Booker T. Washington High School‘s Freedom Writers were honored by Atlanta’s oldest law firm, Kilpatrick Stockton, for achieving a 96 percent acceptance rate into college while being offered more than 190 scholarships worth more than $6.4 million. In an announcement today at the Atlanta Event Center at Opera, Kilpatrick Stockton is offering each Freedom Writer who enrolls in a two- or four-year institution a $500 scholarship – a total gift of nearly $40,000.
The Washington program features 80 Freedom Writers and 60 mentors. U.S. Representative John Lewis, former mayor Shirley Franklin and other dignitaries were at the event. In 2006, Kilpatrick Stockton committed to making a difference in the lives of a group of ninth graders at Washington High in a program called the BTW Freedom Writers Mentoring Program — inspired by famed educator Erin Gruwell and her original Freedom Writers, made famous in the 2007 movie starring Hilary Swank and Patrick Dempsey.
For nearly four years, Kilpatrick Stockton attorneys and staff have collectively spent thousands of hours working in three- and four-person teams to mentor students once per week since their freshman year. Mentoring sessions have focused on improving the reading, writing, communication and life skills of our students. It is the firm’s hope that at least one of the students will one day practice law at Kilpatrick Stockton. As the final semester winds down, 96 percent of the Freedom Writers have been accepted to college with more than $6.4 million in scholarship funds representing with more than 190 scholarships (including four Gates Millennium Scholars) having been offered Kilpatrick Stockton has invested over 4,000 hours of volunteer time since the program’s inception: approximately a $1.3 million investment which doesn’t include non-timekeepers time, an academic coach’s salary, cost of materials, field trips and more.
It’s worth noting that the valedictorian (Deonte Bridges) and salutatorian (Shaeroya Earls) of Washington High are Freedom Writers. This program has meant a lot more than classroom mentoring — a field trip to Birmingham to the Civil Rights Museum, college tours, financial literacy, and a senior trip at the beginning of April to Washington, D.C., sponsored by Kilpatrick Stockton.
Special thanks to Washington High Senior Academy teacher Charles Allen, who has been the academic coach for the Freedom Writers program. Allen emphasized the value of the afterschool program “Grammar Bytes,” in which students participated in test-prep skills for everything from the Georgia High School Graduation Test to the SAT. It is extremely gratifying to see students over a four-year period … I know all the challenges we’ve encountered. Been deeply gratifying to be a part of this program. With the help of Kilpatrick Stockton associates Blair Andrews and Lauren Estrin, students worked on study skills using games like Jeopardy.
“It is extremely gratifying to see students evolve like this over a four-year period,” said Allen, a sixth-year veteran at Washington High who was an English teacher before becoming academic coach. ” I know all the challenges we’ve encountered, and it’s been deeply gratifying to be a part of this program.”