Alumni Profiles

A Journey that Has Come Full Circle: Justin Williams, Class of 05’

Thurgood Marshall Gala 2015 - Hi Res-155-4066

Justin Williams (center) joins TMA students at the 2015 Shining Star Gala.

I don’t really know what my life would look like if I didn’t go to Thurgood or graduate from college…” Justin Williams graduated 10 years ago, with TMA’s first graduating class. His journey at TMA has “come full circle.” Today, he works in the Special Education Department at TMA and is honored to serve TMA students. Justin opens us about the TMA he knew as a student, the TMA he is even more proud of as a staff member, and his advice to students.


What are you most proud of when you think of the achievements you made years ago as a TMA student?
Well, in addition to being a member of the first graduating class at TMA, I was the salutatorian at graduation. Thurgood taught me to overcome the obstacles that are before me and to be a leader in whatever arena I stepped into. I don’t really know what my life would look like if I didn’t go to TMA. Within our student body we were a bunch of brothers and sisters; while our teachers acted as our mothers, fathers, aunts, and uncles; the true definition of a blended family.

When thinking of TMA today and the TMA that you graduated from – what has changed?
Back then, things looked and felt a little different for a TMA student. We were in a very lackluster building and the senior class was so small, but the goal and the focus was still the same – getting to college and staying there. A big part of my success is thanks to those who invested in TMA and believed in that first graduating class, without even knowing what the future held. Without their vision, I wouldn’t be where I am today, a Morehouse College graduate with a Psychology degree.

Congratulations! Today, you are also part of the dedicated faculty at TMA. Tell us how this role brings back memories from your time as a TMA student.
My journey has come full circle. The students’ success stories bring back a lot of memories. I feel really blessed to be giving back to this community and to see these students walking a similar path that I did. I currently work in the Special Education Department and look forward to sharing my experiences, past and present, with the students as a way to keep them on the right path.

What is your advice to TMA students?
Exhaust your resources! Use the tools that you have in your wheelhouse to perform better academically and to be a productive citizen of whatever community you belong. Take advantage of all these opportunities – from asking your teacher for help before and after school, to going on field trips and doing Job Shadow Day, participating in Law Day or Law Firm Tutoring, or just picking the brain of your favorite adult in the building. In fact, I remember I’d always see Mr. Kern, one of TMA’s founders, roaming the halls when I was a student at TMA. He was available to just talk to us and give us advice, just like TMA faculty and staff are available in that same way today.


Catching Up With TMA Alumna Tamiya Hall

“Anyone at Thurgood Marshall Academy could tell you that I’ve changed” says Tamiya Hall, a 2014 graduate and a current freshman at Norfolk State University (NSU). Now mid-way through her first semester, Tamiya’s transition to undergrad marks the end of a long personal journey into a goal-oriented college student: “I have truly changed my perspective on school and life, and I am proud of myself.”


Jacquelyn Patterson

371Four year ago, Jacquelyn Patterson walked the across Thurgood Marshall Academy’s stage to receive her high school diploma. In May 2013, she became an alumna of Spelman College in Atlanta, GA, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a concentration in Pre-Law.

In high school, “I knew that I wanted to advocate for those in my community, but I was unsure how,” recalls Jacquelyn. Early on, out-of-school programs at Thurgood Marshall Academy helped solidify her interest in finding a way to give back to her community. Thanks to Thurgood Marshall Academy’s links to local and national stakeholders, Jacquelyn worked with Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton to complete community service hours. In this role, Jacquelyn says, “I interacted with the residents of DC and heard their concerns about their communities as well as how legislation affected them.”


Jereme Speight

369Jereme Speight, a junior at Fairmont State University, is pursuing a degree in criminal justice. He aspires to work in social services after graduating in order to help his community. Jereme has highlighted opportunities working in low-security detention centers in order to serve as a mentor to at-risk youth.

In college, Jereme finds that one of his biggest challenges has been staying focused on school work. He found that the variety of social commitments open to undergraduate students could be distracting, but learned to manage his time and balance his academic and social priorities.

For Jereme, the most rewarding aspect of the undergraduate experience has been the opportunity to meet people from a variety of different backgrounds and gain a deeper understanding of new cultures.

Looking back on his experiences at Thurgood Marshall Academy, Jereme thanks the school’s teachers and staff “for all the help, support and encouragement throughout my years at TMA. I want to especially thank Dean Krein for being there, Ms. Allison for always staying on my case and Ms. Lyons for being an awesome teacher.”

Rashada Coton

370Rashada Coton, is a 2014 graduate of Trinity Washington University. Having received her degree – with honors – in Mass Communications and a minor in International Affairs, she has jump started her career by contributing to, a pop culture website, and by managing her own blog at As an aspiring writer, Rashada plans to pursue her career ambitions – working in the television/entertainment industry – by enrolling in a Master’s degree program at American University in Spring 2015.

Looking back on her undergraduate experience, Rashada finds that one of her biggest challenges was taking advantage of opportunities present at her college: “I believe I went into college very naïve in the sense that I thought things would just happen for me. I learned that hard work gets you opportunities – you can’t sit around waiting for opportunities to come.” Rashada says “the rewarding things about college for me were the opportunities I earned. I learned how to be self-sufficient. I interned with radio station WPGC 95.5 and at the White House.” At WPGC 95.5, Rashada was a street team member: “I helped set up events, interact with listeners, meet different celebrities, and gain great insight in the entertainment industry,” she explains. During her time at the White House, Rashada communicated with constituents by who wrote to the White House with various concerns. Of her undergraduate experience, Rashada says: “college helped me see my full potential.”

In reflecting on time at Thurgood Marshall Academy, it is the teachers, and their firm belief in each student’s potential, that Rashada remembers most. “I remember specifically taking an AP English course and hating the class but in the end I learned that I had potential and the class led me to writing,” she says. Rashada thanks them for “putting up with my feisty attitude…[and] for not giving up on me.”