Story of an Ivy Leaguer Inspires Students to Pursue College

P1020799Early last week, TMA 11th and 12th graders spent the morning engaging with award-winning author Jeff Hobbs as he shared excerpts and passages from his New York Times bestseller “The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League.” The story documents the 30-year-life of his college roommate, Robert Peace, who was brutally murdered—a violent killing that Hobbs says was “pointless.” During an emotional question-and-answer segment with students, Hobbs, who calls Peace his “best friend,” recounted the testimonies of Peace’s loved ones whose reflections gave the book a raw truth that nurtured Peace’s love for learning and genuine nature.

As the question-and-answer segment progressed, TMA students discovered many common factors that they shared with Peace, a Black student who grew up in a poverty-stricken neighborhood outside of Newark, New Jersey. The area that Peace called ‘home’ was a city where college graduation rates are among the lowest in the country, much like the District’s Wards 7 and 8, where more than 85% of Thurgood Marshall Academy students reside. In spite of his zip code, however, Peace defied the odds, graduated high school, and attended Yale University. Since 2005, Thurgood Marshall Academy has graduated more than 500 alumni, all of whom were accepted to college, and in 2014, one student made history as Thurgood Marshall Academy’s first senior to be accepted into an Ivy League institution—Yale University, Peace’s alma mater.P1020802

Peace graduated after four years at Yale, where he double-majored in biochemistry and biophysics. “Aside from being Black, he was a typical Yale student. Rob [Peace] was smart. At Yale, not everyone will like a Black male who will debate you and win. He’d usually win,” said Hobbs. As Hobbs delved deeper into Peace’s story, students were surprised to learn that Yale University was, in fact, Peace’s ‘safety school.’ His first choice was Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

P1020795 “On behalf of myself and the student body, I want to thank you for sharing this inspiring read with the world,” said one student to Hobbs, who read the 400-page novel in three days. “It has taught us that in spite of someone’s background and situations that they can still aim for and go to college.” Each student received a copy of the book, which Hobbs later signed during a meet-and-greet with each student.

“I hope that all of you [students] will go home and read this book,” said Richard Pohlman, Executive Director of Thurgood Marshall Academy. After he thanked Hobbs for leading the dynamic discussion and visiting the school, he told students that “when you read someone’s story, you, somehow, feel connected to and can relate to a character. And that inspires a change in you.”

In addition to documenting Peace’s life, the story outlines common college experiences. This month, TMA seniors, most of whom are first generation college-goers, will begin the college application process. While the majority of students enter Thurgood Marshall Academy with reading and math skills below grade level, all graduating seniors are accepted to college and are earning degrees at higher rates than their peers nationally.

Meet Mr. Winder, TMA’s New Alumni Program and College Associate

ART_4438Torrance Winder, TMA’s new Alumni Program and College Associate, opens up about how the work TMA does to ensure our students have a college career is invaluable. He recently set a new school record by overseeing the College Success Foundation DC Achievers application process in which 88% of the junior class completed scholarship applications for up to $63,000.

In Part 1 of this Q&A Series, Mr. Winder acknowledges TMA’s mission to prepare students to succeed in college. He, along with the College Counseling Department, cultivates lasting relationships with alumni to support their journeys through college, graduate school, and full-time employment.

TMA: Tell us more about the importance of incorporating a college counseling and alumni programs option into a college preparatory school.

A: The support that our department gives to our students and alumni is a reflection of TMA’s knowledge of how important these resources are to our students and their future as college-goers. Throughout the year, we help seniors find and apply for scholarships, complete FASFA applications, enroll in college, and we chaperone all-expense-paid college tours. For juniors, we ensure that they’re all taking SAT prep courses, learning about the intense college application process, and attending college fairs. For every grade level, we provide resources that get the students not just thinking about college, but putting forth the effort that ensures they get into one. Because TMA understands that resources aren’t always readily available, our goal is to support students at school. Rather than having a need to go elsewhere to get support, at TMA, students figure out their next steps after graduation. Once they’re alumni, the department is just as invested in making sure that our students have a definite resource no matter what school, job, or program they join after high school.

TMA: What is the most popular trend that you see among students with regard to the college application process? How do you adjust to those trends and provide students with educated advice?

