For 15 years, Thurgood Marshall Academy has been providing college preparatory resources to students from Wards 7 and 8, DC’s most underserved neighborhoods. In addition to academically rigorous courses, a law-themed curriculum, and free after-school enrichment activities, TMA is one of a handful of schools in Southeast, DC that offers a full-service College Counseling Department. The College and Alumni team give students the tools they need to get into, enroll and succeed in, and graduate from college. Now, with a new partnership with Flamboyan Foundation’s Family Engagement in College Readiness Learning Program, TMA can continue to extend college access services to families by including parents and guardians in their student’s college career planning.
“Most of our students are first-generation college goers,” said Sanjay Mitchell, TMA’s Director of College and Alumni Programming. “Therefore, it’s key that their parents understand not just the college application process, but other elements like financing college, scholarship opportunities, financial aid requirements, and so much more.”
Working alongside Flamboyan Foundation, Mr. Mitchell developed a new family engagement initiative to incorporate into TMA’s college access program. Last year, parents were invited to join students on a five-day college tour for the junior class. Forty-four families participated in college programs that were specific to 11th graders, and 13 family members attended a TMA-coordinated college trip with their student.
TMA’s list of annual family engagement college activities also include Senior Parent College Night, Application Help Night, FAFSA Informational Night, Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Day, and FAFSA Tax Night. Approximately 90% of parents and families attended local in-school activities and college-planning workshops. “These programs shed light on the avenues that parents and families need to take so that they can be advocates for their student’s post-secondary career,” said Mr. Mitchell.
Recently, Flamboyan Foundation conducted focus group interviews with 12 TMA parents and families to learn how TMA makes them feel ‘welcomed,’ how this quality is influential in helping them, as parents, take an active role in their child’s academic success, and what areas TMA can improve upon to better engage families this school year. During the focus group interviews, which were hosted on-site at TMA, parents and students alike shared that teachers have proven to have the ability to address academic challenges and work closely with students to develop a plan of action.
Flamboyan Foundation partners with TMA and college counselors from four other high schools that participate in a professional learning community to share best practices and findings about family engagement in college readiness programs across the District.
This year, Mr. Mitchell will continue to develop a program for families to help students persist at the college where they originally enroll.