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Flashback from the Past: Ladies Who Gave Life-lessons on the Court

Longtime faculty and staff Tara Allen, Kena Allison, and Renee Short have done more than their day-to-day duties at Thurgood Marshall Academy. Allen, a 9th grade math teacher, was the first girls’ volleyball coach in 2009. Allison, physics teacher and former interim Head of School, coached the girls’ basketball team in 2005-06. Short, TMA’s Office Manager, coached the first cheerleading squad that same year.

While the skill-set required to coach volleyball, basketball, and cheer may vary, Allen, Allison, and Short all mentored the girls on the court so that they can use their athletic drive to make invaluable life decisions. In their own words, they share how they made their teams see the connection between having a passion to excel in sports and having a passion to excel in life.

Tara Allen, Math Teacher; Girls Volleyball Coach, 2009:
I was never an athlete but through practice and perseverance, I got good at volleyball. That’s what I brought to the girls. If you want to be good at something, you have to practice. That’s the building block of math – you have to practice or you can’t be great at it, or even good at it for that matter. If you’re willing to study the ‘game,’ be willing to study math and know its foundation so you can begin to master it.


DSC_8797Kena Allison, Physics Teacher; Girls Basketball Coach, 2006:
I was so inspired by how the girls would continue to come to practice even though we had a losing season. The best moment was watching them improve and win our very last game. The same goes for them in life. There will be moments when you feel like you’re losing at life, but I wanted the girls to understand that if you keep going, there will be a winning moment. 






© Ann-Marie VanTassell PhotographyRenee Short, Office Manager; Cheer Coach, 2006:
I remember when the cheerleaders performed at TMA’s first homecoming. They had practiced, but they were still very nervous because performing in front of a lot people was new to them. Then it was ‘showtime.’ The squad performed without one mistake. Despite the fear and nerves, they did it. Taking that same energy and conquering trials, tribulations, and other adversity is the bigger lesson that they learned in that very moment.

Girls Volleyball, Basketball, and the cheer squad will start practice in the fall and winter seasons.

Colleges Accepting Graduates from the Class of 2016

The Class of 2016 applied to more than 250 colleges and universities across the country, and 85% of TMA seniors were accepted to two colleges or more. The College Counseling Department partners with college and universities across the country to give students access to the resources that prepare them for the college application process. In addition to on-site information sessions and workshops hosted by college representatives, the College Counseling Team coordinates several college trips and tours throughout the school year as a way to give students a hands-on experience of campus life.

Below is a full list of colleges and universities accepting the Class of 2016 and a photo gallery from graduation:

Albany State University University of Miami
Albright College Monroe Community College
Allegany College of Maryland Montgomery College
Baldwin Wallace University Morehouse College
Bates College Morgan State University
Bennett College Morris College
Bethune-Cookman University Morthland College
Bryant University Mount St. Mary’s University
Capitol Technology University Norfolk State University
Cedar Crest College North Carolina Central University
Central State University Northern Virginia Community College – Alexandria Campus
Chatham University Ohio University
Claflin University University of Oklahoma
Clark Atlanta University Old Dominion University
University of Colorado at Boulder Pennsylvania State University, York
University of Colorado at Denver University of Pittsburgh at Bradford
Colorado State University University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg
Columbia College Chicago University of Pittsburgh at Titusville
Delaware State University Potomac State College of West Virginia University
Dillard University Prescott College
University of the District of Columbia Radford University
Drexel University University of Rochester
Elon University University of San Diego
Emory University Shaw University
Fairleigh Dickinson University – Metropolitan Campus Shenandoah University
Franklin Pierce University Spelman College
The George Washington University St. John’s University – Queens Campus
Georgia State University State University of New York at Albany
Glenville State College Stevenson University
Hampden-Sydney College Stevenson University (Stevenson University – Owing Mills)
Hampton University Strayer University
Hanover College SUNY Oswego
University of Hartford The University of Tampa
Hawaii Pacific University Temple University
Hofstra University Towson University
Hult International Business School in San Francisco and London Trinity University in Washington, DC
James Madison University Tuskegee University
Johnson & Wales University (Charlotte) University of the Virgin Islands-St. Thomas
Johnson & Wales University (Providence) Virginia State University
Johnson C. Smith University Virginia Union University
Langston University Virginia University of Lynchburg
Livingstone College Wagner College
Longwood University Wake Forest University
Marshall University Wesleyan University
Mary Baldwin College West Virginia State University
University of Maryland, Eastern Shore West Virginia University
University of Maryland, Baltimore County Wilmington University
Xavier University of Louisiana