A: For juniors in particular, I’ve noticed a trend that I call an “instant-gratification-mindset.” While most of them realize that college is a lot closer than it was in the 9th grade year, some of them see the feat as a 2-year plan that’s further away. Therefore, they think they have more time than they actually do to get their grades up or to start college planning. But that’s where the College Counseling Department comes in at and that’s why college planning is actually part of the curriculum here at TMA. A lot of efforts that are voluntary at most schools are required at TMA. Juniors go to mandatory Law Firm Tutoring where they have a set amount of time to complete Homework assignments and other projects that are mandatory for the college planning process. We also host a mandatory Junior College Night, in which 11th graders and a parent, guardian or loved one, are introduced to the college application process. Just a few weeks ago, we coordinated a Case Studies Program activity that all juniors were required to participate in. Students acted as admissions counselors and accepted and denied applicants based on cognitive and non-cognitive factors that gave them a real-life look inside what it takes to get accepted to a college.

TMA: What are some of the challenges that you have with families and what techniques do you use to get them more involved in their student’s college journey?

A: Typically, challenges include a lack of parents’ inclusion within their child’s academic and collegiate search process. It is our responsibility as a department to introduce the college experience not only to students, but to their parents as well. College decisions are contingent on both the students’ and parents’ wisdom so both parties need to be informed about financing college, academic programs and majors, school culture, location, and ultimately if it’s a good fit. Many of our students are first-generation college-goers, so it’s increasingly important to introduce their families to this new journey since, whether directly or indirectly, they will all be part of it. This year, we have piloted a Family Engagement Program that works with the students’ families to give them an opportunity to become more invested and hands-on in their child’s college journey.

Next week, be sure to check out Part 2 in this Q&A Series where Mr. Winder discusses TMA’s college culture and personal accolades that make him feel well equipped to take on this new role as Alumni Program and College Associate.

Thurgood Marshall Academy Students Significantly Outperform the District on PARCC Exam

WASHINGTON – The PARCC scores released today show that Thurgood Marshall Academy (TMA) students continue to significantly outperform city averages and the school remains one of the best high schools in the District of Columbia.

PARCC is a Common Core aligned assessment of K-12 students in English language arts/literacy (ELA) and mathematics.  The new assessment replaced the DC CAS in reading, composition and mathematics last year. Because it is more rigorous and presents a fuller picture of student learning, it is considered to be a better indicator of college and career readiness for students. Results are scored on a level of 1 to 5; a Level 3 indicates that students are “approaching” readiness, while a Level 4 indicates “attainment.”

TMA’s tenth graders participated in the Geometry and ELA II exams. In ELA, 56.6% earned Level 4 or higher and 77.1% of students earned a Level 3 or higher, outperforming the citywide averages of 25% (at or above Level 4) and 42% (at or above Level 3). In Geometry, 13.1% earned Level 4 and 59.5% of students earned a Level 3 or higher, outperforming the citywide averages of 10% (at or above Level 4) and 34% (at or above Level 3). Additionally, more than 58% of students labeled as “economically disadvantaged” scored at or above a 4 in ELA, as compared with the city average of 16.5%.

“We are truly proud of our students, our teachers, and our staff. This is a testament to all of their hard work,” said Richard Pohlman, TMA’s Interim Executive Director. “While the test indicates that a great number of our students are on track to graduate college ready, our staff and faculty continue to focus on ensuring that all of our students have the tools necessary to succeed in college and beyond.”

When the District announced the transition to PARCC in 2011, TMA took a number of steps to prepare, including aligning curriculum, instruction, and assessments with the new, more rigorous Common Core standards. “Our leadership, faculty, and staff have worked to revise our curriculum to meet the demands of the common core state standards,” said Kena Allison, the school’s Interim Head of School who has also served as a TMA science teacher and instructional coach for several years. “We continue to work diligently to make sure our students are ready for the rigors of a college education.”

PARCC 2015 Test Results


More information about PARCC can be found at


About Thurgood Marshall Academy: Founded in 2001, Thurgood Marshall Academy’s mission is to prepare students to succeed in college and actively engage in our democratic society. Thurgood Marshall Academy is an open enrollment public charter high school in Ward 8’s Anacostia. It is one of the highest performing non-selective high schools in the District and serves 400 students. The school upholds Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s legacy of equal opportunity through its commitment to providing an excellent education for all students.

