Shawn Nelson, who survived a stabbing, gives a mortarboard to classmate Acoyea Booze. Nelson will enroll in community college. Booze plans to enlist in the military. Photo: Christopher T. Assaf/Baltimore Sun
Corey Witherspoon cradled a 17-year-old boy who’d been stabbed by a classmate in the middle of science class at Baltimore’s Renaissance Academy High School. The boy’s mentor screamed: “Fight! You can make it! You’d better keep breathing!”
Those words became “the unofficial mantra” of the small school, reports Erica Green for the Baltimore Sun. Ananias Jolley never regained consciousness and died a month later, just before Christmas. In the next two months, two more students were killed. “Darius Bardney, 16, was shot in a hallway at the Pedestal Gardens apartment complex,” writes Green. “Daniel Jackson, 17, was shot while standing on a West Baltimore porch.”
On June 3, Renaissance graduated 65 students — and posted an 82 percent four-year graduation rate, its highest since 2010. A majority of graduates will enroll in community college and four-year universities. Quite a few plan to go into the military. (It’s probably safer than staying in the neighborhood.)
“Among the graduates were Ananias’ brother, 20-year-old Santonio Jolley, a dropout who enrolled in Renaissance five days after his brother died,” writes Green. Valedictorian Jaylen Myers, 17, will study engineering at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
Shawn Nelson, who was stabbed seven times protecting his aunt last year, also earned his diploma. “It was like God gave me another chance that he didn’t give them,” said Nelson. “He gave me a second chance.” He will apply to Baltimore City Community College and hopes eventually to run his own business rehabbing vacant homes.