Principal Anita Berger Inspires D.C. Students with Character
Behind every successful organization lies a great leader. Someone that sets a good example; that challenges others to do their very best and won’t let them give up; someone that empowers, is firm but fair; and cares about others and how they are doing, all while remaining humble. All of those traits and more can be said regarding Principal Anita Berger of Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Washington, D.C.
Benjamin Banneker high school is an alternative public institution of secondary education, where students in grades 9-12 are engaged in rigorous and varied academic experiences. The environment of the school is designed to provide students with a highly structured college preparatory program. Before graduating, every student must complete 270 hours of community service, which often serves as job training. And the curriculum of the school affords opportunities for developing knowledge, talents, and skills needed for success in post-secondary experiences.
Principal Berger, who arrived at Banneker seventeen years ago after teaching at Howard, says, “Here at Benjamin Banneker we try to make global citizens. We have very strict guidelines that must be adhered to as far as dress code, no cellular devices, and other rules to assure that there are no distractions that would interfere with the students learning process. Our goal is that 100% of our students are successful, become high school graduates, and are accepted to college.”
And in order to reach that goal requires 100% commitment and dedication from the students as well as the staff at the school. Berger continues, “There are many late and tiresome nights as the principal, but just having students come to me the next morning with success stories or acceptance letters makes it all worth it. At times it can seem like a hard job, but it’s very rewarding when alumni come back and say how much they appreciate the school and the positive affect it has had on their lives overall. That’s gratitude enough for me.”
However, Principal Berger does not neglect the commitment from the school’s staff or partnerships with other organizations. She stated, “In order to be successful, students need staff and others that are dedicated to helping them achieve their goal; and when you can get a committed group of people, it will work…..they will be successful.”
Miss Berger’s dedication and commitment to having a positive impact on the lives of youth, as well as her outstanding personal character traits is what made the Chris Draft Family Foundation (CDFF) highlight the principal and her achievements through its Character Team Initiative.
The focal point of the Character Team™ Initiative is to provide unchanging, unwavering, and indestructible standards as a means of measurement focusing on the key character traits of: compassion, courage, honest, perseverance, respect, responsible, and self-discipline; which Principal Berger exemplifies and so much more.
Chris Draft stated, “Miss Berger is leading her school with a high level of character and holding that same high standard for her staff and students, which is why Banneker consistently ranks as one of the top Public schools in the country.
Draft took full advantage of the opportunity to establish a relationship with the principal and school when he took a trip to Washington D.C. to receive a J.B. Award for Community Service. He also knew that this connection would give him yet another opportunity to make a positive impact by bringing the message of the foundation’s Character Team™ initiative to the school; teaching the kids to be the best people they can be.
Getting the chance to go over and visit Benjamin Banneker, Draft was able to do an assembly with U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, Chancellor Michelle Rhee and fellow NFL veteran Warrick Dunn, where they honored some students and parents for their commitment to their community. During an early morning meeting with a council of student leaders, he used the example of the film The Great Debaters to illustrate a point to the students. After making his point, he went on to explain the impact of the film in St. Louis, Atlanta and Clayton County and students became very interested in the concept of “A Discussion and A Movie.”
While the Secretary and Warrick moved on, Chris and Principal Anita Berger continued to discuss the merits of a large group viewing and the value of a moderated roundtable discussion following a powerful film like The Great Debaters.
With the blessing of Principal Anita Berger, A Discussion and A Movie™ The Great Debaters took place at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School on May 2, 2008. The screening took place in the school’s auditorium involved approximately 400 students who represented the entire student body. Immediately following the film, the roundtable discussion, which was moderated by Chris Draft, included guests from the D.C. Metro area. Representatives from the U.S. Department of Education, Howard University and former NFL veterans from the NFLRPA chapter in Washington D.C. rounded out the panel on the stage and encourage the students in sharing their opinions on the film.
Prior to the end of the discussion, Chris introduced The Great Debaters Essay Contest to the students, challenging every student to select a topic of their choice from the list and telling him what they thought, either of the film or about the election or any event or experience of their own. The winners of the essay contest would receive similar prizes, including 2 tickets to see Chris and the St. Louis Rams take on the Washington Redskins in October when his team returns for an away game and a tour of the White House a week before the Obama inauguration. Four winners were selected from each grade as winners of the contest.
Principal Berger thought A Discussion and A Movie was a huge success. She stated, “The discussion side made it more than just watching a movie and the kids were able to see it in a different light as well as it made them think. I feel the whole concept should actually happen more often; and possibly become a part of the curriculum. Also, just having an NFL star talking to the children says so much and really encourages them. And Chris’ passion and dedication really speaks through his words.”
Needless to say, Chris along with the students at Benjamin Banneker feels that Miss Berger’s dedication and character speaks for itself as well, and Chris and the CDFF applaud her and the school, and says, “Thank you Miss Anita Berger for all that you do and congratulations on being recognized as the District of Columbia’s 2009 State Principal of the year!”