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This is the VOA Special English Education Report.
Ballou High School in Washington might not seem the mostly likely school to have a lacrosse team. But lacrosse has grown beyond the popular image of a sport mainly for wealthy private schools. Ballou is a public school in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. In the past six years, more than forty students have died violent deaths. Many were the result of drug violence.
Ballou has just had its first year with a lacrosse team. The team is for girls. They lost every game. But their coach, Holly McGarvie, says this was also the first time they ever played. She says the goal was just to start "building a foundation that we can build from and create a tradition of women's lacrosse here at Ballou."
Lacrosse is a fast-moving sport, the modern version of a game played by American Indians. Teams try to make goals with a ball caught and thrown using a net at the end of a stick.
School officials decided to make changes at Ballou after less than sixty percent of the senior class graduated in two thousand six. Since then the graduation rate has improved by ten to fifteen percent. Rahman Branch, the school principal, says one change was to increase activities after the school day. That included adding a girls lacrosse team.
Mr. Branch says Holly McGarvie was a perfect match for Ballou. She was on a national lacrosse team and a star player at Princeton University. She was in her first year of teaching. She wanted to take the lessons she learned from sports and use them in teaching biology.
Coach McGarvie says the first practices for the new team were difficult. Some players got angry at one another. She helped them learn to keep their mind on the game. She remembers how excited the girls were on their way home from their first game. They had failed to score even one goal but, she says, "they were already in the mindset of what can we do better?"
Lacrosse player Tylashia Joyner says the sport has helped her think more about her future. She says she wants to play in college "because it will keep me in shape and it will help me stay focused and want to do something. Because if you want to play a sport, you have to have your grades up."