Equity & Diversity Photo Essay

A Photographer’s View of Ron Brown College Prep

By Education Week Photo Staff — November 14, 2017 1 min read
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Photographer Jared Soares discusses his experiences, and shares his favorite images from documenting faculty and students at Ron Brown College Preparatory High School in Washington, D.C. The photographs were part of a joint audio reporting project by Education Week and National Public Radio that tracked the first year at the school.

“When I received the assignment to make photographs at Ron Brown Preparatory High School in Washington, D.C., I had no prior knowledge of the school or its mission. Typically, when I begin an assignment, I prefer to keep an open mind, so I don’t have a fixed idea about the story. I’ll do some brief background research in order to understand context. This approach allows me to be present while experiencing the place and people.

Upon arriving at Ron Brown, I was greeted by Principal Benjamin Williams, and then was quickly paired with a student escort for the day, who shuttled me off to the morning circle. The circle is a daily gathering event led by teachers and students, and it combines morning announcements with notes of encouragement. Most of the students are getting their ties straight and their books in order, preparing for the day ahead.

After morning circle, I zigzagged around campus with Zion Williams, my student escort. I saw students helping each other with their ties, teachers preparing for class in the morning, and impromptu study sessions taking place in the weight room. Passing periods and lunchtime were filled with louder moments. Classrooms felt intimate, and students seemed comfortable sharing and participating.

Squeezing a year-long reporting project into a day of photography was a challenge. Understanding the subtle nuances of each student and faculty member is an even greater one. The moments and set of portraits hopefully allow for an entry point into the project.

Below are some of my favorite images from this assignment.”

All the students are known as “kings” at Ron Brown College Preparatory High School in Washington, D.C.
The capital city’s first all-male traditional public school, Ron Brown College Prep is designed specifically to meet the needs of its young black male students.
Students greet each other during the daily morning circle.
“I tell the guys here: You’re gonna get love and there’s really nothing you can do about it.” — Dawaine Cosey, director of culture, empowerment, and restorative justice.
They feel like it’s a place where they can take chances, where they can grow.” — Benjamin Williams, principal.
“If I’m tough on them, it’s because I have high expectations for them.” English teacher Schalette Gudger.
“School has to come first. … If you leave high school and you still make a 600 on the SAT, nobody cares how much you were loved.” — Shaka Greene, Math teacher.
“When we look at these young people, we’re looking at them from a place of godliness, of kingliness, of royalty.” — Charles Curtis, school psychologist.
Matt Lawrence, Algebra and Geometry teacher.
Troy Jordan is the lead security guard at Ron Brown College Prep.
“There’s something individually about every single person inside this school that sets them aside from everybody else.” — Stephon, student.
Elijah, a student at Ron Brown College Prep.
Elijah, another student, studies in the school’s gym.
Single-gender education has long been a pillar in the private-school sector, but schools exclusively for young men like D.C.’s Ron Brown College Prep are relatively rare in traditional public school districts.

A version of this article first appeared in the Full Frame blog.

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