Clubs In Action: The Green Club


Ms. Lee (center) introduces students to the Green Club during TMA’s annual Club’s Fair.

Since the beginning of the school year, the Green Club has organized three Farm Stands, a wholesale event where faculty, staff, and the community can buy fresh fruits and vegetables that were grown at TMA’s on-site garden. The Green Club is one of the oldest clubs at TMA, established in 2007, and is advised by Ms. Lee, a Social Studies teacher with a passion for all-things-green. She works alongside the Green Club Coordinator to introduce students to the dynamics of maintaining a healthy garden.

At the heart of TMA’s Green Club, the garden serves two purposes:

  • To teach students strategies for well-being through healthy food choices, nutritional literacy, and physical education
  • To provide a location for garden-based lessons that support academic achievement

“The Green Club gives people a chance to see how eating healthy looks,” said 12th-grader George Marshall, who is a Green Club veteran. Serving on the club for the past four years, Marshall often encourages his mother to make better cooking choices. “I tell my mom to use fresh fruits and vegetables instead of factory foods. She hasn’t been able to attend a Farm Stand yet, but I always take produce home so that she will have better and healthier options to cook with,” said Marshall.

The Farm Stand is open to the public every Thursday after school.

Students plant and harvest year-round with hopes to use the garden as a longstanding resource to combat unhealthy eating choices in the Anacostia area.

tma garden

A member of the Green Club leads a Garden Tour.

The Green Club gives Marshall and the community access to fresh crops during every season. Taking a tour of the TMA garden would take a ‘tourist’ through weeds that uncover sun gold cherry tomatoes, yellow pear tomatoes, bell peppers, swiss chard, kale, okra, beets, chives, thyme, sage and other herbs, string beans, butternut squash, tomatoes, carrots, sorrel, and even flowers to create bouquets.

Next month, the club and a few volunteers will work together to ‘winterize’ the garden and “get it ready for the colder months so that all of the plants, fruits and veggies will be able to survive throughout the winter.” Marshall is looking forward to the all-hands-on-deck process that includes planting, building hoop houses, pruning, and mulching. “The Green Club doesn’t just encourage students to eat healthier, but it’s also an opportunity for all students to pitch in and be involved in maintaining the garden, which takes a lot of work and commitment,” said Marshall.

The Green Club also leads cooking demonstrations that showcase their favorite healthy meals. Marshall and the Green Club have made a number of dishes including roasted peppers, butternut squash soup (Marshall’s all-time favorite), and fruit pies. Homemade pasta sauce is next on the menu as the students make use of the remaining roma tomatoes.



A Pathway to Success: Dominique’s Story


Dominique Griffin (TMA ’09) is awarded with a certificate after completing a year-long program with the Peace Corps.

Dominique Griffin (TMA ’09) is the newest member of Pathways, TMA’s monthly giving program. A notable alumna who has done service work in underdeveloped countries, spent a year in the Peace Corps, and served as a mentor for TMA’s Mentorship Program, Dominique says the activities and programs at TMA gave her an open-mind that empowered her to make a difference. Now, the Pathways Monthly Giving Program is, as Dominique puts it, “a chance to give back.”


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.


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 a more 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.



Programs Director Gives Insight on Enrichment Activities

HBGIn this Q&A, Thurgood Marshall Academy’s Program Director, Brandelyn Anderson, sheds light on the importance of enrichment activities and after-school programs. She is head of the Programs Department, which manages and implements more than 20 diverse programs that students participate in every day after school. The programs are designed to expand the learning experience and to introduce students to a number of specialties that help them discover hidden talents. Mrs. Anderson also started the Happy Black Girls Club, a ladies-only program that focuses on building self-esteem.

TMA: Why is it important for students to have a range of extra-curricular programming to participate in?
Mrs. Anderson: High school students are in a really interesting place in life. Quite naturally, at this stage in their lives, they are trying to figure out who they are. By offering a variety of extracurricular programing, we give students a myriad of avenues to explore their interests and talents.


