APS produces successful students. Here’s one of them.

I am editing an op-ed on APS success stories by Atlanta City Council member C.T. Martin, which mentions Booker T. Washington valedictorian Deonte Bridges. Deonte was the recipient of a million dollars in scholarship offers. Now at UGA, the remarkable young man took the $360,000 Gates Millennium Scholars Program, which will pay for his undergraduate and graduate education.

I recall reading an AJC story about Deonte that mentioned the popularity of a YouTube video of his valedictory speech. I must have been off my game last summer as I never posted the video here on the blog. So, I am making up for my error now.

64 comments Add your comment

Grateful APS Teacher

July 20th, 2011
3:29 pm

Thank you Maureen for posting this video!

Go Panthers!

July 20th, 2011
3:49 pm

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Maureen.

And didn’t Deonte graduate from Washington’s discontinued magnet? Could be wrong but me thinks he did.

tim

July 20th, 2011
3:50 pm

Good for Donte! But what about the thousands and thousands of others???

ANGELA

July 20th, 2011
3:50 pm

I am a 1973 graduate of Booker T. Washington High School. When this first aired I was not shocked at all. We the alumna had a picnic about three weeks ago. I was very proud to hear of the success of many many of the graduates both young and older. Also, my mother, father, sister, uncles and aunt and many life long friends are also, graduates of BTW. Most of which now hold college degrees even those of over 60 years ago. One of my uncles held a Ph.D. I am saying that to say this APS had a most positive influence on its students.

If one would do a history search on Atlanta Public Schools they would find that it has produced many many successful students. These students are from all walks of life, race, creeds and colors.
It is a very sad day and years that Beverly Hall has created such a mess but, it shall move forward with hopes of a positive forward.

Ernest

July 20th, 2011
3:51 pm

There are MANY successful APS graduates. Unfortunately this cheating scandal is causing the uninformed to paint a broad brush regarding this school system. I’ve got a niece (2003 Mays) who just got her JD from American University and was a King scholar at Emory. Her brother (2004 Mays) is working on his PhD in Engineering from FAMU. I KNOW they are only 2 of many more successful APS graduates.

Maureen Downey

July 20th, 2011
3:54 pm

@Go, Yup, he did.

Ole Guy

July 20th, 2011
3:57 pm

Good to see some positive notes here…congrats to Donte.

Perhaps the AJC could set up an interview in order to glean what it takes to achieve success. These kids need some sort of “blueprint”…some “peer guidance” into the academic process. As a kid (and as an adult), if I experienced difficulty in achieving something, my first question might be “HOWDYOUDODAT?”. Perhaps such an interview might shed some light for a few kids out there to follow.

ANGELA

July 20th, 2011
4:00 pm

@Go Panther,

If I remember correctly it was against some odds. I was very proud to hear of his success.

FBT

July 20th, 2011
4:01 pm

Inspiring!
Should have a tissue needed warning.

Go Panthers!

July 20th, 2011
4:02 pm

@ Maureen -

Thanks for that quick verification. This APS grad is going back to her other computer for a minute to finish writing her Master’s thesis. :-)

Doris M

July 20th, 2011
4:30 pm

@FBT

Yes a tissue was definitely needed. I am so proud of this young man.

Old School

July 20th, 2011
4:30 pm

Thank you for a breath of fresh air! I was beginning to wonder if nothing positive could be found in the mess that seems to be education these days. It is wonderful to be able to read something uplifting for a change.

Thank you, Maureen! I would LOVE to read more stories like his!

Hugh

July 20th, 2011
4:36 pm

The good students in APS ,who earned their grades and scores honestly, have been short changed because their educational achievements will be questioned.In other words a diploma from APS will not be worth the paper it is written on.This will also be the case for the many good and honest teachers who taught with integrity at APS—-they may have been fired by APS but they can proudly look in the mirror and say they put the children first —not their jobs or themselves.

Mr Charlie

July 20th, 2011
4:51 pm

So this pretty much proves that there is no lack of opportunity.

Go Panthers!