TMA Alumnus Talks Sports and Time Management: Malik’s Story

Malik McMillian (TMA ’15) at Barton CollegeIn 2015, Thurgood Marshall Academy (TMA) graduated its first student with a full athletic scholarship to college. Malik McMillian (TMA ’15) currently plays basketball at Barton College, a division II junior college in Kansas. McMillian, who plans to study engineering when he transfers to a four-year university in 2017, admits that balancing both basketball and academics was challenging his first year.


Class of 2016 Celebrate ‘Living Legend’ Status at Graduation

ThurogoodMarshall_Graduation2016_023On June 10, Thurgood Marshall Academy celebrated seniors’ academic success and applauded their 100% college acceptance rate during the 12th annual graduation ceremony. More than 800 guests, family and friends, and faculty and staff gathered at Matthews Memorial Baptist Church to honor students who were awarded nearly $6 million in scholarships. Collectively, the Class of 2016 applied to more than 250 colleges and universities across the country. After breaking TMA college-related records, the group of 70-plus graduates have proven to be true ‘LIVING LE6ENDS (Living Legends)’, a name chosen by the seniors to represent their class.


The Class of 2016 valedictorian and salutatorian

The day began at the lower level of the church where seniors were steaming their robes, figuring out which side of their caps the tassel belonged, and taking selfies with their favorite teachers and peers. Promptly at 10am, Ms. Stewart, 12th-grade Dean and Director of Student Affairs, assembled the class for the last time, instructing them to line up behind this year’s valedictorian and salutatorian, Erica Foster and Daynna Stewart respectively. Erica and Daynna, who are both members of the National Honor Society, led their fellow graduates in the sanctuary. They were greeted with whistles, horns, personalized signs, and a roar of cheers and applause as they filed in two-by-two.

The program began with Mr. Pohlman’s, TMA’s Executive Director, opening remarks followed by candid speeches by Erica and Daynna, and an emotional account from Taylor Middleton (TMA ’12), who gave the Almuni Address and recently graduated Summa Cum Laude from Syracuse University. Councilmember LaRuby May, a longtime supporter of TMA, also spoke at this year’s graduation and called the Class of 2016 “The Greatest,” a reference to Muhammed Ali’s legacy. She encouraged parents, mentors, and educators to play a role in ensuring each student remains “great” by holding them accountable and supporting their goals.


A relative of Shawna’ cheers after it’s announced that she received over $1 million in scholarships.

Mr. Mitchell, TMA’s Director of College and Alumni Programming, had the pleasure of acknowledging every student who received a scholarship during the Special Awards Presentation. Shawná Lenoir-Harris, who will attend Elon University in the fall, was awarded more than $1 million in scholarships. Some of her awards include the Beat the Odds scholarship from the Children’s Defense Fund and a slew of private scholarships from organizations that were impressed by her community service efforts, academic excellence, and perseverance to succeed despite the challenges she faced.

ThurogoodMarshall_Graduation2016_049Shawná’s story is like most TMA students who reside in East of the River communities, neighborhoods where the graduation rate is among the lowest in the District. However, TMA graduates continue to perform well academically and go on to graduate college at rates five times higher than their neighborhood peers. In addition to preparing students to succeed in college, TMA also provides students with the resources they need to engage in democratic society and make a difference in the community.

ThurogoodMarshall_Graduation2016_2Jenner and Block, a TMA law-firm partner that helps to reinforce the school’s unique law-theme curriculum, surprised four graduates with a scholarship for $1600. The scholarship was created in memory of a Jenner and Block employee who embodied generosity and who was inspired by individuals who give back to society.

