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TMA students learn about advocating first hand

Last week, five Thurgood Marshall Academy students engaged in presentations ranging from Women’s Rights to Voting Rights when they attended the Washington D.C. Youth Civil Rights Summit.

This three day summit was created by the American Civil Liberties Union Club at the School Without Walls Senior High School. Students learned about advocating for their rights from ACLU lawyers and keynote speakers. According to 11th grade TMA student, Destiny Young, “It was an amazing opportunity working in groups, meeting new people, and learning about our rights.”

This summit has inspired TMA students to think about possibly starting their own club focused on Civil Rights. Their participation in the Civil Rights Summit aligns with our efforts to encourage our students to be advocates for themselves and for their community.

Letter to TMA Families re: Paris Brown

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January 11, 2018

Dear Families of Thurgood Marshall Academy,

This morning we were informed that one of our students, Paris Brown, died tragically last night. Paris joined our school community this year as an 11th grade student and will be truly missed. Paris was a shining star who loved music and spoken word poetry. He touched many people’s lives in his brief time at Thurgood Marshall Academy and we are saddened to lose another Warrior to gun violence.

Counselors are onsite for any student who may need or want assistance during this time of grief, and we will continue to offer support throughout the coming days and weeks. We are in contact with the family and will share additional details regarding funeral services when they are available.

If you need assistance outside of school hours, please reach out to the Department of Behavioral Health hotline at 1(888)7WE-HELP or 1-888-793-4357.

We are deeply saddened by the loss to our school community, and we extend our deepest sympathies to Paris’ family and friends.

Sincerely,
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Richard Pohlman

Spirit Week and Homecoming Recap

This week was full of activities for TMA students, faculty and staff, as we celebrated Spirit Week and Homecoming to show unity and our Warrior pride.

From Pajama Day to Black Out Day, students, faculty and staff had the opportunity to showcase their creative, fun and athletic sides.

Staff get into the Spirit on Pajama Day

Students dressed in 70s fashion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every year during Spirit Week we host a Faculty vs. Students Basketball game. Wednesday featured the annual basketball game, with faculty continuing their winning streak for a third. This year faculty defeated students 26 to 14.

Students wore their class colors and cheered on their classmates during a pep rally on Thursday, as each grade competed in basketball, tug of war, and other games.

Following our pep rally, our Spirit Week ended with our Homecoming Basketball game against Dunbar High School, and the Homecoming Dance.

TMA students apply for college early: High SAT Scores and College Application Boot Camp

More students are applying to colleges earlier in their senior year – even before the end of their first semester. This trend is known nationwide as “Early Action”, and November 1st is the Early Action deadline for many colleges and universities. We are proud that our Class of 2018 have been actively preparing for this moment, with 60% of our seniors submitting early action applications.

One of the most important factors in college admissions is a high SAT score. TMA invested in additional resources to offer SAT prep classes to seniors. As a result, 97% of our students scored above an 800, and 50% of students earned a “super score” above 1000.

“It’s important for our students to score as high as possible and apply, as early as possible, to remain competitive,” said Mr. Mitchell, Director of College and Alumni Programming. “The earlier our students apply for college, the more time they have to focus on earning scholarships.”

In addition to SAT courses, seniors prepared for Early Action by attending a college application “boot camp” in the school’s library, working until 6pm on their applications with help from faculty, staff and volunteers.

They also had several opportunities during the school day to write their personal statement, a compelling reason why they should be admitted into the college of their choice. College essays were the focus during Senior Seminar, and volunteers from TMA’s staff and the local legal community helped with final edits.

Our students are on their way to being admitted into the colleges of their choice, giving them enough time to focus on the next critical piece: paying for college.

Thurgood Marshall Academy named Tier 1 School Each Year Since 2012

Thurgood Marshall Academy (TMA) has been named a Tier 1 school by the DC Public Charter School Board (DC PCSB), the organization that authorizes and ranks public charter schools in Washington, DC. Thurgood Marshall Academy is among a handful of public charter high schools to earn the distinction in 2017; the school has achieved Tier 1 status each year since the introduction of the rating system.

“We are extremely proud of our results. Through rigorous, data-driven instruction and an unwavering belief in each student’s ability to perform at high academic standards, our teachers help our students transform into college-ready high school graduates,” said Richard Pohlman, TMA’s Executive Director.