July 20th, 2011
4:51 pm

@ Hugh – A frequent quote from one of my APS teachers/mentors (who, coincidentally, passed last week): “Cream will always rise to the top, whether or not the milk is sour.”

Go Panthers!

July 20th, 2011
4:54 pm

@ Mr. Charlie – No. It proves that when the right opportunities are matched with the right raw talent, anything is possible.

chillywilly

July 20th, 2011
5:02 pm

@Ernest – Best of luck to your niece and nephew. APS has many current and former talented students. There’s a youtube video of a recent Douglass High School graduate by the name of Ralph Jones, Jr. He started college at the age of 16. The young man is a genius!!

Mr Charlie

July 20th, 2011
5:17 pm

@ panthers. You really think it was talent? I listened to the speech, and at no place does he credit his talent. He credits his hard work, and “ability to make rational decisions”. He basically says what I have been saying one must do to be successful for. It ain’t rocket science, and this proves if you just make good decisions, opportunities are limitless. If you think his success is due to “talent”, you do not appreciate what he has accomplished…I also noticed he mentions his father, funny huh.

RJ

July 20th, 2011
5:35 pm

How awesome! Thanks Maureen for posting this video. I am both an APS graduate and educator. I have always been proud of the school system that educated me. It is unfortunate that the entire school system is being judged by the actions of a few. There are many current and former APS students that have achieved success. This is just one of many success stories.

Ernest

July 20th, 2011
5:36 pm

chillywilly, thanks but as I tell them, their accomplishments are due to buying into the message that hard work can pay off. I’m sure they were tempted (as we all were) to stray off the path of success but they remained focused during their journey.

I think I heard and read about that young man. Another APS graduate doing well.

I forgot to offer my best wishes to Mr. Bridges in his future endeavors. He makes us proud!

Just sayin'

July 20th, 2011
5:49 pm

I think the headline of this article should be “Successful students still exist in spite of APS. Here’s one of them. Tomorrow we’ll talk about the other one.”

How offensive to claim that a school system that has admitted to a decade of cheating should be credited with “producing” anything postive. Shame on you, Maureen.

Maureen Downey

July 20th, 2011
5:53 pm

@Just, I can give you a long list of successful APS graduates. Please note that there are APS schools where no cheating occurred and schools where only a handful of educators cheated. We ought to stick with the facts of this case — which are bad enough — without embellishment or exaggeration.
You will find APS graduates at top colleges across the country and they are doing fine there.
Maureen

Go Panthers!

July 20th, 2011
6:10 pm

@ Mr Charlie – We all were endowed with some kind of raw, God-given talent. Slaves work hard for no acclaim. Nuns make good choices everyday. The Unibomber had a great education. And Charles Manson had a father. Hard work is definitely a factor in successs, so are fathers, good choices and a great education. But, if these things have no talent through which to flourish and perpetuate, I’m not quite sure how a success story is possible.

Go Panthers!

July 20th, 2011
6:12 pm

When education is tailored TOWARD one’s talents, some level of success is more likely than failure.

Mr Charlie

July 20th, 2011
7:01 pm

Actually, to suggest that this kid had some talent that his peers don’t is somewhat insulting. To suggest that most every student in the APS system cannot do exactly what he did because the are not as talented as him is derogatory.

I maintain my original stance, there is plenty of opportunity, you just have to have the drive and character to get it, if you call that talent, so be it.

And to your points: Notice you never see a lot of Nuns in Jail? And your extreme examples such as Charles Manson and the Unibomber only shows you grasping to prove a bad rationalization. They are hardly the norm.

David Sims

July 20th, 2011
7:07 pm

What was this guy’s SAT score? Just curious.

Mr Charlie

July 20th, 2011
7:12 pm

Panther, I watched the speech again. He basically says try and make good decisions, work hard, don’t succumb to peer pressure, look for solutions, and not excuses, and oh yea, be on time. However, if you heard that from me, you would turn blue in the face telling me how wrong I am, probably pull up some Ted Bundy fact about punctuality to prove your point.

