Senior Class Raises the Bar and Breaks Records

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

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

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






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

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

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

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

My Personal Statement Challenge: Earica’s Story

IMG_0083Earica Parrish (TMA ’13) didn’t know that several failed attempts at writing her personal statement for college would ironically lead her on a journey to major in Magazine Journalism, a writing-intensive field. During her senior year at TMA, she felt confident after submitting her nicely typed, double-spaced, 2-page, 700 word final essay that explained why her college of choice would be lucky to have her as a student.


College Counseling Team Springs into Action

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

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

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

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

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

The Junior Class College Tour: March 28-30

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

The 7th Annual Spring College Fair: April 14

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

Junior Class College Trip: April 20

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

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

A Gift of Song: Angel’s Story

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


Celebrating Our Roots All Month Long

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

TMA’s College Counseling Department in Action

Voss-TMA161The College Counseling Team works year-round to equip students and their families with the resources they need to take on a college career. Staying true to our mission to prepare students to succeed in college, TMA invests in a full-time department dedicated to college counseling and alumni relations. For the past decade, the department has achieved many goals—100% college acceptance rate for 11 years in a row and graduating over 500 students, 90% of whom enroll in college immediately after high school and graduate college at rates higher than their neighborhood peers.

Voss-TMA163Mr. Mitchell, Director of College and Alumni Programming and Mr. Winder, Associate College Counselor, are committed to seeing students succeed in college. They lead students on this new and, in some cases, challenging journey every step of the way. From college tours and help with college and scholarship applications to financial planning workshops for families, students have a go-to-source to seek answers to the lingering question that all high school seniors ask—“what’s next?”

Most recently, our senior class worked with 40 volunteers from Accenture, Howard University School of Law, and the local community on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the national of day of service. Students teamed up with volunteers to review more than 50 college scholarships and complete applications. The day-long event also included an impactful workshop that introduced juniors to a variety of summer leadership programs and other enrichment activities that prepare them for college.

P1040120As a way to provide additional support to seniors who need help completing their college applications, TMA hosted its annual College Application Help Night. The evening was dedicated to seniors who work one-on-one with mentors, faculty, and staff to revise their personal statements, navigate the online application process, and write appealing responses to short-answer-questions that are typically included in applications.

Students learn about the variety of scholarships and their eligibility requirements and go through the college application process in Senior Seminar, a course that introduces students to ‘all-things-college.’ But with other programs like the annual College Fair, students are exposed to a number of colleges and universities in addition to other areas of interest that may be worth pursuing after graduation.

“Along with resources that support the students who are planning to go to college and have made that commitment, the college counseling department goes a step further,” said Mr. Mitchell. “It is important to nurture a student’s strengths and listen to their interests that may not necessarily be to attend college right away. So for those students, what is a lucrative next step?” Many of these graduates go on to pursue careers in the US Navy, US Army, police or firefighters academies, and other careers that contain a significant element of community service.

What makes the College and Alumni Programs Department unique is that Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Winder maintain relationships with alumni long after they graduate. Every semester, they make surprise visits to students attending college to encourage them, check in on their progress, and gift them with care packages. Recently, the team took a road trip to upstate New York and visited eight alumni at five universities. The two-day trip started at Daeman College in Buffalo where they caught up with Carlos McKnight (TMA 15′), who is adjusting well to life-on-campus as president of the freshmen class. This semester, the College Counseling Team plans to visit TMA alumni enrolled at colleges in the Raleigh and Durham areas of North Carolina.

Richard Pohlman Named Permanent Executive Director


Richard Pohlman, Executive Director

Dear members of the Thurgood Marshall Academy community,

On behalf of the Board of TMA, I am pleased to announce that Richard Pohlman has been appointed the permanent executive director of Thurgood Marshall Academy. In August, Rich began his role as the school’s interim executive director; since that time, he has proven to be an effective and inspiring leader and a great fit for the TMA community.

As the school’s third executive director, Rich will continue to oversee all areas of school operations, lead our strategic planning initiatives, and work directly with the board, families, and staff to fulfill the school’s mission and build on TMA’s successes.

