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D.C. Teen Talent Headlines Kennedy Center

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By Stephanie Kaye

Finalists from the "DC Capital Stars" talent competition will be taking thousands of dollars in scholarship money to college with them as they head into their freshman year.

Sounding like Emmy-winners and dressed for the Oscars, the spotlight was on D.C.'s public and charter school students. At the Kennedy Center they danced, sang and played in an "American Idol"-style competition.

"These kids, a great majority of them are low-income. First in their family to go to college. Some of them we had to find and steal and borrow instruments just so they could perform," says Argelia Rodriguez, head of D.C. C.A.P.

The talent show was sponsored by the DC College Access Program. Argelia Rodriguez runs D.C. C.A.P., which provides education, support and MONEY for college-bound students.

"Here's your voting device. They'll be doing a demonstration on stage before the show," she says.

Audience members voted with hand-held devices issued at the door. Chantal Lanswetta is a teacher AND mother of five.

"We want to show our youth that people do do positive things, and they can do it too," says Lanswetta.

Passing judgment on Kenisha Williams from the Duke Ellington School was master pianist ELEW, otherwise known as Eric Lewis. He was part of the celebrity panel that included choreographer Debbie Allen and radio host Russ Parr.

"Go ahead and take a sledgehammer and break the wall down, if no one opens the door for you. You could be on the screen with that. So go on and get your Oscar," says ELEW.

Oscar or Broadway-bound, Williams won a $10,000 grand prize, which should help her on her way.

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