01 6, 2017
The Washington Jesuit Academy is proud to announce that our Founding President, Bill Whitaker, has been named as a Washingtonian of the Year by Washingtonian Magazine. He joins ten of his peers — all visionaries and leaders in their respective fields — to form the new class to earn this distinguished honor.
Sixteen years ago, local Jesuit leaders decided they wanted to do more to change lives in DC’s poorest wards. They came up with creating a boys’ middle school that would wrap its arms around students with free tuition, longer school days, an extended school year, three meals daily, and emotional support. Bill Whitaker, then basketball coach and director of admissions and financial aid at Gonzaga, became founding president of the new Washington Jesuit Academy. Among the schools interested in recruiting Coach Whitaker was the Naval Academy; he chose instead to help change the lives of a smaller group of boys in need.
The Washington Jesuit Academy has fifth through eighth grades, with 27 students per grade. “We wanted to make sure we were addressing the cycle of poverty one child at a time,” Whitaker says. His commitment extends to getting students into the city’s top independent high schools and supporting them as they move forward. Blair Meek was a fifth-grader from Prince George’s County in 2003 when he applied to WJA. “Problems at home combined with bullying at school led me down a road that would have been a path to self-destruction,” Meek says. “At WJA, I met teachers who had a love of education like nothing I’d experienced. That they could do this was a testament to Mr. Whitaker’s vision and leadership.” Meek graduated from Georgetown in 2014. Says Whitaker: “No one is in education for thanks. The stories of the young men who come back tell what success is.”
“I am humbled and honored to be considered a Washingtonian of the Year, alongside my fellow cohort of incredible change-makers and those who have come before us. This award is a direct reflection of the mission and outcomes of the Washington Jesuit Academy and comes only because of the relentless dedication of all of those involved in our work.”
— Bill Whitaker, Founding President of the WJA