While graduation was the last time that the Class of 2016 will convene as a group, Mr. Pohlman was sure to invite every student back to TMA with hopes that they will share how they are excelling in college and beyond. “No matter what happens after TMA, there will always be a group of teachers and staff who are rooting for you and who will support your endeavors even after graduation,” he reminded them.ThurogoodMarshall_Graduation2016_017

Executive Director Pens Open Letter to Class of 2016


Mr. Pohlman (center) and TMA Board Chair Mr. Shanmugam join Eric, Mr. Pohlman’s mentee, and Class of 2016 valedictorian Erica (far left) and salutatorian Daynna (far right).

Dear Class of 2016,

On behalf of the students, faculty, staff, and Board of Trustees, I want to congratulate you. On Friday, we celebrated your hard work, dedication to success, commitment to meet and exceed your academic and personal goals, and your biggest achievement yet – graduating high school. You should be very proud.

While your main priority this year has been to get into college, you have also been very busy completing scholarship applications, taking AP and final exams, preparing and presenting your final portfolio, and meeting admissions counselors during college tours.  For this reason, you probably haven’t yet had a chance to reflect on your high school experience. However, I encourage you to consider and applaud the success that brought you to this point – the grades you earned, the impact you made, the relationships you built, and the challenges you overcame. Perhaps most importantly, you should take the time to thank those special people who supported you throughout high school.

These past few years have been quite a journey, and you leave behind your contribution to Thurgood Marshall Academy’s 15-year legacy. Now, greater milestones await you as you move forward in a new season that will broaden your perspectives, shape your career paths, and inspire you to make a difference in your communities. Today, you begin your next chapter filled with new challenges.

Thurgood Marshall’s legacy of education equality impacted the lives of every one of you and the more than 500 alumni who share your story of academic excellence, good citizenship and TMA Warrior pride. Mr. Marshall once said “a man can make what he wants of himself if he truly believes that he must be ready for hard work and many heartbreaks.” I challenge all of you to identify what you want out of life and be prepared to work diligently, even in the face of trials, to reach new levels of success in your endeavors.

Always remember that your commitment to hard work doesn’t end once you have a diploma in hand. All of us at Thurgood Marshall Academy still expect the very best from you in whatever endeavor you explore next. We hope you will return and share all your successes with us, and remember we will always be here to support you on your journey through college and beyond.

Best wishes,


Richard Pohlman,
Executive Director

Senior Class Raises the Bar and Breaks Records

seniors2016As we approach Thurgood Marshall Academy’s 12th annual commencement ceremony next month, it is no better time to pay tribute to the graduating class of 2016. More than 70 seniors are expected to walk across the stage on June 10 to receive their greatest accomplishment yet – a high school diploma.

Staying true to TMA’s 12-year college acceptance tradition, every student in the senior class was admitted to college.  But the class of 2016 has gone beyond this tradition, breaking a number of senior class records at TMA. Affectionately dubbed L1VING LE6ENDS (Living Legends), the senior class earned more than $5 million in scholarships from organizations like the College Success Foundation – DC Achievers, the Marian Wright Edelman Children’s Defense Fund, the Comcast Achievement Award Scholarship, and many more. Collectively, the Class of 2016 applied to more than 250 colleges and universities across the country and more than 90% of TMA 12-graders received financial aid assistance.P1040669

Their hard work over their 4-year journey at TMA doesn’t go unnoticed. Below are a few Senior Spotlights featured in our ongoing #MeetASenior Moment on social media.






Meet Octavian Martin:
Future Alma Mater: Old Dominion UniversityP1040188 Extracurricular Activities: Senior Class President, Student Government Association member, Boys Varsity Basketball team
Biggest Success to Date: The first TMA student to secure a congressional nomination from Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton to attend the US Military Academy and the Air Force Academy
A message from Octavian: “I’m taking strides to become the President of the United States. That means I have to continue to work hard, be willing to put other people’s needs first, be involved in the community, and make tough decisions.”

Meet Jeremiah Garland:P1040458
Future Alma Mater: Towson University
Extracurricular Activities: Co-founder of the Black Lives Awareness Club, member of the Green Club and Wilderness Club
Recent Proud Moment: Awarded a $1,000 scholarship from Men of Community
A message from Jeremiah: “Being part of the Black Lives Awareness Club will probably be the most influential part of my legacy that I’ll leave at TMA. There were lots of things going on in the news that affected Black youth and I wanted to see change, no matter how small it was. Through the Black Lives Awareness Club, we are able to advocate for those who are affected by racism and unfair treatment and figure out how to make a positive impact on a local level.”

