Anacostia Voices by Paul Penniman

Hi everyone. I’m the fellow whose car was shot up and received some sympathy, shoutouts and also a little derision (“Mr Wonderbead” is my new nickname here) two weekends ago.

In 2003, I founded Resources for Inner city CHildren, RICH, which provides tutoring and mentoring services to Anacostia High School and the Cesar Chavez Public Charter School-Capitol Hill. I had been a private school teacher for nine years and then a private, for profit tutor for thirteen years when I was inspired by a speech by Irasema Salcido, the founder of the Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools. Our mission is to provide high-quality tutoring and mentoring services for inner city schools.

I moved to Anacostia two winters ago to be closer to my work–to be able to help our students more but also to have a (much) shorter commute. I used to live in Ward 3 to facilitate my for profit tutoring business.

The Prince has invited me to share what’s going on in Anacostia, neighborhood-wise and from our students’ perspectives. I will try to do this as well as I can, knowing full well I can not truly identify with my students and neighbors to any large degree; I am white and much wealthier than most of my neighbors. (I’m the wealthiest person most of my students have ever met, but I have to tell them when I go out to lunch, my friends pay for me.) At least I and they can describe to you how they feel about their immediate community, the community at large, and the world.

I have written on my own blog, innercityvisions.blogspot.com, partly about educational challenges our students face and also the uneven playing field they have to play on.

For an introduction to our summer students–a combination of math enrichment kids and kids who have reading challenges–above is a video to the first sitdown they had with a rather charismatic partner of ours, Dr. Bruce Purnell, director of Higher Hopes.  Actually we found him through Pinpoints Theater, pinpoints.org. Pinpoints and Higher Hopes have a program called Pen or Pencil (www.penorpencilmovement.org) that’s teaching youth to commit to not giving up their seat in the classroom for a seat on a bus to the PENitentiary.

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