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Archive for June, 2015

Community Service Matters: Keosha’s Story

Keosha Lamberson, Class of 2010

Keosha Lamberson, Class of 2010

Keosha Lamberson didn’t imagine that a service trip to Louisiana, Mississippi, and other southern states where residents were barely making ends meet would be an eye-opening experience that would shape her future in bringing about community change. Lamberson, who was just 14-years-old at the time, was a freshman at Thurgood Marshall Academy and struggled to put forth the effort required to succeed. However, the service trip gave her the ‘focus’ she needed to get back on track by the time she graduated from Thurgood Marshall Academy in 2010.


Class of 2015 Graduates Are ‘Conquerors’ Who Won’t Accept Defeat


Art Teacher Nafeesah Symonette leads the graduates

On June 12, Thurgood Marshall Academy celebrated seniors’ academic success and applauded their 100% college acceptance during the 10th annual graduation. More than 800 guests, family and friends, and faculty and staff gathered at Matthews Memorial Baptist Church to honor students who were awarded over $4 million in scholarships.


Faith Hudson and Anthonya James, Class of 2015 salutatorian and valedictorian

Senior Anthonya James, class of 2015 valedictorian, was named the 2015 Milken Scholar and received $10,000 toward college tuition. High-performing senior, Faith Hudson, who was the class’ salutatorian, was awarded the Stephen J. Trachtenberg Scholarship and will attend The George Washington University in the fall. Keneon Williams, who earned the second-highest SAT score on the critical math and reading sections, will attend University of Rochester on a Gates Millennium Scholarship, which will also cover his graduate degree. Herbert Tillary, Executive Director of the College Success Foundation, presented a check of $1.45 million to 29 seniors awarded the DC Achievers Scholarship, which funds up to $50,000 in annual tuition costs.

DSC_2762A number of seniors received scholarships from Press Pass Mentors, an organization affiliated with The Washington Post that serves charter school students in southeast Washington, DC. Mentors are paired with students and work together on a curriculum that prepares them for major writing assignments they will tackle as college students.


Angel Haythe, a talented senior who recently performed in a singing competition at the Kennedy Center, led the senior class in a dynamic rendition of ‘Conqueror’ from the FOX hit TV show, “Empire.” The audience sung along to the popular tune while seniors swayed from left to right, relating to the meaningful lyrics.

After students were presented with their diplomas, they joined their loved ones and other proud Thurgood Marshall Academy supporters for refreshments.


Photos by: Joshua A. Washington

A New Era On the Horizon for Thurgood Marshall Academy

Thurgood Marshall Gala 2015 - Hi Res-99-3937

Alexandra Pardo began her journey at Thurgood Marshall Academy nine years ago as the Academic Director before being promoted in 2011.

In her final weeks as Executive Director at Thurgood Marshall Academy, Alexandra Pardo reflects on her role and offers advice to the next leader.

Q: What drew or attracted you to work at Thurgood Marshall Academy?

A: The opportunity to work with a team of committed educational leaders and teachers who were focused on improving student learning and outcomes was definitely a draw. The school community had the tenants necessary to move the needle forward on school achievement. Most importantly, I was drawn to the mission and the fact that Thurgood Marshall Academy is Washington, DC’s first and only law-themed public charter high school. 

Q: What accomplishments are you most proud of (in your time here)?

A: Our students’ success is no longer confined to a small corner of DC, but to a much broader context that shapes their academic journeys. When student test scores became the focus as pressures from No Child Left Behind ensued, we stuck to our core beliefs in educating students to succeed in college. We chose not to center our curriculum on rote memorization and drill-and-kill exercises to obtain small bumps in our scores. Instead, Thurgood Marshall Academy pursued long-term outcomes, emphasized student-centered instruction, and pushed critical thinking skills through project-based work. State test scores improved remarkably. Our students began outperforming their peers on Advanced Placement tests, SAT tests, and just about every other area. But our outcomes didn’t start or end there. While early on our students were accepted to college, they were not always completing their degree. Today, two out of three alumni are graduating from college outperforming national and local metrics for college graduation. I can look back and say our students are living our mission.

Q: Thurgood Marshall Academy wasn’t always a Tier 1 school; what would you attribute to the school’s eventual success as Tier 1?

A: Each year and each semester, we reflect. As a team, we evaluate what works and what doesn’t. We’re an incredibly mission focused organization. Therefore, we always apply our mission when we try new things to ensure that our students thrive. When I first came to Thurgood Marshall Academy, schools were not under much pressure to perform on external metrics. This is the main reason why we hire dedicated faculty who boldly own their outcomes and the outcomes of their students. Because they are not afraid to make changes while keeping the mission at the forefront, they continue to prepare students academically.

Thurgood Marshall Gala 2015 - Hi Res-52-3744

Alexandra Pardo and Josh Kern, TMA Founder and former Executive Director.

Q: As Thurgood Marshall Academy celebrates its 15th year, what areas have grown the most and what goals would you like to see accomplished in the next 15 years?