Ms_KLR

July 20th, 2011
7:36 pm

There are thousands of current APS students who are successful because of their hard work and their effective teachers. The shameful actions of 6% do not diminish the accomplishments of the majority of APS educators. Great teaching and learning still exists in Atlanta Public Schools. (It even existed in 2009.)

yagottabekiddingme

July 20th, 2011
8:06 pm

I have volunteered in an APS high school college and career center, and let me tell you, there are many many more just like this wonderful young man out there. Don’t let the mess APS is in distract you. Day in and day out, there are good kids doing great things despite all of the crap going on around them. Bravo!

SallyB

July 20th, 2011
8:53 pm

@Maureen et al:
So….this student sat in the same classes with probably 26-29 other students…from 1st – 12th grades. He had the same teachers, the same situations/opportunities/adverse circumstances/ school boards/ TEACHERS during his SCHOOL DAY that numerous other students had.

Yet, well, I just don’t understand how the same teachers that taught this student can be so disparaged and reproached because some percentage of their students did not take advantage of the opportunity as this student did.

HOWEVER, until we all were able to come to the Politically INcorrect conclusion that there are fundamental differences in students, and I am referring to innate abilities as well as environments, that make the difference in the outcome, we will continue to encounter insurmountable obstacles to improving public education.

Steve Perry on CNN says

July 20th, 2011
9:33 pm

@SallyB

Exactly! But not according to Steve Perry…

ex aps teacher

July 20th, 2011
9:33 pm

I am waiting for Beverly Hall and her cronies to take credit for this APS student’s success.
As someone said, cream will always rise to the top.
There is a school in Gwinnett called “Gwinnett School of Math Science Technology”. I taught there a few years ago. You could put a robot or any dead weight teacher in any of the classes there and the kids would still excel in all standardized tests. If Deonte was in that school he would still excel just like he did at APS.
There was a student in my class when I taught at APS that was brilliant. She came from a very challenged family background. I fought for her one summer to be part of an elite science cohort at Emory. Emory needed proof that she had health insurance. Unfortunately her mother would refuse to give me that paperwork and insisted that her daughter did not need to be at that emory camp. I went to the APS counselor for help. I was told quote ” If this girl cannot figure out how to get proof of health insurance, then she cant make it in life and not to worry about it:.
P.S. This APS counselor was a career African American counselor and this brilliant student is also African American.
Enough said about APS culture.

KCS

July 20th, 2011
9:36 pm

Thanks for posting. It reminded me why we can’t give up on public education.

SallyB

July 20th, 2011
10:41 pm

@ex aps teacher : So true!!! Some students will be successful regardless of which school they are dropped into.
Likewise, some students WILL NOT do well even if Einstein or JC were in front of the class.

SallyB

July 20th, 2011
10:56 pm

@Maureen :
Many of us have tried to make your point many times.

THere are many successful students even in schools with the worst reputations/scores/whatevers.. in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods….even with many teachers who are regarded as… hm-m-m-m… “inadequate”.

Likewise, their are many unsuccessful students in schools with excellent reputations/scores in very affluent neighborhoods .

The real reasons for this phenomenon [which have also been posted here many times ] seem to be regarded as too offensive and thus must be camouflaged in our current political/social climate.

SallyB

July 20th, 2011
10:58 pm

OOPs…first time in a very long time since the Filter monster got me.
Can you get me out, please?

Pam Woodard

July 20th, 2011
11:07 pm

There are tons of brilliant and hard working APS students fr om all walks of life. I can count three Gates scholars and one Governor’s Honor’s who came out of Harper-Archer MS in the last 4-6 years. I know about these four because all four came through my ELA classes and I keep tabs on my students. There have been many more high achieving students who came from housing projects,single parent households, have been homeless, are on free and reduced lunch and in some cases all of the above. Many APS teachers have spent hours after school because students didn’t have computers at home to finish projects. We have bought the literature books that students needed for assigned outside reading. We’ve bought clothes for students who didn’t have any, and made home visits to get signatures when parents couldn’t come to the school building. Those 178 who were named in the cheating scandal are a drop in the bucket, and are not representative of the entire faculty of APS. In Atlanta Public Schools we make bricks with no straw and we do a great job. Human cream does rise to the top, but many times it needs support to get there. In APS, we do that best.

