Alumnae Spotlight: Niya White, Principal of the Congress Heights Campus of Center City Public Charter Schools
When Niya White (Class of 1998) was named Principal of the Congress Heights Campus of Center City Public Charter Schools, the school was nearing closure. The inner city school, located in Washington, DC’s Ward 8, had gone through five principals in four years. One might say Niya was the school’s last hope. After seven school years under Niya’s leadership, Center City - Congress Heights has been recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School for its work in closing the achievement gap, as well as twice being named one of DC’s “Gold Standard of Excellence” schools. Niya was also named as a finalist for the Washington Post’s 2018 Principal of the Year.
Niya’s passion for education started when she was a junior in college. She originally had plans to become a juvenile defense lawyer, but after tutoring students she realized the impact she could have on children if she worked with them earlier in their lives. Niya applied for a teaching program through AmeriCorps that placed her with Catholic schools and would eventually help her earn her master’s degree in education. Now her passion is fulfilled by showing her 260 students that they can achieve the “highest of heights” through their education.
Niya is tied to her students at Center City - Congress Heights in many ways. She too grew up in the same southeast neighborhood and understands the challenges they often face.
“It’s like looking at myself,” said Niya, reminiscing. “I grew up in this neighborhood, so it’s bittersweet. I can see myself in them and can vividly recall being in these positions. So it makes my work with them that much more important, to ensure they get the same shot at life that I was given.”
Niya recognizes her students’ resilience and their ability to achieve. She will tell you she helped discover that resilience in herself at Holy Child.
You can read more about Niya and her time at Holy Child below.
What is your favorite Holy Child memory? Do any teachers or classes stand out to you?
“My favorite Holy Child memory is Spirit Week. There was just an awesome sense of belonging that everyone shared. The teachers that I would come back to visit because of the impact they made on my life were Senora Barbara Meyer (Humanities and Spanish), Mr. Chad Ribordi (Religion), Mrs. Nem (Art), and Mrs. Katie Prebble (Dean of Students). There were difficult challenges that I experienced in my home life during my time at Holy Child and these teachers would always push me to focus on my work, to keep persevering and to look forward.”
Is there anything about your Holy Child experience that continues to guide you today?
“A Holy Child experience that continues to guide me today would be a sense of resilience. When I arrived at Holy Child, I came from years of schooling where everyone looked like me, and I could identify with them, to a school where initially I could not identify with my peers, nor were there many that looked like me. This was difficult to initially navigate. But in these moments and years, I learned about myself and how all of us women were taught to navigate challenges and difficult situations in order to be able to effectuate change. I have certainly used this in my daily walk through my personal and professional life.”
What is your best piece of advice to a Holy Child student or alumna who is pursuing her career?
“My best piece of advice is the live for yourself! No matter what your passion is or when you realize it, follow your passion! This journey will become more fulfilling to you than you could ever imagine, and your impact on the world will be greater as a result! Girl Power!”
Written by: Liz Palka Minukas '04
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