WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) - Less than half of the District's Ward 8 students will graduate from high school. The majority of the students who drop out will do so before the 10th grade.
Resources for Inner City CHildren (RICH) is fighting the glaring statistics. The non-profit organization offers free tutoring to students inside Anacostia High School and Cesar Chavez Public Charter School's Capitol Hill Campus.
"You don't really know like school and stuff. Once you get into the program, you get help and you get taught more things, better learning skills," said Demes Lewis, 16, a soft-spoken junior at Anacostia High School.
Lewis is ranked third in his class, according to Paul Penniman, the founder and executive director of RICH.
"It's about justice. We are trying to give some of the same services that wealthier kids have enjoyed to kids who can not afford high quality tutoring as well as the mentoring and just show them that there is a path to college and success," said Penniman, a former teacher who founded the program in 2003.
Lewis says Penniman is his mentor and RICH has helped him overcome adversity both socially and academically. From working with RICH's tutors, Lewis was able to improve his GPA from a 2.7 to a 3.6.
Lewis now tutors 6th through 8th grade students. He also participates as a MATHlete, a math enrichment program where students compete in math tournaments.
"He is a very bright kid who needs some writing work and some articulation, because he's quiet usually," said Barbara Taylor, a RICH tutor who has worked with Lewis.
Lewis says RICH has helped him stay focused on a path to higher education.
"I feel now that since I am getting help and tutored, I can make it to the next level which is college and hopefully become a successful business person."
RICH offers in-class and after-school tutoring. The program also helps teen mothers on maternity leave maintain their school work.
"We track kids pretty closely from week to week. We track their attendance and their grades, and if someone starts to slip, we see if they are willing to be tutored by us," Penniman said.
So far RICH has served over 1,000 students. About 90 percent go onto college, while others get help finding jobs, according to Penniman.
"I think the most exciting success is when you see a kid who wasn't sure he was going to graduate but graduate. And I remember a couple of years ago seeing four or five kids. It was so exciting I think I cried."
NOTE: Gannett Foundation has given a donation to Resources for Inner City CHildren.
Produced by: Elizabeth Jia
9NEWS & WUSA9.com