.

Deanna further noted that projects like Kaboom are good for a deserving school and community. “They are taking an interest in us,” said Deanna. Kourtney said that she was most proud because a large-scale project like Kaboom shows that “you can make a big difference in the urban setting. This project shows that children can get a good education and a positive environment in an urban setting.”

The playground features swings, slides, wood benches, freshly planted flowers, monkey bars and plenty of green space play. A mural was also painted at the back of the school representing the students. The mural was led by Imagine’s Art Director/Teacher Chinedu Felix Osuchukwu, known as “Mr. O” by students. He said “the mural was painted to represent integrity, success and virtue” for the students at Imagine.

This was the organization’s 2,000th playground built and its 15th year anniversary. First Lady Michelle Obama came to celebrate the anniversary along with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. They gave brief remarks then got right to work, helping build the one-day project.

The playground construction that took place at Imagine involved local community leaders, volunteers and students themselves. The one-day project also involved Congressional leaders for the 2011 Congressional Volunteer Day. Imagine’s Founding Principal, Stacey Scott, said she was ecstatic about the project and proud that her school was selected from the many applicants. “This is a project that brings the community together,” said Scott.

Imagine Southeast is open to all DC residents and is apart of a larger consortium of schools started by Dennis and Eileen Bakke under the Imagine Schools organization. Imagine Schools is comprised mostly of teachers that operate 72 public charter schools in 12 states and the District of Columbia. They serve around 37,000 students nationwide.

Imagine Southeast currently serves over 480 students in Pre-Kindergarten 3 through 6th grade. Principal Scott said that the school will grow by one grade each school year, stopping with 8th.

To find out more information about the school please visit the website imaginesoutheastpcs.org.
To find out more information about Kaboom please visit kaboom.org