Key Coverage

A D.C. School Where Social and Emotional Skills Matter as Much as Academics

It was late May in a conference room at Capital City Public Charter School and Nia Reese, an eighth grader dressed in a business suit, guided her audience through a PowerPoint presentation. She talked about her academic achievements, then segued to a project on gun violence and its toll on teenagers in her community.

“A struggle I had,” she said, her voice suddenly shaking, “was taking an emotional risk and talking about things I don’t usually talk about: how gun violence has affected people that I love.”

Nia took a moment to compose herself. She was halfway through the 40-minute talk. Her objective? To persuade a three-person panel of educators and community members that she was ready to graduate to Capital City’s high school program in the fall.

Nia is a good student with solid academic grades. But at this school, that’s not enough. The presentation, for which she spent months preparing, is required of all eighth graders who wish to continue on to the campus’ high school. While Capital City takes pride in preparing students academically for that next step, teachers and staff place an emphasis on ensuring that these young people are emotionally ready as well — with the social skills, like strength of character, resilience and integrity, needed to succeed.