Pia Winston first joined Thurgood Marshall Academy as a mentor in 2012. Brandelyn Castine, TMA’s Assistant Director of Programs, matched Pia with Anthonya James, a sophomore at the time, based on her request for a student “who would get my ridiculous corny humor.” Anthonya – who aspires to attend law school after college and to pursue a career as a prosecutor – also stood to learn much from Pia, a practicing attorney specializing in labor law at the firm Mehri & Skalet LLP. Though Anthonya is now a senior, she and Pia remain close and continue to take advantage of the structure and events that the school’s Mentor Program offers.
Pia brings several years of mentorship experience to her work with Anthonya. While in undergrad at UC Berkeley, she mentored elementary school-aged students, and as a law student at the College of William & Mary School of Law, she served as a Youth Law Counselor for the City of Williamsburg (VA). Throughout, Pia “really enjoys having a positive impact on a child’s life. It’s so important that youth know that someone is taking time to check in with them and making sure they are okay.”
As a mentor to Anthonya, Pia believes that her strength lies in exposing her to new experiences and ideas. “Academically, Anthonya is brilliant,” observes Pia; she’s “not a student who needs to be reminded to do her homework or to work hard in school.” Anthonya excels in the classroom: in 2014, she was named Most Outstanding Mathematician at the DC Association of Public Chartered Schools’ annual DC STARS awards, and attended summer courses at Stanford University as a part of the DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education’s Scholars Summer Enrichment program.
Despite her impressive academic resume, Pia found that “Anthonya didn’t know a lot beyond her two mile radius of school and home when we first met. She always knew she wanted to go to college and law school, and I helped show her that she could go across the country to go to college. She doesn’t have to limit herself to schools in the area. She knows now that she has hundreds of options.” Pia’s past experience working in the admissions department at UC Berkeley, specializing in minority community outreach, also means she has valuable insight for Anthonya into the types of qualities admissions departments seek when admitting students.
Beyond college and career planning, Pia also wanted her time with Anthonya to be an adventure: “What was really surprising to me, when I started mentoring Anthonya, were all the things she’d never gotten to experience in DC. So we went to see a quartet play at the Kennedy Center. We saw a Georgetown basketball game at the Verizon Center. We went to get Thai food. These are all place that people go to on vacation when they come to DC, but where Anthonya had never been.” Pia and Anthonya also take advantage of Thurgood Marshall Academy’s Mentor Day programs once a month. One of their favorite outings, recalls Pia, was a trip to the Capital Area Food Bank where the pairs participated in healthy cooking demonstrations and packaged grocery bags for less fortunate community members. “It was fun showing her how to chop an onion,” says Pia. “At that moment I was such an accomplished chef.”