Not much good news has been coming out of D.C. lately, but today’s inspiring story comes from Northeast D.C., where 36 year old Benjamin “Doc” Williams runs the all male Ron Brown College Preparatory High School. The only public single sex high school in D.C. opened its doors in September 2016 with 100 ninth graders and plans to add a grade a year and graduate its first class in 2020. Williams, who holds a bachelors, masters and doctorate degree from the University of Virginia, greets his students as “young kings” every morning as they enter school, and is determined to see them succeed.
Williams, who was raised in foster care and adopted as a 12 year old (along with his 9 year old brother Andre), cares deeply about helping all of his students overcome whatever adversity they encounter to reach their goals. He noted in a recent interview: “I wanted to really address young people who have struggled, experienced trauma, are foster care students and students who have been adopted; to give them a space they can work in, be encouraged and feel loved while pursuing their academic dreams. I feel like teachers and administrators did that for me when I was growing up; they were the consistent presence. I wanted to help young people who have experienced life the way that my brother and I did, but also be a role model for all young people.”
As he proudly stands at the front door of the school greeting the boys as they enter each morning, Williams is a great role model for his students. They all start the school day together sitting in a rectangle in the school’s meeting area having a period of reflection and affirmation, where students and teachers give shout-outs for good work and talk about what is on their minds. Williams believes the single sex environment allows his students to be more open and willing to share their feelings. He explains: “I think the greatest accomplishment of this school in particular is to see our young men in this space, who come from this city, who come from some of the situations that they come from, feel safe enough to explain how they’re feeling.”