TMA: There appears to be a nice balance between academic related programming like Homework Help, Law Firm Tutoring, and Law Day and social clubs like the fashion club, dance club and drama club. Explain the importance of making both options available for students.
Mrs. Anderson: Law Firm tutoring and Law Day are programs that were designed to enhance the law theme of Thurgood Marshall Academy. Students receive grades or credit for these mandatory programs that give students a closer look at what it means to advocate for themselves and their peers. By providing these unique law related services, students learn legal skills that they can apply to their everyday lives. Programs like homework help were deigned to create a safe, quiet space for students to simply complete their assignments before they go home. With additional access to resources such as the computer lab, library and printers, as well as teachers and tutors who provide one-on-one attention, they learn to prioritize school work and projects. But, TMA also want students to have creative outlets. So that’s where clubs like the Fashion Club or the Drama Club come into play. Students are able to embrace deeper talents that can be nurtured through segmented programs and clubs. The range of creative outlets give students a borderless space to explore buried truths about themselves that eventually come to life.


TMA: How do all programs enrich students’ academics and explain how participation in these programs make college applications more attractive?
Mrs. Anderson: Any college admissions counselor will admit that a 4.0 GPA isn’t the only accomplishment they’re looking for on college applications. Today, a student with a 3.5 GPA and a long list of leadership experience, work experience, and community service experience makes a student attractive and a college application all the more impressive. Participating in enrichment programs enable students to learn how to manage time, prioritize their work load, create systems of success for themselves, and discover hidden talents and interests; these are qualities that are attractive to any college admissions counselor.


TMA: How do students respond to programs that build their characters? How have you seen a change in their performance?
Mrs. Anderson: Students are often leery of programs that are designed to build character. However, once the space is determined to be a safe space, free of judgement where they can be themselves, students begin to blossom and put aside their initial fears. I started the group HBG (Happy Black Girls) as a way to celebrate positivity and happiness with Black women. I handpicked a group of girls who, I discovered, needed a little more extra support and love. I remember the girls being extremely hesitant at the first HBG meeting. They were afraid to open up and let go. But after our first meeting, the girls began thinking of each other as sisters. In that moment, they began to grow. The girls went from having several detentions in one day, failing classes and having high absences, to passing major projects like portfolio with a B or higher, making honor roll and excelling in AP and honors classes. HBG has had a tremendous impact for sure.


TMA: How can partnerships and grants help sustain programs?
Mrs. Anderson: Outside partnerships help students get a fresh perspective. They have resources and programmatic ideas that the school would not otherwise be able to tap into. Programs like SeaPerch teach students how to build underwater robots. HERO, a youth development type of program, works with our young men to provide them with life skills and scholarship opportunities that TMA would not otherwise have access to. Without grants and the generous support of our donors, we wouldn’t be able to have a robust programs department at TMA. We offer more than 20 after-school and enrichment programs. More than 80% of our students participate in these programs. Because of the extra financial support and investment that our donors make, our students have access to wrap-around supports that enhance what they learn in the classroom and give them the opportunities to explore the world before them.



Mrs. Anderson participates in Anti-bullying week

TMA: What is your vision for the Programs department next school year?
Mrs. Anderson: I would like to have more student input on the types of programs we create. Our students have unique and diverse needs. The good news is that if we work alongside students, they can communicate what they hope to get out of the Programs Department and can express the types of activities that will give them a better high school experience and empower them for college. Student input is key. In fact, the Student Government Association (SGA), advised by the Programs Department but led by the students, has taken an active role in voicing what students need and holding the Programs Department accountable for exploring new options. For example, last year’s SGA team worked closely with the Programs Department to plan a series of events for the school’s first-ever Anti-bullying Week, which celebrates student differences and fights against bullying in schools. Students from each grade participated in school-wide events that included a screening and open discussion of the movie ‘Bully’ and a crafts event where students designed T-shirts to wear during the week’s ‘Difference Day,’ the finale event that allowed students to respectfully showcase their differences.


TMA: Any new clubs this year?
Mrs. Anderson: This year we have a Model UN, The Smithsonian Youth Advisory Council, Drama Club, Fashion Club, Anime Club, HBB (Happy Black Brothers), and the Black Awareness Club.



