Keosha Lamberson didn’t imagine that a service trip to Louisiana, Mississippi, and other southern states where residents were barely making ends meet would be an eye-opening experience that would shape her future in bringing about community change. Lamberson, who was just 14-years-old at the time, was a freshman at Thurgood Marshall Academy and struggled to put forth the effort required to succeed. However, the service trip gave her the ‘focus’ she needed to get back on track by the time she graduated from Thurgood Marshall Academy in 2010.
On June 12, Thurgood Marshall Academy celebrated seniors’ academic success and applauded their 100% college acceptance during the 10th annual graduation. More than 800 guests, family and friends, and faculty and staff gathered at Matthews Memorial Baptist Church to honor students who were awarded over $4 million in scholarships.
Senior Anthonya James, class of 2015 valedictorian, was named the 2015 Milken Scholar and received $10,000 toward college tuition. High-performing senior, Faith Hudson, who was the class’ salutatorian, was awarded the Stephen J. Trachtenberg Scholarship and will attend The George Washington University in the fall. Keneon Williams, who earned the second-highest SAT score on the critical math and reading sections, will attend University of Rochester on a Gates Millennium Scholarship, which will also cover his graduate degree. Herbert Tillary, Executive Director of the College Success Foundation, presented a check of $1.45 million to 29 seniors awarded the DC Achievers Scholarship, which funds up to $50,000 in annual tuition costs.
A number of seniors received scholarships from Press Pass Mentors, an organization affiliated with The Washington Post that serves charter school students in southeast Washington, DC. Mentors are paired with students and work together on a curriculum that prepares them for major writing assignments they will tackle as college students.
Angel Haythe, a talented senior who recently performed in a singing competition at the Kennedy Center, led the senior class in a dynamic rendition of ‘Conqueror’ from the FOX hit TV show, “Empire.” The audience sung along to the popular tune while seniors swayed from left to right, relating to the meaningful lyrics.
After students were presented with their diplomas, they joined their loved ones and other proud Thurgood Marshall Academy supporters for refreshments.
Photos by: Joshua A. Washington
In her final weeks as Executive Director at Thurgood Marshall Academy, Alexandra Pardo reflects on her role and offers advice to the next leader.
Q: What drew or attracted you to work at Thurgood Marshall Academy?
A: The opportunity to work with a team of committed educational leaders and teachers who were focused on improving student learning and outcomes was definitely a draw. The school community had the tenants necessary to move the needle forward on school achievement. Most importantly, I was drawn to the mission and the fact that Thurgood Marshall Academy is Washington, DC’s first and only law-themed public charter high school.
Q: What accomplishments are you most proud of (in your time here)?
A: Our students’ success is no longer confined to a small corner of DC, but to a much broader context that shapes their academic journeys. When student test scores became the focus as pressures from No Child Left Behind ensued, we stuck to our core beliefs in educating students to succeed in college. We chose not to center our curriculum on rote memorization and drill-and-kill exercises to obtain small bumps in our scores. Instead, Thurgood Marshall Academy pursued long-term outcomes, emphasized student-centered instruction, and pushed critical thinking skills through project-based work. State test scores improved remarkably. Our students began outperforming their peers on Advanced Placement tests, SAT tests, and just about every other area. But our outcomes didn’t start or end there. While early on our students were accepted to college, they were not always completing their degree. Today, two out of three alumni are graduating from college outperforming national and local metrics for college graduation. I can look back and say our students are living our mission.
Q: Thurgood Marshall Academy wasn’t always a Tier 1 school; what would you attribute to the school’s eventual success as Tier 1?
A: Each year and each semester, we reflect. As a team, we evaluate what works and what doesn’t. We’re an incredibly mission focused organization. Therefore, we always apply our mission when we try new things to ensure that our students thrive. When I first came to Thurgood Marshall Academy, schools were not under much pressure to perform on external metrics. This is the main reason why we hire dedicated faculty who boldly own their outcomes and the outcomes of their students. Because they are not afraid to make changes while keeping the mission at the forefront, they continue to prepare students academically.
Q: As Thurgood Marshall Academy celebrates its 15th year, what areas have grown the most and what goals would you like to see accomplished in the next 15 years?
