Thurgood Marshall Academy is proud of its 100% college acceptance rate among graduating seniors. To carry on this 11-year tradition, the College Counseling office works strategically with students to guide them along the application process. The efforts ensure that seniors apply for schools in three specific buckets: reach, target, and safety. Aris Morrison (TMA ‘10) remembers being introduced to this idea in Senior Seminar, a required course for 12th graders. He learned that reach schools were more competitive to gain acceptance into and target schools are often a student’s top choice because they meet the standards in most, if not all, of the required areas. However, the class lesson became a life-lesson when Morrison realized he identified with students more likely to be accepted into safety schools, colleges or universities for students who have not performed well academically.
The University of the District of Columbia Community College (UDC) was Morrison’s safety school. While it wasn’t his top choice, gaining entry into the school catapulted what he calls a lazy attitude into a “laser-focused vision for achieving his goals.” Overcome by disappointment because of the results of his mediocre effort at Thurgood Marshall Academy, he grew determined to succeed anyway.
“The sad part about looking back at my time at TMA is that I knew I was under-achieving academically,” said Morrison, who has since transferred to UDC’s 4-year program and will graduate with a degree in Business Management in 2016. “It wasn’t until my senior year [at TMA] when I didn’t get into any of the schools that I had applied for that I knew I had to change my life around if I wanted to go places.”
In June, Morrison delivered the Alumni Address to the Class of 2015 during the graduation ceremony. He reflected on the mistakes he made as a student, the consequences of his choices, and his renewed mindset that yielded favorable results. Today, Morrison has a 3.2 GPA, is a member of UDC’s Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and the Entrepreneurship Club, and soon-to-be president of his fraternity.
“I was really surprised to be asked to give the alumni address, especially since I was not a top-notch student,” he said. “After analyzing my path through TMA and where I am today, I could see why my story may help someone else. If the class of 2015 could learn anything from me, it is to not let what you didn’t accomplish in the past determine how far you can go in the future.”
Morrison’s future looks bright. Upon graduating UDC next spring, he plans to go to law school and study Entertainment Law. But first, earning a 4.0 GPA is on the agenda. “This upcoming semester will be my finest moments at UDC. I want to do something I have never done – get an A in every course.”
Thurgood Marshall Academy taught Morrison that being “great” requires you to push yourself. “I call that ‘grind,’” he says of the TMA culture. Morrison hopes that his growth can inspire the younger generation. He believes mentorship plays a role in youth development and looks forward to launching a mentorship program with his fraternity in the fall.
“I think mentorship is a huge part of making sure today’s youth have guidance. My advice for anyone coming into TMA would be to take full advantage of what the school offers you,” said Morrison of Thurgood Marshall Academy’s enrichment activities and youth development component. “Go in with the mindset that ‘I will do everything I can to thrive both in the present and future.’ My issue was that I didn’t take care of the things that would properly prepare me for life after high school.”
Today, Morrison is preparing for life after college. He has come full circle and continues to prove that determination, not a mistake, paves the way for a great future.