President Barack Obama visited Benjamin Banneker Academic High School for a second time on October 17, to deliver a speech about rising graduation rates. Students waited with anticipation for about two hours in the gymnasium with buzzing cell phones, applause for Secret Service, and the immense pool of press with their bulging camera lenses.
“I was so impressed with Banneker the last time I was here in 2011 that I wanted to come back because you’re an example of a school that’s doing things right,” he said.
He came back to announce that the country’s high school graduation rate is the highest on record at 83 percent, and that D.C. public schools went from just 59 percent of seniors who graduated in 2011 to 69 percent of seniors graduating in 2015. That was the fastest growth in the country. A story in Education Week reported that the Department of Education has been requiring schools to use this method of tabulating graduating seniors, called the Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate, since 2008.
Banneker was a great place to deliver this message because the school’s graduation rate is 100 percent. “It’s been awhile since I did math, but 100 percent is good. You can’t do better than that,” he said. President Obama also noted that the graduation rate of minority groups for Hispanics went up by 6.8 percent and African-Americans went up by 7.6 percent.
The Banneker community spoke out about their feelings towards the president’s speech, his message, and of course, the long wait they had to endure.
“I was so anxious, when he was here, we felt united. It was funny seeing the teachers excited. They looked like little kids,” senior Destiny Jackson said.
Senior Ifunanyachukwu Azikiwe, an IB student with extraordinary SAT scores, who also recently became a citizen of the US, had the opportunity to introduce the President.
“He’s an icon and an idol for many people and to see him in person is a great privilege,” she said. “He told me he was proud of me and I would do a good job,” she said to WUSA 9 News.
While Azikiwe shared a stage with our president and shook his hand, others weren’t as lucky.
“I couldn’t see Obama for the life of me,” junior Luis Estrada said.
President Obama’s 2011 speech and his return in 2016 inspired students, such as senior Taylor Addison. Senior Dea Onyenobi described it as “surreal. It was like Jesus came back,” she said.