A: It would be an honor to see Thurgood Marshall Academy replicate and serve more high school students. The number of quality high schools on both sides of the river is still very small, making educational resources scarce and college preparatory institutions even more competitive to access than before. We know that in Ward 8 alone, the low number of high school and college graduation rates is alarming. But Thurgood Marshall Students are not only getting accepted to college, but over 90% of them enroll within the first year and persist through from freshman year to sophomore year. I’d love to see Thurgood Marshall Academy go across the river and increase the number of quality seats because of this proven success rate. It is a model that ensures students on both sides of the river defy the odds.
Q: What advice would you give the next leader?
A: Believe in the students, uphold the mission. Be guided by the founding principles. Thurgood Marshall Academy’s success is not about one person – it is a culture driven by every individual in the building. I have always believed that school success and student achievement are only possible with a professional, dedicated, and smart faculty and staff. During my time at Thurgood Marshall Academy, I prioritized bringing together like-minded, determined, and passionate individuals and provided them with the resources and creative freedoms they needed to excel. This should be very much important to the next leader. Faculty and staff are the reason why Thurgood Marshall Academy has had such a remarkable track record of achievements.
Keneon Williams has taken and passed every Honors and Advanced Placement (AP) course offered at Thurgood Marshall Academy (TMA). It’s no wonder why his G.P.A is a 4.2 and he’s on his way to University of Rochester this fall on a full scholarship. Excelling in AP Government, AP Language, AP Literature, AP Calculus, and scoring the second highest in the senior class on the critical math and reading sections of the SAT, Williams has proven that academic excellence is within reach.
“Even though you have the support of teachers and staff [at TMA], it’s all on you,” said Williams. “You have to work hard and put your energy and effort into the right things in order to achieve. Just because teachers allowed me to turn work in late, I practiced submitting work on time because, in the real-world, I won’t always have that flexibility,” said the wise 17-year-old.
Since freshmen year, Williams focused heavily on his academic performance knowing that the end result of success would be college. “Ninth, tenth, and eleventh grade are important because colleges closely review your grades from those years. Based on those findings, colleges then determine how you will perform as a student,” he said.
Williams is one of seven students in Washington, DC to receive the Gates Millennium Scholarship (GMS), which can be used to pursue a degree in any undergraduate major and selected graduate programs at accredited colleges or universities. This scholarship is dedicated to removing the financial barriers to education for high-performing, low-income students. Williams, who is among 96% of TMA students who live in DC’s most underserved communities, plans to double major in Biochemistry and Linguistics but is open to exploring different interest areas during his college career.
Williams joined a number of University of Rochester Facebook groups to meet fellow classmates of 2019. His goal is to make a seamless transition of going from a school where he knows everyone to a university where he will have to adjust to a new environment. Though he’ll be new to the University of Rochester, Williams is no stranger to college. In fact, he earned college credit during a dual enrollment program at the University of the District of Columbia Community College.
Williams, the second in his family to go to college, follows the example of his older sister. However, he admits that had it not been for the College Counseling Office at TMA, he wouldn’t have been as informed about extended resources and scholarship opportunities that will pay for his entire college career.
“I finished high school and I am going to college without having to take out any loans,” he said with gratitude. “The college counselors [at TMA] always have their doors open and provide so much support,” he ends.
On behalf of the entire Thurgood Marshall Academy community – the students, faculty, staff, and Board of Trustees – I congratulate you. You should be very proud of your hard work, academic progress, dedication to success, and your biggest achievement yet – high school graduation.
Today, take a moment to reflect on the grades you earned, the impact you made, the relationships you built, and the obstacles you faced along the way. Simply put – you are all shining stars. In order to keep your light shining bright, move boldly toward your future and work to achieve even greater milestones that lie ahead.
Lately, you all have been tackling the tasks of graduating seniors – college applications, AP testing, portfolio presentations, and class finals. Since your freshmen year, you have traveled quite a journey to get to this very point. You leave behind your contribution to Thurgood Marshall Academy’s legacy. It is bittersweet. But you are not alone.
I, too, just like you, am embarking on a new phase. As many of you know, this is my last year at Thurgood Marshall Academy. This graduation gives me a humbling opportunity to witness Thurgood Marshall Academy’s tradition of academic achievements through every one of you. As you walk across the stage and bask in warm congratulations from loved ones, I am confident that you will gracefully transition into a new beginning because of the support that you received from Thurgood Marshall Academy.