ex aps teacher

July 20th, 2011
11:21 pm

Pam Woodward..what is your point?
It is human nature to try to defend your peers. I am assuming you are a teacher at APS now.
Not too long ago I was a APS teacher too.
I think you are trying to sugar coat things. Lets get real…a corrupt system like APS has lost all if not most of the good teachers who can teach and are ethical. Nothing personally against you…but APS now has the bottom of the barrel kind of teachers. Perhaps a tiny fraction of them are good and ethical teachers. The rest is a mix of bad but ethical teachers and bad and non-ethical teachers.
APS even managed to infect some of the Teach for America Teacher in the Cheating Scandal:
http://www.11alive.com/rss/article/198424/3/Elite-Teach-for-America-thrust-into-APS-scandal

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Augusta

July 20th, 2011
11:21 pm

KUDOS to Bridges and the many other able students graduated by the APS!

Lucy

July 21st, 2011
1:14 am

Completely off topic, but has anyone noticed that all the pictures of Beverly Hall posted by the AJC are showing a strong resemblance between Cupcake and Marlon Brando?

Also, I just skimmed through the transcript of Hall’s interview. My question is why was this woman getting paid so much? From her own admission she doesn’t really do anything. I guess she waters her tomato plants and eats oranges all day.

Lucy

July 21st, 2011
1:18 am

Any chance of seeing transcripts from other interviews? I would love to hear Cotman try to explain herself – And Michael Pitts – Two big fat losers.

I love how the investigator says in Hall’s transcript that Waller is a piece of work and is worse than all of them put together. Haha!

Dr NO

July 21st, 2011
7:33 am

One student out of thousands? Impressive I must say.

Lucy. The “gang of 4″ are at best sleazy and very greasy. Ugh…just seeing their faces is sickening then when they open their mouth its only gets worse. Would love to see some serious jailtime for these 4.

Then we have Big Bev. Talk about an awful example of a healthy lifestyle. She can barely waddle.

so tired of the negativity...yawn...

July 21st, 2011
7:47 am

thank you maureen– nice piece, i was pretty proud of that kid when he graduated. some people would be totally suprised at the many professionals and totally successful people that btw has produced. i am dismayed that such a positive article (late though it is) has such negative comments attached to it. a name like mr charlie? wait, let me separate my comments– this one is to applaud you, maureen.

so tired of the negativity...yawn...

July 21st, 2011
7:51 am

a name like mr charlie? guess you are proud of yourself, hunh? guess your kids and grandkids are on the level of this bright scholar, hunh? this article is not a fluff piece, it is real life. just once, leave the attitudes beyond the keyboard and give praise where praise is due and try to not produce negativity for just one blog.

Go Panthers!

July 21st, 2011
8:56 am

@ Mr. Charlie -

“To suggest that most every student in the APS system cannot do exactly what he did because the[y] are not as talented as him is derogatory.” – Mr. Charlie

Sir, I did no such thing. We all know that there can only be one Valedictorian at each school. That is the nature of the reward. However, I did say that we all have our own talents, and one endowed with the gift of pastry making is not necessarily any less talented than an attorney. To suggest that the pastry chef is lower on the totem pole than the Valedictorian because their talents led them to different opportunites IS derogatory. Is that your suggestion?

God bless you, for you are utterly clueless. Those of us who are used to these low-self esteem-generated veiled race and class attacks are well aware of that fact. We love you anyway and pray for your continued enlightenment. You shall overcome.

You very obviously only listened to the parts of Deonte’s speech that you wanted to use as “support” for your own weak arguments. See, what I heard, very clearly, was Deonte and his entire class shout (turn up your hearing aid) about “rising” in their various fields and respective talents, from healthcare to the food service industry, not just academics. This is American public education at its best, when those who go into post-secondary environments are fully equipped to obtain professional level skills that align with their God-given talents.