As we shared in the fall, Rich is an experienced leader with more than a decade of experience in the Washington education, legal, and policy sectors. He was most recently the Chief of Operations and Policy at E.L. Haynes Public Charter School, overseeing the daily operations and budgets across three schools, and he served as its Acting Head of School with the departure of founder Jennie Niles. Rich also has classroom experience working with upper elementary and middle school students.

As we continue the school year, Rich will prioritize filling the Head of School position. He will also lead the school’s ongoing efforts to explore the possibility of replication.

Rich has my enthusiastic support and that of my colleagues on the Board. With your continued support of TMA and Rich’s immense experience and track record of proven success, we are confident that TMA will remain among the highest performing high schools in the city.

Thank you for your dedication to our students’ futures. Your support continues to have a profound impact on their lives.

With best wishes,


Kannon Shanmugam
Chairman of the Board of Trustees

Tech Gurus Inspire Students to Take on STEM Careers

P1040071Thurgood Marshall Academy celebrated Computer Science Education Week, the largest education event in history, with tech-gurus Pat Yongpradit, Chief Academic Officer of, La Tara Harris, AT&T’s Area Manager of External and Legislative Affairs, and Marty Rodgers, Managing Director of Accenture’s Washington, DC office. During a school-wide assembly earlier this week, the team of executive-level professionals encouraged students to take advantage of the many computer science resources TMA has to offer. Now, with a check of $10,000 from, TMA can continue to expand its computer science efforts and buy new computer hardware for students.

P1040054To kick off the week, TMA joined 60 million students from across the country and participated in an “Hour of Code”, an international campaign that empowers students to learn the dynamics of computer coding and programming. U.S. Chief Technology Officer, Megan Smith, was in attendance and wowed students when she introduced them to the number of careers that are available for students interested in STEM. STEM careers continue to be among the fastest growing fields due to the speed and depth of technology. Ms. Smith admitted that her passion for technology started in high school where she had “a lot of amazing teachers and experiences that I’m thankful for. Science lab was mandatory and math was a requirement,” she said of her high school.

P1040068Ms. Smith’s high school experiences sound a lot like those of TMA students. In fact, TMA’s longstanding efforts to provide a high-quality, college-preparatory curriculum that incorporates computer science into all grade-level course work were evident during the assembly as students participated in a coding activity that most computer science majors embark on in college. TMA students have an advantage according to Ms. Harris of AT&T who said, “you all are really blessed. You have a lot of resources here, within these walls, and teachers that love you and want to see you go far.”

P1040067Mr. Yongpradit, who presented TMA with the check, went on to give students advice on how to land a competitive tech job, many of which start off at $70,000 a year. Aside from mentioning major steps like taking a computer science course and getting an internship, Mr. Yongpradit also encouraged students to go to college—reinforcing TMA’s unique college culture.

Erica Culbreath, TMA Biology teacher who submitted the winning application, noted that TMA’s college culture offers a wealth of options to help students prepare for a number of ventures after TMA. In an interview with EdScoop, she said “even though we’re a law-themed school, we don’t turn out a bunch of lawyers. It’s all about exposing students to different career paths.”

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.

TMA: Being new to the TMA team, how do you plan to connect with alumni? A lot of your job involves stewarding TMA alumni and ensuring their seamless progression through college. How do you plan to show that you’re here for them?

A: The most meaningful part of my work is that the college team travels to see the students after they have made it to their college/university. While I may not have known many alumni while they were students, this element of the position gives me an extended opportunity to bond and connect with students while they’re at college. I’m a recent graduate, and because of that, I feel that I can relate with students, particularly those who are college freshmen and college seniors. Freshmen experience a lot of new changes, especially if they decide to go to school far from home. Sometimes the adjusting can be a bit overwhelming. I went to school about five hours away from home so I can understand that pressure of not being able to come home for small breaks or non-major holidays. But by visiting them, they get a piece of home right on campus. For seniors, I understand the value of internships and having an exit plan after graduation. For me, I took on a volunteer position that landed me at TMA. A year later, I was hired. Another part of my position is to share internship, job, and other opportunities with students on a regular basis. This is another touch-point that introduces me to students and helps to keep me connected. Social media is another resource that the College Counseling Department uses to stay in touch with alumni. By making myself present and visible on the TMA Alumni Facebook Page, I hope to create a comforting space for them to contact me through social media or at the school.

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.