There is not one Thurgood Marshall Academy staff member who does not believe in you and your ability to change lives and inspire future generations. However, your commitment to your community does not end when you have a diploma in hand. Because Thurgood Marshall Academy has prepared you for college and to actively engage in our democratic society, you can expect doors of opportunity to open wide. But, it will be up to you to walk through the door.
You will go on to join a dedicated group of alumni, all of whom share your story of academic excellence, good citizenship, and Warrior pride.
Best wishes and continued success in the journey ahead,
Alexandra Pardo, Ed.D
TMA Senior Cer’cia Wallace, a first-generation college student, will earn a degree at Simmons College with the class of 2019. Taking on a double-major in International Relations and Gender Studies, Wallace aims to makes a difference in underdeveloped nations that face poverty, undermine the importance of education, and are behind on the Women’s Rights Movement.
“I don’t think I can address every global problem,” says Wallace, 18. “But if I can make a micro-difference in a nation that doesn’t value women or their right to an education or where abstract poverty is a tradition instead of what it really is: a problem that has a solution, I will feel accomplished.”
Wallace, whose current G.P.A is 3.3, learned more than academics at TMA. She credits TMA’s law-like curriculum to her appreciation for advocacy and other skills that go beyond the classroom. “I feel like people my age haven’t been exposed to advocacy or the need to stick up for yourself and others,” she said. “Meanwhile, TMA taught me this at 14, when I was just a freshman.”
Wallace was drawn to Simmons, a women’s college, because of its fitting environment that encourages students to form sisterhoods. Simmons College is miles away from Washington, DC, the place Wallace calls home, but she won’t be taking the seven-plus-hour journey to Boston alone. She is excited about having already formed a “sisterhood” with another TMA Senior who is also attending Simmons this fall.
Wallace and her fellow TMA classmate navigated the college process seamlessly with the support of TMA’s College Counseling Office. TMA’s full-time College and Alumni Programs staff is available for students, many of whom are first-generation college goers, who need help with the array of systematic procedures that go into applying for college, enrolling, and persisting throughout to graduation. If not for TMA, Wallace, like many of her peers who attend neighborhood schools, would not have access to resources that address the college enrollment process.
“At TMA, the philosophy is ‘you’re going to college. It’s not an option.’ I’m a first-generation [college student], so no one in my family could help me when I was applying for school. TMA filled that gap.”
Thurgood Marshall Academy’s faculty and staff are known for their dedication, adherence to academic rigor, and availability to students. Small class sizes ensure that all students get to know several faculty members who can guide and encourage them throughout high school and prepare them to succeed in college.
“I am going to miss my favorite teachers and the faculty that I built close relationships with,” said Wallace. “Everyone looks out for you at this school. I know once I graduate from TMA, the relationships won’t end, and I am thankful for that additional support. But at college, I’m going to have to learn how to make it on my own. TMA prepared me for that,” she ends.
“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 up 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.
TMA’s graduating class came together on May 12th during the College Acceptance Assembly, an annual event where seniors are gifted with a college T-shirt from the school they plan to attend in the fall. Freshmen, sophomores, and juniors marched into the gym, where the event took place, to cheer on the 70 seniors who have been accepted into an array of colleges and universities – American University, University of Pittsburgh, Delaware State University, and Temple University to name a few! The student body, faculty, staff, and parents joined the crowd of TMA supporters who roared with enthusiasm and applauded high achieving students who received scholarships and other recognition for outstanding excellence.
“All year long you have been working to get to this point,” said Sanjay Mitchell, Director of College & Alumni Programs. “In fact, for the past four years all of you have worked hard and now you are here, ready to graduate and attend college. I am proud of every one of you.”
Carlos McKnight, who will attend Daemen College, was awarded a $1,000 scholarship from Men of Community, a local organization that supports African-American male students who major in education or entrepreneurship related fields. Carlos’ hard work and dedication to a number of community service projects like the DC Mayor’s Youth Leadership Program and the debate team made him worthy of this scholarship.
