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Executive Director Pens Open Letter to TMA Teachers


Richard Pohlman, TMA’s Executive Director, is excited to see how the school year unfolds.

Dear TMA Warriors:

For the past two weeks, during Teacher Academy and as we prepared ourselves to be and do our best for students, I was reminded why the work we do as educators is important. Our namesake, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, is the driving force behind our mission—to prepare students to succeed in college and to actively engage in our democratic society. I know that each of you are here to do the work that matters for our students and families—to make sure that the education inequity that has persisted for years for many of our students ends when they walk through our doors.

It is so inspiring to watch all of you, a capable group of dedicated teachers and school leaders, work increasingly hard to make sure that each of our students is pushed to be great and given a place to be themselves. In 1954, the year Justice Marshall won Brown v. Board of Education, the historic case that outlawed ‘separate but equal’ schools in America, Mr. Marshall celebrated the milestone but acknowledged that, as a nation, “our work has just begun.”

While we still have work to do so that all students have access to an excellent education no matter where she or he might reside, I am proud of Thurgood Marshall Academy’s commitment to student success. Every day, your role as a devoted educator carries on the ‘work’ that Mr. Marshall advocated for more than 60 years ago.

Thank you all for all that you do, and happy first day of 2016-2017!



Richard Pohlman
Executive Director

TMA Continues to Include Families in Students’ College Career Planning

For 15 years, Thurgood Marshall Academy has been providing college preparatory resources to students from Wards 7 and 8, DC’s most underserved neighborhoods. In addition to academically rigorous courses, a law-themed curriculum, and free after-school enrichment activities, TMA is one of a handful of schools in Southeast, DC that offers a full-service College Counseling Department. The College and Alumni team give students the tools they need to get into, enroll and succeed in, and graduate from college. Now, with a new partnership with Flamboyan Foundation’s Family Engagement in College Readiness Learning Program, TMA can continue to extend college access services to families by including parents and guardians in their student’s college career planning.

“Most of our students are first-generation college goers,” said Sanjay Mitchell, TMA’s Director of College and Alumni Programming. “Therefore, it’s key that their parents understand not just the college application process, but other elements like financing college, scholarship opportunities, financial aid requirements, and so much more.”

Working alongside Flamboyan Foundation, Mr. Mitchell developed a new family engagement initiative to incorporate into TMA’s college access program. Last year, parents were invited to join students on a five-day college tour for the junior class. Forty-four families participated in college programs that were specific to 11th graders, and 13 family members attended a TMA-coordinated college trip with their student.

TMA’s list of annual family engagement college activities also include Senior Parent College Night, Application Help Night, FAFSA Informational Night, Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Day, and FAFSA Tax Night. Approximately 90% of parents and families attended local in-school activities and college-planning workshops. “These programs shed light on the avenues that parents and families need to take so that they can be advocates for their student’s post-secondary career,” said Mr. Mitchell.


Ty Harris, who parents two recent TMA graduates, participated in Flamboyan Foundation’s focus group interview.

Recently, Flamboyan Foundation conducted focus group interviews with 12 TMA parents and families to learn how TMA makes them feel ‘welcomed,’ how this quality is influential in helping them, as parents, take an active role in their child’s academic success, and what areas TMA can improve upon to better engage families this school year. During the focus group interviews, which were hosted on-site at TMA, parents and students alike shared that teachers have proven to have the ability to address academic challenges and work closely with students to develop a plan of action.

Flamboyan Foundation partners with TMA and college counselors from four other high schools that participate in a professional learning community to share best practices and findings about family engagement in college readiness programs across the District.

This year, Mr. Mitchell will continue to develop a program for families to help students persist at the college where they originally enroll.


Meet Martrice Gandy, Thurgood Marshall Academy’s New Director of Specialized Instruction

Martrice GandyMartrice Gandy, Director of Specialized Instruction, is passionately committed to building rigorous, equitable, and inclusive spaces for students with disabilities through innovative collaboration between schools, families, and non-profit organizations. She is a native of Niagara Falls, NY but has lived in the DC/MD area for almost 10 years. Miss Gandy started her formal career in teaching in Baltimore City Public Schools through the Baltimore City Teaching Residency program after being inspired to begin teaching special populations from her undergraduate work in the AmeriCorp Jumpstart program in Charlottesville, VA. While in Baltimore, Miss Gandy served as a Special Educator, an English teacher, and eventually a Special Education Coordinator. She was then awarded an Education Pioneers Graduate Fellowship in which she consulted on talent and performance management projects for the TNTP – Pathway to Leadership in Urban Schools (PLUS) program in Philadelphia and Camden, NJ. She has also worked with Leading Educators and DC Public Schools as an English teacher and English Department Chair through the Teacher Leadership Institute (TLI) program. Miss Gandy has participated in, presented on special topics, and consulted for several educational organizations, charter school boards, and professional organizations. In addition to working at TMA, Miss Gandy serves as a Special Education Advocate for parents in Maryland. She earned a Bachelor’s of Arts in English/Philosophy from the University of Virginia, and a Master’s of Science in Educational Leadership and Graduate Certification in School Administration from Drexel University.

Meet Melanie Sala, Thurgood Marshall Academy’s Head of School

Melanie Sala2Melanie Sala, Head of School, holds a Bachelor of Science from The Pennsylvania State University, a Master of Education from the University of Massachusetts, and a post-graduate certificate in Educational Leadership from George Washington University. Ms. Sala began her career in education as a middle and high school English teacher, for which she received the Rubenstein and Impact Awards for Highly Effective Teaching. Prior to joining the Thurgood Marshall Academy family, Ms. Sala also served as a department chair, an instructional and literacy coach, an assistant principal and central office administrator. She has taught Master’s candidates at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development and worked to prepare new teachers through The New Teacher Project.  After working to strategically support student achievement and the growth of teachers in these contexts, Ms. Sala is excited to return to her true passion, working directly with students, teachers and families in a mission driven high school committed to excellence. At the heart of Ms. Sala’s work is her unwavering commitment to securing equity, equality, social and economic justice by providing every student with an exceptional and compelling high school experience that leads to college, career and engaged, empowered citizenship.

The Head of School is a critical member of the executive leadership team at Thurgood Marshall Academy. In this full-time, supervisory position Ms. Sala is responsible for daily instruction, curriculum development, teacher observation and feedback, academic assessments, and overall academic performance at the school.

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.