Meet Danielle McLarty:daniellemclarty
Future Alma Mater: St. Johns University
Extracurricular Activities: Mikva Challenge DC, Girls Varsity Basketball Team, Daughters After God’s Heart
Recent Proud Moment: Recipient of the 2016 Motley Fool Scholarship
A message from Danielle: “God is within her. She will not fail. He will be with her at the break of day.” Psalm 46:5

The 1,000 and Up Club:
The annual College Acceptance Ceremony, where seniors received their college t-shirts for their future alma maters, also recognized 12 seniors who were recently inducted into the “1,000 and Up club.” Membership is reserved for students like Trey Pugh and Class of 2016 Valedictorian Erica Foster, who both scored 1,000 or higher on the Critical Reading and Math sections of the SAT.

My Personal Statement Challenge: Earica’s Story

Earica Parrish (TMA ’13)Earica Parrish (TMA ’13) didn’t know that several failed attempts at writing her personal statement for college would ironically lead her on a journey to major in Magazine Journalism, a writing-intensive field. During her senior year at TMA, she felt confident after submitting her nicely typed, double-spaced, 2-page, 700 word final essay that explained why her college of choice would be lucky to have her as a student.


College Counseling Team Springs into Action

There’s no stopping the College Counseling team, a department at TMA dedicated specifically to advancing TMA’s college culture. This Spring, the team has been coordinating a series of events that help expose students to colleges and the processes that go into being accepted. Mr. Mitchell, Director of College and Alumni Programming and Mr. Winder, Alumni Program and College Associate, work together to ensure that students and TMA’s extended network of 500 alumni have guidance and a wealth of support to be successful in college and beyond.

Alumni Visits & Care Packages Special Delivery: March 13-15

livingstone college visitThe season kicked off with Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Winder visiting four universities to check in on alumni and their college experiences. With care packages in tow and gift cards for students to use at local grocery stores, they spent a few days in North Carolina where they caught up with alumni who are set to graduate college in the next few years. The first stop was Livingstone College followed by Winston Salem State University, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and Bennett College. Many alumni who journey off to schools that are more than five hours away from home have limited opportunities to visit family and friends outside of holidays or seasonal breaks. Therefore, the College Counseling team works together to bring familiarity to students so that they continue to feel supported by loved ones.

Freshmen Take Math Lessons at the University of Maryland: March 23

math college tripAs a way to expose students to the diligence and dedication that goes into being successful in a math-related major at the college level, TMA’s Math Teacher Ms. Allen took her Algebra 1 Honors class to the University of Maryland. During the day-long trip, students observed a College of Algebra and Trigonometry class, where they were engaged with the professor, ask questions, and solved equations alongside their college-level peers. Students met up with TMA alumnus Seren Snow, who is graduating from University of Maryland in May, and picked his brain about the university and his experience as a double major, Cum Laude scholar, and his jumpstart career set to start in June.

The Junior Class College Tour: March 28-30

While the ninth, tenth, and twelfth graders were enjoying Spring Break, Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Winder rallied up the Juniors for a 3-day-college-tour road trip that journeyed to the campuses of Franklin & Marshall Universities, Gettysburg College, Susquehanna College, Bucknell University, and Penn State University. More than 20 TMA students participated alongside their high school peers from DC Prep and the Prep Next Program.

The 7th Annual Spring College Fair: April 14

P1020485TMA’s 7th Annual Spring College Fair was a dynamic experience where students had the opportunity to meet with college admissions staff to learn more about the schools they plan to attend in the future.  Representatives from more than 55 diverse colleges and organizations were on site and prepared to answer student questions and provide insight on qualification requirements. Students collected pamphlets and other materials that gave them an inside look to the respective school’s college culture. Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Winder were on-hand guiding students to specific schools that they thought were the best fit for the student’s needs, personality, and long-term goals.

