Students at Booker T. Washington High School have been referred to as "high risk" because of their ethnic, social, and economic status. A majority of the students are parented by single females whose income is at or below the poverty level and where government assistance is the main income source. In 2007, the school's graduation rate dropped below the Memphis City Schools and state graduation levels. Despite these odds, promise and achievement abound within the Lady Warriors den. For the past 10 years, Derek W. Hunter, Head Girls Basketball Coach and Program Director of "Education/Cultural Experience" has been defying the odds. This program was created to expose inner-city, African American teenage girls to unfamiliar surroundings and cultures with the hope that they will be motivated and prepared to seek and education or career past high school.
The Booker T. Washington H.S. Girls Lady Warrior Basketball Team Educational/Cultural Experience expanded the student-athlete program to the girls' track and field team. Recently, the team went to the Allstate Sugar Bowl Track and Field Meet in New Orleans. Former Lady Warriors who made this same trip years ago monitored the trip and mentored the girls. The group has been on 2 educational experiences in this school year and money is being raised to attend another track meet.
The return on our investment over the past eight years is much greater than the $18,500 in grant awards to the Educational/Cultural Experience at Booker T. Washington High School. Starting with a shift in mindset from "high-risk" to "student-athlete," the Experience helps the girls achieve a sense of dignity, self-worth, and the belief that their negative surroundings don't have to prevent them from pursuing their dreams. This philosophy is quite evident by the level of academic and athletic success of the basketball and track team members. The graduation rate for the Experience program participants in 100 percent.
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