Rafael Suarez takes a computer programming class, a graduate-level computer security class and is a member of GW’s Anime Club. Sound like an average computer science major? He’s not even a GW student.
Suarez is a senior at the School Without Walls, a D.C. public high school on GW’s campus that has a partnership with GW.
“It supplements what I have at high school,” Suarez said. “We don’t have a teacher here that teaches these computer classes. The next level is at college.”
Last week, the city approved a deal with GW and SWW in which the high school will see a brand-new facility and renovations to its building. The partnership will also allow GW to build a 474-bed dormitory in SWW’s backyard on F Street.
“GW has had a programmatic relationship for 25 years, this new construction will allow that partnership to grow even further,” he said.
“This relationship is a winning situation for all parties,” said Executive Vice President and Treasurer Louis Katz.
Situated in the center of the GW campus at 2130 G St., the 35-year-old high school brings in more than 300 students who live throughout the District. For more than two decades, SWW has partnered with GW, creating an opportunity for its students to utilize GW facilities and take classes at the University.
“Out of 160 Walls students, 100 students take college courses,” said SWW principal Richard Trogisch. “These courses prepare the students for a smooth transition into college.”
Of the 100 SWW students who take college courses at local colleges and Universities, about 50 SWW students take courses at GW every year, said Timothy C. Terpstra, director of the Office of University Students and Academic Integrity.
When enrolled at GW, the high school students are classified as “non-degree” students and are held to the same academic standard as anyone else.
“Walls students do not have any benefits (with registration) that GW students do not have,” said Tracy Schario, director of University Media Relations. “(However,) Walls students are not charged tuition but do have to pay any other charges/fees that may be associated with a class.”
Suarez said even though he was a high schooler, he is treated just the same as the other students at GW.
“I found my computer science professors more willing to reach out,” Suarez said. “I really managed to connect with my computer security professor. When she found out I was only a high school student, she was quite impressed with me.”
SWW senior Serena Wong has taken an introductory biology class and a computer science class. She said she appreciates being able to take classes at a university before she heads off to college.
“I saw the contrast between my huge survey class and the computer science class,” Wong said. “The survey class was like what you see in the movies. I didn’t realize that was what a lot of intro classes are like.”
University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg called the GW-SWW relationship a “wonderful opportunity and a challenge.”
He said paramount in GW’s future partnership with the school is the need to keep SWW sovereign.
“This is a D.C. public school, and it’ll stay that way,” he said. “Its proximity and the new facilities ought to give us an opportunity to help in partnership to create a preeminent school in the U.S.”
As part of the agreement between GW and SWW, a new building with state-of-the-art facilities will be constructed on G Street and the interior of the school will be remodeled.
The reason behind the relationship, Trachtenberg said, is for the University to be a “good neighbor” and to have an opportunity to give back to the community.
“This reflects well on the entire University,” he said.
SWW students also have limited access to the Health and Wellness Center, the Smith Center and Gelman Library. The school also uses the Lisner Auditorium and Marvin Center for special events like graduation, Schario said.
As part of a future relationship, SWW faculty will have an opportunity to earn their masters’ degrees free of charge at GW while teaching at SWW, Trachtenberg said.
-Brandon Butler contributed to this report