Junior Class College Trip: April 20

The entire Junior class spent the day traveling to four schools for a day-long college trip. Departing at 7am, half of the students headed to Lincoln University and Widener University, and the second group went to The University of Richmond and Virginia State University.

The College Counseling team is just getting started! As we get closer to graduation on June 10th, they are working diligently to ensure that every senior is on track to being accepted into college. Since 2005, Thurgood Marshall Academy has graduated more than 500 students from East of the River communities, all of whom were accepted to college and who set the precedent for TMA’s 11-year (and counting) 100% college acceptance rate.

A Gift of Song: Angel’s Story

Angel Haythe (TMA ’15)In this Q&A, Angel Haythe (TMA ’15) shares why Black History Month at TMA is an empowering time for students to delve deeper into African-American culture and heritage. Haythe performed Nina Simone’s “Strange Fruit” and “Mississippi Goddam” at TMA’s 5th Annual Celebrating Our Roots. The powerful songs and the explosive lyrics were a heartfelt response to reoccurring violent events during the Civil Rights Movement that claimed the innocent lives of African-Americans. Today, Haythe is studying Business and Music at Trinity Washington University and is inspired by events like Celebrating Our Roots, which allow her to use her gifted voice to “help spread positivity and inspiration.”


Celebrating Our Roots All Month Long

P1040254At the close of Black History Month, Thurgood Marshall Academy hosted Celebrating Our Roots, a powerful production that honored the Civil Rights Movement. The event allowed students, alumni, faculty and staff, and the community to relive monumental moments in Black History and pay tribute to African-American leaders who paved the way for a better society. Through spoken word, poetry, dance, art, song, and other student-driven content, students displayed a passion for their culture during the grand finale event that concluded TMA’s month-long Black History celebration.

At the beginning of Black History Month, TMA launched its first-ever “Teach-in” that gave the entire student body a platform to celebrate Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and delve into thought-provoking discussions about his life and legacy, and his role in education reform. Across history classes, students made connections between the legal battles Justice Marshall took on and the work that still needs to be done today.

“The History Department could not think of a better way to start this tradition than to celebrate Thurgood Marshall and understand a bit more about the man who our school is named after,” said Karen Lee, Social Studies Teacher.

After students explored Justice Marshall’s achievements and influences, the Black Awareness Club hosted a Thurgood Marshall inspired trivia scavenger hunt. “We are excited to see our students grow and be challenged by the work of Marshall,” said Alecia Walker, the club’s advisor. Ms. Walker, who coordinated Celebrating Our Roots, is also TMA’s African-American Studies Teacher. She continues to create a classroom environment where students can apply class lessons to today’s hot-topic societal issues like the Black Lives Matter Movement.

P1040139Ms. Walker, like many teachers in the History and English department at TMA, find creative ways to provide a safe space for students to discuss challenges facing their communities, particularly social justice issues. Students in Ms. Lee’s US Government class and Ms. Lyon’s British Literature class led an informed discussion with students from Edmund Burke School and D. Watkins, author of “The Beast Side: Living (and Dying) While Black in America,” about poverty, the justice system, politics, race, the achievement gap, and much more.

P1040187Students led another dynamic Q&A session with Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who visited TMA alongside young advocates and non-profit leaders Yasmine Arrington, Clayton Armstrong, and Tony Lewis, Jr. The focus of the meet-and-greet was to inform students about the resources that are in place to help underserved communities. Congresswoman Norton talked about the importance of the DC Tuition Assistance Grant (or DCTAG) and how it benefits District residents, especially those from low-income homes. The other panelists dived into ways to overcome common social issues facing African-American communities as part of the “Millennial Success Stories” series.

During Black History Month, TMA works more collaboratively than ever to ensure that life-changing events that have shaped today’s world are at the forefront of class lessons, discussions, and activities. Celebrating Our Roots is an event that brings black history month full circle and challenges our students to use their gifts and talents to commemorate a moment in time that catapulted African-American leaders who were advocating for change.

In this Q&A, Angel Haythe (TMA ’15) shares why events like Celebrating Our Roots are an empowering way to showcase African-American history.


Special thanks to 21st Century Community Learning Centers, DC Trust Catalyst for Youth Success, Diane Alemitu Anderson, and other supporters and friends who made Celebrating Our Roots possible.