Each year, the DC PCSB collects data on student outcomes from each public charter school in the city for its Performance Framework (PMF). The PMF offers a comprehensive picture of our school-wide success. The PMF considers data beyond state reading and math test scores, reflecting our students’ academic growth, college entry metrics, graduation, college acceptance rates, daily attendance, and re-enrollment rates. Based on these outcomes, the school earned the DC PCSB’s Tier 1 status.

Thurgood Marshall Academy demonstrates that academic achievement and college access are possible for all students, regardless of their family income status, race or community. Like the PMF, the school does not measure its success through a single statistic. Its leadership looks at an abundance of data to see how programs support student growth and college and career readiness across all grade levels.

Thurgood Marshall Academy students, 100% of whom are minority and qualify for federal free and reduced price meals, defy the odds for youth from Ward 8 – home to the majority of students. Most of the school’s ninth-graders arrive two to five years behind grade level in math and reading. In April 2017, TMA’s tenth-graders took the PARCC exam and outperformed their peers across all subgroups; most notably, twice as many students designated as At-Risk earned a 4+.

To see the full PMF ratings and quality schools report, please visit the DC Public Charter Board site: https://goo.gl/HRJE74

TMA Students Engaging in #STEM Opportunities!

For the next week, we are sharing examples of TMA students engaging in exciting #STEM opportunities.

 

Meet TMA’s Green Club, @gangster_gardeners, their Instagram name inspired by Ron Finley’s TED Talk. Led by Sara Carnochan and Karen Lee, the group splits their time between gardening and preparing meals using the food they have grown. For TMA’s STEM Fair, The Green Club will be presenting their latest experiment, “Do plants need natural light?” Ms. Carnochan says, “Students know plants photosynthesize to grow. We thought it would be a great opportunity to test and see if the source needs to be sunlight or can plants grow if they have a different source – in this case Christmas lights.”

 

Meet Deval, a senior at TMA and 2017 Posse scholar! In the fall, Deval will attend Lafayette College on full scholarship and will study Electrical Computer  Engineering. Deval says, “I’ve always thought of computers as a human brain and want to figure out how to advance what computers can really do.” Deval and his Physics class will be at TMA’s STEM Fair, highlighting one of their first experiments, “The Egg Drop”. An interactive booth for all, The Egg Drop allows TMA students to highlight engineering skills with their models and expand on inventions that exist to keep the egg intact.

Celebrating Our Roots – Ancient African Kingdoms

This February, Thurgood Marshall Academy (TMA) celebrated Black History Month with its 6th annual Celebrating Our Roots event. Students, alumni, faculty, staff, and the community had the opportunity to travel back in time and experience music, art, food and culture from five Ancient African Kingdoms.

With a passport inspired theme, guests visited the Congo where they learned  how to wrap and adorn their head with an African Headdress. Next, they jouryned to Egypt and used clues to escape Nefertiti’s tomb.  Afterwards, attendees traveled to Ethiopia and watched TMA’s Dance Team showcase traditional African dance movements. Chef Shawn Lightfoot from Art-Drenaline Café Brand and the Fresh Food Factory was on site and prepared an African meal from Mali. The last stop was Zulu, where TMA musicians serenaded guests with lively African tunes. Additionally, friends and family listened to spoken word pieces performed by TMA’s Black Awareness Club, enjoyed a fashion show of contemporary African clothing and a dance performance from Norfolk State University’s Dance Team.

Celebrating our Roots is an event that brings Black History Month full circle and allows students to use their gifts and talents to honor the rich history and heritage of African ancestors.

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Special thanks to Chef Shawn Lightfoot from Art-Drenaline Café Frand and the Fresh Food Factory, Norfolk State University’s Dance Team and other supporters and friends who made Celebrating Our Roots a success.

Come and Celebrate Black History Month with TMA

Come and celebrate Black History Month with TMA at our annual Celebrating our Roots event this Saturday, February 18th from 10:00am – 12:30pm. We will travel back in time and experience music, art, culture and food from Ancient African Kingdoms. Hope to see you there!

Click Here to see pictures from last year’s event.

Positive Role Models Keep Students on Track

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Mr. Bruno works closely with students in Senior Seminar and helps them navigate the college application process.

After leaving a government contractor job at the Pentagon in 2015, Kevin Bruno didn’t know what was next. He just knew that the “routine position” left him feeling unfulfilled and in search for something more rewarding. During the summer of that year, Mr. Bruno applied for open substitute teacher positions at high schools in East of the River communities—neighborhoods where “students see more negativity than success.” Though Mr. Bruno had very little teaching experience, he believed that just being a school presence and a positive role model as a black man could be helpful to students from Wards 7 and 8.