A Basketball Challenge Taken Off the Court: A Coach’s Story

When Thurgood Marshall Academy was in search of a head coach for the Varsity and Junior Varsity Men’s Basketball teams, Lafayette Dublin’s name surfaced on many occasions. A year prior, Dublin brought a Maryland high school basketball team to victory, finishing the season with an 18-5 win-loss record. The bigger victory, though, was Dublin’s ability to implement strategies that benefit players on and off the court, making him a great fit for the Warriors.

Thurgood Marshall AcadmeyWhen Dublin started in 2014, student athletes were quick to find that his approach to prioritizing academics was non-negotiable. “You can’t play without the grades,” he says. All students participating in the athletic program must maintain a 2.0 GPA or higher. “I tell them, ‘eventually these will give out,’” said Dublin as he pointed to his knees. “So they must have a plan B.”

Dublin, who believes ‘discipline starts on the court,’ requires the team to uphold values and standards that set the tone for their futures. For example, if a student is late to practice, he is given a verbal warning and then written up if the behavior escalates. Consistent violations of other requirements can lead to a student being dropped from the team. “By following these rules, students are prepared for the real world,” he said. “It’s not just about basketball. It’s the game of life.”

The team initially had seven players (Junior Varsity and Varsity combined) in the fall of 2014, but ended with 22 students, who affectionately dub Dublin “Coach Laf.” But with a growing team, Dublin faced a new challenge.

DSC_6426In Maryland, Dublin coached student athletes who had access to a wealth of resources. But in neighborhoods like Ward 8, home to many of the players, the cost to maintain extra-curricular activities can be a financial strain on some families. In order to meet those family’s needs, Dublin, who played college basketball at Towson University, leveraged relationships with former teammates and respectfully “asked that they give back to the kids.” After just one phone call to his contact at Under Armour, the team was gifted with back-packs, practice uniforms, sneakers, t-shirts, and other sporting gear throughout the season.

“You never know where helping a kid from TMA will lead you. This school has a 100% college acceptance rate,” said Dublin, acknowledging that a higher education pays off. According to Dublin, Under Armour’s gesture to give back to TMA’s youth is a big investment in students’ quality of life. “For every kid you help play a sport, you are also helping a kid learn values, discipline, and accountability.”


Dublin (standing far right) beems with pride when Malik McMillian (center) signs to play basketball at Barton College on a full athletic scholarship.

Dublin is committed to the team’s success, and he acknowledges players who have achieved many goals in just one year. Former player Malik McMillian (TMA ‘15) made history as TMA’s first graduate to earn a full athletic scholarship. Initially ineligible to play on the team due to his grades, McMillian went on to increase his GPA and maintained a B-average for the entire season. Another player on the team received the District of Columbia State Athletic Association (DCSAA) scholarship for distinguished academic, leadership, and sportsmanship achievements. “This is why I coach. These kids are willing to put in hard work to win on and off the court,” he ends.

Last season, the team had a 20-8 record, including the big playoff victory. The 2015-16 basketball season starts November 2nd.


Law At Thurgood Marshall Academy

In 2001, Thurgood Marshall Academy was founded on legal principles that serve as teaching tools that educate and empower students. Now, fifteen years later, Thurgood Marshall Academy is recognized as Washington, DC’s only law-themed high school, a recognition that sets our curriculum apart. Consciously interweaving the elements of law and democracy into students’ academics exposes them to effective ways that they can advocate for change, make a difference in society, and stand up for their rights and the rights of their peers—much like the school’s namesake, Thurgood Marshall, who led the historic Brown v. Board of Education case that outlawed the policy of “separate but equal” and ensures that all students receive an excellent, quality education.

Fifteen years ago, law students and attorneys at Georgetown University were enrolled in a “Street Law” course that inspired them to establish Thurgood Marshall Academy. During the course, they completed a project that gave them a rare opportunity to teach local high school students about the law and their rights. Assigned to a neighborhood high school in Ward 8—now home of Thurgood Marshall Academy—the Street Law students became aware that there was a lack of opportunities that provided academic and emotional support to students.

The school’s founder Josh Kern, who was enrolled in the course at the time, grew committed to put the “Street Law” program into practice and provide equal education resources for students east of the river. But when he pursued the idea to bring legal principles to high school students with the goal of setting students on a path to college, doubt from professionals in the field soon followed. Those skeptical of the initiative thought “opening a high school to any student and have them prepared to be successful in college wasn’t something we could do,” Kern recently told Politico magazine.