A: It would be an honor to see Thurgood Marshall Academy replicate and serve more high school students. The number of quality high schools on both sides of the river is still very small, making educational resources scarce and college preparatory institutions even more competitive to access than before. We know that in Ward 8 alone, the low number of high school and college graduation rates is alarming. But Thurgood Marshall Students are not only getting accepted to college, but over 90% of them enroll within the first year and persist through from freshman year to sophomore year. I’d love to see Thurgood Marshall Academy go across the river and increase the number of quality seats because of this proven success rate. It is a model that ensures students on both sides of the river defy the odds.

Q: What advice would you give the next leader?

A: Believe in the students, uphold the mission. Be guided by the founding principles. Thurgood Marshall Academy’s success is not about one person – it is a culture driven by every individual in the building. I have always believed that school success and student achievement are only possible with a professional, dedicated, and smart faculty and staff. During my time at Thurgood Marshall Academy, I prioritized bringing together like-minded, determined, and passionate individuals and provided them with the resources and creative freedoms they needed to excel. This should be very much important to the next leader. Faculty and staff are the reason why Thurgood Marshall Academy has had such a remarkable track record of achievements.

Underclassmen Years Pave the Way for College: Keneon’s Story

Keneon Williams has taken and passed every Honors and Advanced Placement (AP) course offered at Thurgood Marshall Academy (TMA). It’s no wonder why his G.P.A is a 4.2 and he’s on his way to University of Rochester this fall on a full scholarship. Excelling in AP Government, AP Language, AP Literature, AP Calculus, and scoring the second highest in the senior class on the critical math and reading sections of the SAT, Williams has proven that academic excellence is within reach.

“Even though you have the support of teachers and staff [at TMA], it’s all on you,” said Williams. “You have to work hard and put your energy and effort into the right things in order to achieve. Just because teachers allowed me to turn work in late, I practiced submitting work on time because, in the real-world, I won’t always have that flexibility,” said the wise 17-year-old.

Since freshmen year, Williams focused heavily on his academic performance knowing that the end result of success would be college. “Ninth, tenth, and eleventh grade are important because colleges closely review your grades from those years. Based on those findings, colleges then determine how you will perform as a student,” he said.

Keneon (left) leads a chemistry demonstration during TMA’s Shining Start Gala.

Williams is one of seven students in Washington, DC to receive the Gates Millennium Scholarship (GMS), which can be used to pursue a degree in any undergraduate major and selected graduate programs at accredited colleges or universities. This scholarship is dedicated to removing the financial barriers to education for high-performing, low-income students. Williams, who is among 96% of TMA students who live in DC’s most underserved communities, plans to double major in Biochemistry and Linguistics but is open to exploring different interest areas during his college career.

Williams joined a number of University of Rochester Facebook groups to meet fellow classmates of 2019. His goal is to make a seamless transition of going from a school where he knows everyone to a university where he will have to adjust to a new environment. Though he’ll be new to the University of Rochester, Williams is no stranger to college. In fact, he earned college credit during a dual enrollment program at the University of the District of Columbia Community College.

Williams, the second in his family to go to college, follows the example of his older sister. However, he admits that had it not been for the College Counseling Office at TMA, he wouldn’t have been as informed about extended resources and scholarship opportunities that will pay for his entire college career.

“I finished high school and I am going to college without having to take out any loans,” he said with gratitude. “The college counselors [at TMA] always have their doors open and provide so much support,” he ends.

TMA Executive Director Pens Open Letter to Graduates

IMG_5438Dear Class of 2015,

On behalf of the entire Thurgood Marshall Academy community – the students, faculty, staff, and Board of Trustees – I congratulate you. You should be very proud of your hard work, academic progress, dedication to success, and your biggest achievement yet – high school graduation.

Today, take a moment to reflect on the grades you earned, the impact you made, the relationships you built, and the obstacles you faced along the way. Simply put – you are all shining stars. In order to keep your light shining bright, move boldly toward your future and work to achieve even greater milestones that lie ahead.

Lately, you all have been tackling the tasks of graduating seniors – college applications, AP testing, portfolio presentations, and class finals. Since your freshmen year, you have traveled quite a journey to get to this very point. You leave behind your contribution to Thurgood Marshall Academy’s legacy. It is bittersweet. But you are not alone.

I, too, just like you, am embarking on a new phase. As many of you know, this is my last year at Thurgood Marshall Academy. This graduation gives me a humbling opportunity to witness Thurgood Marshall Academy’s tradition of academic achievements through every one of you. As you walk across the stage and bask in warm congratulations from loved ones, I am confident that you will gracefully transition into a new beginning because of the support that you received from Thurgood Marshall Academy.

There is not one Thurgood Marshall Academy staff member who does not believe in you and your ability to change lives and inspire future generations. However, your commitment to your community does not end when you have a diploma in hand. Because Thurgood Marshall Academy has prepared you for college and to actively engage in our democratic society, you can expect doors of opportunity to open wide. But, it will be up to you to walk through the door.

You will go on to join a dedicated group of alumni, all of whom share your story of academic excellence, good citizenship, and Warrior pride.

Best wishes and continued success in the journey ahead,

Alexandra Pardo, Ed.D
Executive Director