“When I was in high school, there was only one black male teacher in the school,” he said. Mr. Bruno credits Justin Williams, Special Education Teacher, Sanjay Mitchell, Director of College and Alumni Programming, and other African-American longtime faculty and staff who, he says, gives students a positive image of black men. “For the young boys who don’t have a father-figure in the home or positive male influences in their communities, they have a hard time believing that they can be different because they don’t see it.”

When Mr. Bruno took on a long-term substitute position at Thurgood Marshall Academy (TMA), he learned quickly about TMA’s tier 1 status and the school’s expectations of students. He taught mostly freshmen classes, filling in for English teachers and he even taught Summer Prep English this past summer. “By the time freshmen make it to senior year, they have proven to be scholars. After four years of TMA’s rigorous curriculum, students are ready for college,” he says.

Mr. Bruno’s long-term sub position opened the door to infinite possibilities and now Mr. Bruno is a full-time staff member at TMA, supporting the College Counseling Department as the Alumni Program and College Counseling Associate. Shifting from the day-to-day classroom experience to the office setting, Mr. Bruno says that he’s looking forward to the challenge. “In my new role, I interact mostly with alumni.”

Mr. Bruno also teaches Senior Seminar, a course where 12th graders delve into the college application process. This part of the position has come full circle for Mr. Bruno, who worked in the admissions office at Virginia State University. As a Student Ambassador, he led guided tours, scheduled and coordinated open houses, oversaw freshmen orientation, and assessed applications. Mr. Bruno advises students to “just be yourself” when completing college applications. “Yes, your transcript is important but it’s the things you’ve done outside of the classroom that will set you apart.”

Shifting to the college counseling side, Mr. Bruno sees how TMA’s family culture doesn’t end once students head off to college. He oversees the school’s Emergency Alumni Fund and has already assisted alumni from four different classes with books and travel expenses to campus. Currently, he’s planning Senior Parent College Night, which, for the first time, will feature TMA alumni and their parents who will share how the college experience is very much a family commitment.

“Senior year can be very stressful for students but when they have a community of support at school and at home, that takes a lot of pressure off. Once they’re accepted to college, everyone in their circle realizes that the hard work really was worth it,” he ends.

 

A Voice Inspired by an Activist: Charleah’s Story

Eleventh grader, Charleah Collington, has been singing since she was three-years-old. Along with her long-term goal to be a lawyer, Charleah has a vision to, one day, sing gospel music professionally. In the meantime, she’s developing her gifted voice with a multi-talented group called FRESHH Inc., a hip-hop theater ensemble of young women, ages 13–20, who pay tribute to “warrior women.”

Recently, Charleah, who was excused from after-school for this special occasion, and the all-girls-group of eight performed for the Women’s Voices Theater Festival and honored well-known artists in a high-energy performance titled “We Speak their Names – A Tribute to Warrior Women.” During the hour-long performance at the Kennedy Center, Charleah wowed the audience with her rendition of Nina Simone’s “I’ve Put a Spell on You.” Charleah reminded us of Nina Simone’s soulful sound that changed the industry in the 1960s, a pivotal era in the Civil Rights Movement.

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Charleah Collington, 11th grader, performed at the Kennedy Center with her all-girls group FRESHH, Inc.

“I love all kinds of artists,” said Charleah. “But I’m really inspired by those who use their music to say something meaningful. It’s those artists whose lyrics will live on forever because they made a difference in the world.”

Nina Simone, whom Charleah emulated so well during her solo performance, was much more than an American singer, songwriter, pianist, or arranger. She was a Civil Rights Activist whom Charleah chose to reenact because she is a “warrior woman” whose music made a statement during this unforgettable time in history. While Charleah chose to perform Simone’s popular hit, “I’ve Put a Spell on You,” Nina Simone is also known for using her music to highlight injustice. Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddam” was the song where she openly addressed the racial inequality that was on the rise in the US. The number was a response to the murder of Medgar Evers and the bombing of a church in Alabama that killed four black girls.

Thurgood Marshall Academy provides students with the resources and knowledge they need to advocate for themselves and their communities. By introducing our students to pioneering revolutionaries who use their craft to stand up for equality, we give them real-life examples to follow.

See Charleah and FRESHH, Inc. in action below. Charleah’s Nina Simone rendition starts at time-stamp 31.40.

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