Considering that students in Wards 7 and 8, DC’s most underserved communities, were not getting the academic and educational resources that their more privileged counterparts received, Kern was motivated by the legacy of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. His commitment to provide all students with equal opportunity no matter their race, background, or their family’s financial aptitude was the driving force that sparked Thurgood Marshall Academy’s creation in 2001.

The need for a school dedicated to student success was just as relevant when TMA was founded as it is now. Richard Pohlman, the school’s new interim Executive Director acknowledged the concerning issue saying “in reflecting on the start of school I was drawn to our community namesake. Mr. Thurgood Marshall was a tenacious individual and tireless advocate; his name is nearly synonymous with the desegregation of schools.  Yet today, the educational injustices Mr. Marshall fought against persist for our students.”

It is increasingly important that TMA practices a law-themed curriculum and discovers new ways to incorporate ideals of advocacy, democracy, and equality into students’ course work. We envision that this prepares our students to be leaders who are compelled to actively engage in our democratic society. Like Justice Thurgood Marshall, they too can make a difference and can reinvent history.

Thurgood Marshall Acadmey


To keep our law-themed curriculum fresh and relevant, Thurgood Marshall Academy relies upon the expertise of attorneys to heighten its law-themed curriculum, which continues to:

  • Encourage students to engage in our democratic society.
  • Implement legal skills—Research, Argumentation, Critical Thinking, Advocacy, and Negotiation—into every area of study including mathematics and science.
  • Teach students the skills that lawyers have—the ability to solve complex problems, think critically, and advocate persuasively for themselves and their communities.
  • Provide opportunities for students to engage with seasoned lawyers through an array of enrichment activities including mandatory law-firm tutoring, Law Days, and participation in Georgetown University’s Street Law program.
  • Explore the roles of politicians and other pertinent government leaders during high-profile school visits and guided tours.
  • Bring the relevance of the US Supreme Court and other justice-related institutions to life during class field trips.
  • Prepare students to succeed in local and national debate tournaments, oratory competitions, and mock trials.


TMA’s Executive Director Pens Open Letter to Supporters


Interim Executive Director Richard Pohlman

Dear Friends,

Welcome to school year 2015-2016!  I am Richard Pohlman, the new Interim Executive Director for Thurgood Marshall Academy.  I am excited to join this wonderful community of families, educators and partners.  I hope to have the opportunity to meet each and every one of you this year to share my goals for the school and hear what makes this school special to each of you.

This year, we celebrate our 15th year of helping our students meet their goals for college and beyond. Since opening, TMA has become one of the city’s top performing high schools and boasts some of the highest growth rates in the city. This success is due, in no small part, to our dedicated teachers and staff who work tirelessly for that all important “Aha!” moment.

However, our success would not be possible without your support as well. When I talk to students, they routinely tell me how much visiting law firms, working with mentors, interning at companies, and meeting professional adults mean to their education. Faculty also share stories of recent graduates like Sydni, who interned at the physics lab at the University of Maryland during her tenth grade year. That Job Shadow Day experience inspired her to pursue a career in astrophysics, and she is currently attending the University of Pittsburgh. You make a direct and meaningful impact on our students through these experiences – thank you.

While we have many things to celebrate, we also have room to grow.  We must continue to commit to education equity for all our students in the District of Columbia.  To better serve our community, I have three goals for the year: transition the school to independently serving our special needs students; work with city administration and community members to replicate the school in the near future to increase our impact; and address questions about student attrition, specifically the number of students leaving in the ninth and tenth grades.

In addition, I want to re-engage partners who have helped TMA over the first 15 years so that we can increase our reach and impact through the city.  You can do this in many different ways – direct financial support, tutoring, supporting our alumni, or just sending a note of encouragement to a teacher or student. I look forward to learning more from you about ways you are interested in investing in the lives of our students and their families.

Finally, I invite you to visit TMA and see our work in action – tour the school, visit classrooms, and hear directly from me and other leaders about our work this year.

Again, thanks for your support, and I look forward to meeting you.


Richard Pohlman
Interim Executive Director