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Archive for December, 2014

DJ Wolff: Bringing the Volunteer Spirit to TMA

Thurgood Marshall Academy counts on its passionate volunteers throughout the community to make its innovative law-based programs a reality. Since 2011, we have been fortunate to have DJ Wolff, an attorney at Crowell & Moring LLP, as one of our most dedicated supporters.

DJ WolffDJ first connected to Thurgood Marshall Academy as a Law Firm Tutor with Crowell & Moring LLP. Law Firm Tutoring, an annual program for all 11th graders, acquaints students with both a professional work environment and individuals who have succeeded personally and professionally by completing higher education. DJ eventually assumed leadership of program at Crowell & Moring LLP as the firm’s Law Firm Tutoring Coordinator. He also joined Thurgood Marshall Academy’s Advocates Council – a network of socially conscious young professionals dedicated to volunteerism and fundraising in support of the school’s programs – as one of its founding members in the 2013-14 school year. DJ served at the Chair of the Advocates Council in its first year, helping form the group and bring its goals to fruition.

DJ believes strongly in the value of the Law Firm Tutoring program – not just for the students, but for the tutors themselves. At Crowell & Moring, Law Firm Tutors represent “a wide range of experiences; we have volunteers that include 60-year-old lawyers to 20-something paralegals. Most of us the firm did not grow up in the same environment as the students we tutor and yet, we recognize that these students could be sitting in the same undergrad or law school classrooms that we sat in. Eight years later, they might be us.” DJ also notes that tutors benefit from the experience because they see the tangible way, over the course of a year, that they can positively impact their future neighbors and colleagues.

In his experience as a tutor, DJ finds that students benefit from the program beyond the academic support they receive during each session. It is often the personal connections they build with their tutors that they carry with them beyond their junior year. “Students enjoy knowing you can be a successful professional without necessarily having to remember everything you learned in chemistry class. They also see that being a professional is something that you earn, not something you are born into. It’s attainable for anybody.” As a tutor, DJ says that it’s not uncommon to see a student undergo “two to three years of maturation in one year,” leaving the Law Firm Tutoring program ready to take on the college application process.

DJ involvement with Thurgood Marshall Academy is just another extension of his long-term commitment to volunteerism and community service. As an undergraduate student at Dartmouth University, DJ served as the Student Director of Cross Cultural Education and Service Program, coordinating and attending service trips to the Appalachia region and throughout the Caribbean, and the Student Director of the Tucker Foundation, a Dartmouth-based organization with a mission to educate Dartmouth students for lives of purpose and ethical leadership, rooted in service, spirituality, and social justice.

On behalf of the Thurgood Marshall Academy community, we extend our deepest appreciation for DJ, and his commitment and service to our school. We benefit tremendously from the passion you bring to supporting Thurgood Marshall Academy students and youth from Ward 8!



Warrior Debaters Shine at December Tournament

Thurgood Marshall Academy’s Debate Team continues to make waves in the DC Urban Debate League circuit this year. We had both veteran and novice teams competing at the Saturday, December 13th tournament, held at Washington Latin Public Charter School going head-to-head against new teams from the region that have recently joined the local debate circuit.

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We are proud to announce that senior debater Cer’cia Wallace  was recognized as a top 10 individual speaker. She also excelled in team debate as well. She, along with sophomore Kiara Clark, recorded a top-10 team placement (7th place). We’re proud of all the Warrior Debaters who brought their A-game this weekend, including seniors Eric Izzard and Sydni Foshee, and our team of novice debaters, sophomores Jeremiah Simms and Rose Bowers.

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Our next tournament will be on home turf – Thurgood Marshall Academy will be hosting the February tournament on Saturday, February 21st.

TMA Sophomores and Juniors Prepare for a Trip to Remember

How many high school students do you know who have travelled to Tanzania to work on a wildlife sanctuary and volunteer in the local community?

This coming summer, the Thurgood Marshall Academy community will know at least 10 sophomores and juniors who have taken the journey of a lifetime: two weeks of living and working on the Ndarakwai Ranch in Tanzania as part of The Ndarakwai Experience, a new service learning opportunity for DC high school students. The Thurgood Marshall Academy students selected to travel to Tanzania this summer will be the first cohort of students to participate in the Ndarakwai Experience.

The Ndarakwai Experience, founded by the father-daughter team of DC natives Stan and Anna Soloway, provides inner city youth with the opportunity to develop a sense of global responsibility and to grow in their understanding of their relationship with the world through international learning and service. The program, says Stan, “evolved from our family’s love of the city and commitment to both education and community service.”

The Ndarakwai Experience was born two years ago, when the Soloway family spent time at Ndarakwai Ranch on a family vacation. “While we were there, we began musing about the extraordinary learning and service opportunities the ranch could provide young people,” says Stan.

Anna and Stan also believe firmly in the power of international education. “There is enormous evidence that international learning has a lifelong impact on one’s sense of self in the broader world, one’s self confidence, and maturity,” explains Anna. “If you combine the well documented impact of international learning, with what we also know about community service and its impact on lifelong civic engagement, we believe the end result is truly life-changing.”

The ranch, a private conservancy, has been a leader in local and regional efforts to fight wildlife poaching in Tanzania. In addition to serving as a wildlife sanctuary, the Ndarakwai Ranch also has strong roots in serving the local community: its staff provides lunch for students at the local primary and secondary schools, and repairs and constructs school facilities. The family returned from the trip and launched the Ndarakwai Experience in 2014 to turn their dream into reality.

The Soloway family decided to pilot the Ndarakwai Experience at Thurgood Marshall Academy due to its “great reputation for its values and educational quality. For a program of this type to deliver to students its real value and impact, it is important that we have an educational partner with those qualities,” Anna explains.

Beyond the school’s strong academics, Thurgood Marshall Academy stood out for its culture of learning and role in community. This is critical to the mission of the Ndarakwai Experience: “This is not just an international trip,” says Anna. The Ndarakwai Experience is particularly unique for its service learning component focusing on a developing country and its local communities. “It is designed to be a powerful learning experience on many levels. The kind of students to which Thurgood Marshall Academy appeals are the very kind of students who will gain the most from the experience,” Anna explains.

To prepare for the program, Anna and Stan are “developing a series of orientation and learning sessions that will take place 10-12 weeks prior to the trip that will include discussions on local culture, history, arts, and more.” They also plan to coordinate with a language instructor to teach students basic Swahili. Preparation for the trip also extends to families; the Soloways plan to meet with students’ parents and guardians to talk through a wide range of practical and personal issues or challenges that could arise while traveling.

During the program, the students will engage in a variety of activities, which include wildlife conservation activities, building and repairing school buildings,volunteering to support local students, and attending lectures on Maasai tribal life, music, art, and history. Overall, Stan explains that through The Ndarakwai Experience, “our hope is that the students will be able to experience something so completely different that it will help them define how this relates to their place and role not just in their communities but in the larger global society.”