Ronald Holassie, a sophomore at Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington, was recently sworn in as deputy youth mayor for legislative affairs in the District of Columbia by Mayor Adrian Fenty. He is a DC Opportunity Scholarship recipient.
Ronald Holassie, a sophomore at Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington, was recently sworn in as deputy youth mayor for legislative affairs in the District of Columbia by Mayor Adrian Fenty. He is a DC Opportunity Scholarship recipient.
Standing at just over 6 feet and 1 inch tall, Ronald Holassie - who was recently sworn in as deputy youth mayor for legislative affairs in the District of Columbia by Mayor Adrian Fenty - doesn't look much like a sophomore in high school.

Holassie, a student at Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington, runs on the track team, enjoys physics, writes R&B music, and wears a green and yellow tie that is part of his uniform to school every day. Holassie also volunteers with the Higher Achievement Program, where he assists D.C. middle school students with homework and serves as a role model. He said if he did not receive a DC Opportunity Scholarship to attend Archbishop Carroll, his life would look very different.

"If I didn't have this school, I wouldn't be here at this point. I wouldn't be the deputy youth mayor for legislative affairs," he said.

Holassie said that if Congress does not re-authorize the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, in 2010 he may be forced to go back to public school. The federal program gives low-income families the ability to choose a non-public school for their children by providing them with monetary assistance. More than 1,700 students are now receiving the scholarships, with about half of them attending Catholic schools in the District. Archbishop Wuerl has urged people to support the scholarship program, which he said provides essential help to the city's families (see related column, page 8).

"There are a lot of D.C. students who would be sent back into the public school system," Holassie said. "Education is by far the number one issue, because it affects everyone in the District. We have to continue the focus on reforming the public school system while also making sure families have options, including public charter schools and continuing the Opportunity Scholarship Program." Holassie has lived in Washington his entire life and currently lives in Northeast Washington.

Former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams said, "Ronald is one example of a student who is doing well and realizes how important it is that he speak up not only for himself but for children in D.C. who would like the same opportunity."

Ronald's mother, Carmen Holassie, said she is "so thankful for the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program that has given my son, Ronald, the chance to be educated in a school that works for him."

Holassie said both of his parents always stressed the value of a good education - something he believes he is receiving at Archbishop Carroll.

He said the school has high "academic standards. They expect you to exceed and soar." He added that every high school has a certain way of doing things, and "Carroll really fits me." Holassie's favorite subject is physics, and he received As in all four quarters, he said.

Holassie, who is not Catholic, said the school is also a good place to learn about faith.

"It makes me more of a positive person ... it helps you understand that you should appreciate what you have and the blessings you get," he said.

David Stofa, principal and CEO of Archbishop Carroll, said "To have Ronald serve on Mayor Fenty's Youth Cabinet represents Ronald's zeal to be something special. He is truly an outstanding Archbishop Carroll High School student who, like so many of our students, is committed to making a difference beyond the classroom."

Holassie, who was elected to his position by the participants of the Mayor's Youth Leadership Institute, said he plans to continue promoting the importance of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program in his new position. Holassie said he also hopes to use his position to work with the mayor and the D.C. City Council on education, summer programs and job opportunities for youth. As the deputy youth mayor for legislative affairs, Holassie will meet with the youth mayor and other members of the youth cabinet every week. He will also work with the city council on the monthly youth hearings and advise city leaders on youth issues.

Holassie, who campaigned and delivered a speech to members of the Mayor's Youth Leadership Institute, said he plans on going to college, but has not given much thought to becoming a politician.

"You never know what the future will hold for me," he said. Holassie said right now his goal is to study physics at Florida State University in Tallahassee.