Mr. Mitchell, who led the ceremony alongside Emma Levine, Alumni Program Manager, were proud to induct 13 seniors into the “1,000 club,” an honor for students who score 1,000 or higher on the Critical Reading and Math sections of the SAT. Sydni Foshee and Keneon Williams are not only new members of the elite club, but they received special awards for their extraordinary SAT scores – 1330 and 1250 respectively.
Having graduated more than 400 students since 2005 and staying true to our legacy of 100% college acceptance, TMA set a new record with senior and varsity basketball player Malik McMillan, TMA’s first scholar to receive a full athletics scholarship. With his parents and coaches looking on, he signed to play basketball at Barton College this fall.
“Today we made history,” said Michele Thompson, Athletic Director. “Not only am I proud of TMA’s tradition of 100% college acceptance, but I am thankful for a great coaching staff and a school committed to student athletes and the enhancement of our athletics program.”
To learn more about the colleges and universities that our students are accepted into each year, click here.
On Saturday, March 21st, the Thurgood Marshall Academy community took a trip to Motown for “Celebrating Our Roots.” Now in its fifth year, the annual program provides an avenue for students and the greater community to celebrate African and African-American culture and heritage through visual and performing arts. This year, TMA celebrated all things Motown, taking students, teachers, and families on an artistic and musical journey that explored the distinct sound of ‘60s and `70s Detroit.
Attendees began the morning by moving through an Art Walk, which featured hand-drawn portraits of Marvin Gaye by numerous TMA students. Following the Art Walk, the live performance kicked off with the familiar bass line of Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It through the Grapevine.” With TMA Senior, Aaron Parrish-Dean, acting as Marvin Gaye and the narrator, attendees were taken on a journey that shared the origins of the rich history and cultural influences of the Motown era. Attendees were treated to performances of eight Motown classics with an ensemble including TMA’s dance team, chorus, and band. Students and staff hand-picked each song to reflect a particular point in the history of Motown. The performance ended with a spirited rendition of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?”, while student performers connected the theme of social justice in the past to the present by referencing the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
This year’s “Celebrating Our Roots” was a bittersweet affair, as this is the final production for the creator of the program, Art Teacher Nafeesah Symonette. Reflecting on this year’s performance, Ms. Symonette said, “Celebrating Our Roots has become an anticipated event at Thurgood Marshall Academy and for good reason. In its fifth year we have explored many different genres of African and African–American culture for the purpose of not only preserving pieces of our history, but introducing it to a new audience. Our student population and surrounding community are involved in the creative process, which supports cross curricular learning and a sharing of community input and professional talent.”
Ms. Symonette organized the first Celebrating Our Roots event in 2011, and while she leaves behind some very large shoes to fill, the entire TMA community looks forward to continuing her work in the years to come!
District of Columbia Office of the State Superintendent of Education
Office of the State Superintendent
March 25, 2015
Dear students and families:
We are contacting you because on February 24, 2015, the District of Columbia Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) inadvertently released personally identifiable student data in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The disclosed data includes student names, dates of birth, grade levels, gender, race, ethnicity, English Language Learner classification, non-public attendance, special education status, school of attendance, reason for suspension/expulsion, dates of suspension/expulsion, truancy status, removal to an alternative setting, and unique student identifiers. Social security numbers were not part of the data.
Once OSSE identified this situation on Monday, March 23, we immediately took the following steps to protect your child’s data:
- Issued a Notice of Remediation to the FOIA requestor instructing them to cease and desist all use of the inadvertently disclosed data.
- Reported the issue to the Executive Office of the Mayor, and the U.S. Department of Education.
- Established a dedicated hotline, (202) 481-3400, and email address, email@example.com, to contact if you would like further information.
- Launched a thorough review of the agency’s data response process to ensure there are no further incidents of this nature.
In addition, we will be working with the deputy mayor for education and other education agencies in the District as part of a task force that will engage data privacy experts to ensure that DC becomes a leader in protecting student data privacy.
Please know that I recognize the serious and troubling nature of this breach. I apologize for this situation, and want to assure you that improving our security procedures will be one of my top priorities in my first weeks and months as State Superintendent of Education.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding this situation, or if you would like more information about the records concerning your student that were disclosed, you can contact our hotline at (202) 481-3400, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
State Superintendent of Education
810 1st Street NE, 9th Floor, Washington, DC 20002
Phone: (202) 727-6436 TTY: 711 • osse.dc.gov