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District of Columbia Principals Ready to ‘Turn City Upside Down’

December 9, 2013 – The first students in a Georgetown leadership program for principals from the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) graduated this past Saturday in an emotional ceremony in which DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson (SFS’92, G’07) called the commencement “a dream come true.”

Henderson’s own graduation in 2007 from the Georgetown McDonough Executive Master’s in Leadership program inspired her to help create a unique partnership between Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business and DCPS.

“Have you ever had a dream come true? That’s what today is for me,” she told the 25 principals and administrators graduating from the DCPS Executive Master’s in Leadership (EML) program. “To see you all in Gaston Hall, to see you empowered, to see you transformed, to see you ready to go out and turn this entire city upside down is a dream come true.”

After a rigorous year of study, the principals turned students were tasked with more than professional leadership. They were tasked with transformational leadership that has the potential to make a positive impact on the world.

Nelson Mandelas

“This week, we lost Nelson Mandela,” Henderson said at the ceremony, also attended by D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray. “And one of my friends said to me, ‘…We don’t create leaders like Nelson Mandela anymore.' And I said, 'Oh, but you’re wrong. In fact tomorrow I’m going to be with 25 of them.’ ”

She said she hoped the newly graduated students would take their “power” and “passion” to turn the world around.

“What I want you to know is that we will be behind you every step of the way,” she said, choking back tears. “Leadership is lonely, leadership is difficult, but you all have exactly what it takes to be the next set of Nelson Mandelas. I’m proud of you and I love you.”

Strength and Fortitude

DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson (SFS'92, G'07) speaks to the 25 graduates of the DCPS Excutive Master's in Leadership program in Gaston Hall.  “Leadership is lonely, leadership is difficult, but you all have exactly what it takes to be the next set of Nelson Mandelas," said DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson (SFS'92, G'07) to the 25 graduates of the DCPS Excutive Master's in Leadership program.

Tim King (SFS’89, L’93) founder, president and CEO of Urban Prep Academies, served as the keynote speaker for the commencement.

Urban Prep is a nonprofit organization that operates a network of all-boys public schools, with most of its African American students coming from economically disadvantaged households.

“I’m here to remind you how believing in 100 percent college acceptance for a group of black boys has transformed itself into hopes and dreams for entire communities,” said King, of his initial struggle to create Urban Prep and its ultimate success. “I’m here to remind you that in order to change the world, we must always believe.”

“…But believing isn’t all we have to do,” he said, “We also must have the strength and fortitude and courage to act on those beliefs. We must inspire, challenge and sacrifice. And in doing so, we must lead."

King said he was Henderson’s “big brother” when he was a senior and she was a first-year student at Georgetown. “

One Giant Step

Georgetown’s McDonough Dean David Thomas said at the ceremony that, “our presence here today is the manifestation of what is possible when a university business school and its community partner to address the most important challenges and opportunities facing business and society.”

He said participants in the program already have proven that they are positive change agents, living the school’s collective mantra of “transforming ourselves to transform the world.”

“This project is one manifestation of how we at the McDonough School of Business have taken one giant step toward that goal,” he added.

Vielka Scott-Marcus, principal of Daniel A. Payne Elementary School and a member of the graduating class, also spoke at the commencement.

“Today we leave as friends who have formed a bond through the knowledge we have gained and the communities we continue to serve as a result of our newfound enlightenment in leadership and our commitment as not just principals, but community activists,” she said.

New Directive

Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia asked the students to reflect on their accomplishments and how they contribute to the Jesuit value of the common good.

“This is a moment of beginnings, when you can trust in all that you have pursued professionally and all that you have studied and contemplated in the EML program in its entirety,” he said. “You can take all of your hard work, all of your experience, all of your extraordinary dedication and translate that into a new directive for the future.”

Local children from the Amidon-Bowen Elementary School Chorus also participated in the program, performing three songs. During the ceremony, MSB professor Douglas McCabe was honored with an award for being the students' favorite professor and Henderson praised  professor Robert Bies, who founded the EML at the school, for helping create the program for principals.