What I also clearly heard is that Deonte was the first African-American male valedictorian of that school in 10 years, the same high school that educated the world-reknowned peace activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Someone at the school obviously identified early on that Deonte’s talents did not skew toward food service but were more aligned with academia and public speaking, much like they’ve been doing at that school since the days of Dr. King’s youth. Based on your antiquated ideas, I’m sure you remember that era fondly.

And, what everyone on this blog continuously sees is that you pick these ridiculous and obviously biased and unnecessary tifs using entirely too many mis-spellings and prepositions at the end of your sentences. If your talents lied in public speaking, argumentation or academia, you probably would choose otherwise. They do not. I know this based on skills that I acquired as an APS student many, many years ago.

“Panther, I watched the speech again. He basically says try and make good decisions, work hard, don’t succumb to peer pressure, look for solutions, and not excuses, and oh yea, be on time. However, if you heard that from me, you would turn blue in the face telling me how wrong I am, probably pull up some Ted Bundy fact about punctuality to prove your point.” – Mr. Charlie

Again, I never said that all of those things you listed were not important, so there is no reason for me to turn “blue in the face.” If I did, please feel free to cut and paste my quote. Often, however, just because those “opportunities” are present does not mean success is assured and just because they are absent doesn’t mean that failure is inevitable. I may have used extreme examples, but I could use just as many ubiquitous ones as well. On that note, THIS is what I said:

“When education is tailored TOWARD one’s talents, some level of success is more likely than failure.”

Now, I will be saying nothing else to you – blue in the face or not.

so tired of the negativity...yawn...

July 21st, 2011
9:04 am

just to pick up on one thing that panther mentioned: the food service program at btw? absolutely excellent. the students and their mentors catered a function i attended and the food and service were on par with several really nice restaurants in the city. no, everyone does not have the same talent and thank God for that. mr charlie i crown you chuck!

Observation

July 21st, 2011
9:31 am

@ Mr. Charlie: I must say you’ve chosen your name well.

Maureen has had many of these blogs about the APS situation in the last week or so, and on one of them someone with your name wrote several posts elaborating on the idea that everything innovative, creative, and worthwhile in this country happened before the 1960s, i.e., before the civil rights movement. Oh, how you longed to return to those Jim Crow days.

You seem to have popped up here again, disparaging all accomplishments by young black folks. Why don’t you just go back to your front porch rocker, watch “Amos & Andy” on YouTube, and let the modern world move on.

SallyB

July 21st, 2011
9:39 am

So….
when do you think the “deciders” will recognize and ADDRESS the “different talents” /interests/ abilities/possibilities/ among our students ?

Will this “cookie cutter” curriculum ever progress and begin to provide paths other than the college prep way ?

When and if that happens, we’ll begin to see more successful students in all fields of endeavor.

The Responsible Conversant

July 21st, 2011
9:54 am

Great post. Deonte is not an anomaly in Atlanta. There are many more students at APS who are doing great things precisely because of the academic and social support afforded to them by APS.

Does the country know that APS has produced the most Gates Millennium Scholars in the past three years compared to any other school district in the nation?

Most of APS’s Gates Scholars come from Project GRAD schools — which are schools that serve a large population of lower income students.

I know a principal who actually gets on the phone and calls college presidents around the country to tout his students’ abilities. He persuades the presidents to think about admitting “non-traditional” but high-potential students. The principal has been doing this for years. And when one of his students gets admitted to one of those colleges, the student is successful.

There are countless more dedicated principals, counselors and administrators in APS who believe in their students and push them to go the distance.

Bravo, Deonte — and to all the other unnamed APS graduates pushing hard out there in this world.

Dr NO

July 21st, 2011
10:32 am

Interesting all the praise being heaped upon an APS teen succeeding and all the other APS children doing “great things.”

Speaks volumes…LOL.

The Responsible Conversant

July 21st, 2011
9:54 am

Yours is especially revealing and entertaining. Thanks for the chuckle.