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Interschool Seminar: Breaking down barriers through student led discussions

Thurgood Marshall Academy hosted the Interschool Seminar on February 21st. The event, now in its second year, brings DC public, private, and charter high school students together to voice their opinions on issues important to them. TMA students, along with students from Ballou, SEED, Georgetown Day, Sidwell Friends, Burke, and St. Johns, led discussions on current events and social issues.

The event was created by Cosby Hunt, a senior teaching and learning officer at Inspired Teaching who serves on the advisory board of Mikva Challenge. In an article on, he stated his belief “that history is relevant, meaningful, and alive in the minds and imaginations of students today.”

Ms. Lee, Social Studies Teacher, said “the event is also about having students gain a new perspective by engaging with other students they wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to talk with to. It’s a way to break down barriers around similarities and differences of their peers.”

The evening began in the school’s library, where students enjoyed pizza and learned about each other’s schools. They then moved to classrooms where students facilitated discussions on the following topics: “Aziz Ansari, Sexual Assault, and Cultural Norms”; “Black Diaspora in US”; “Sex Trafficking”; and “Scientific Racism.”

Menkhuta Whaley, a TMA senior who facilitated the Black Diaspora in US discussion, reflected on her involvement with the event. “What I liked about these discussions is that they were organized and led by students. We chose the topics and we were part of the dialogue.”

Students sign-in for the Interschool Seminar

Comic Book Day at TMA

Today’s release of the Black Panther movie was a perfect backdrop to TMA’s Comic Book Day. Ms. Barker, the school’s librarian, said, “I wanted to create an event that focused on some of our more reluctant readers, to get them interested in reading. I also wanted a space for students who love to “geek out” and share their love of comics in a judgement-free zone.”

Last school year, Ms. Barker reached out to the local store of Third Eye Comics, the largest comic book store in the U.S. and they agreed to partner on an event at the school. This is the second year of Comic Book Day, and teachers from TMA’s English Department suggested students who would benefit from the event.

Held in the school library, students received free comics and enjoyed pizza, while engaging in conversations with each other as well as with Third Eye staff member Rachel Tilley. They were animated as they discussed topics ranging from why Black Panther is so popular, to which comic book character is the most powerful superhero.

“I’m glad that we were able to excite the students who have said that they don’t like reading,” Barker said. Hopefully seeing examples of a different writing style, with graphics and images of heroes, will spark their curiosity.”

Why Teacher Academy Matters

The start of the school year begins with Teacher Academy, an intensive two-week professional development training for new and returning faculty and staff. The Academy allows new staff to get acquainted with Thurgood Marshall Academy’s (TMA) culture and provides a framework of collaboration, inspiration and drive for the year.

At the end of the 2016-17 school year, teachers participated in a series of facilitated sessions reflecting on areas of strength and growth as a school. Together, staff chose focus areas that would most powerfully impact instructional culture and student achievement. The Academic Leadership Team spent the summer crafting a Teacher Academy schedule that provided uninterrupted time to continue and expand on academics and culture.

Alexa Stevens, 9th grade Spanish teacher, was grateful to start the school year with Teacher Academy. “I am in year two of my teaching career, so the Academy centered me from my summer vacation and brought my full attention back to my role.” Teaching Spanish was not what Stevens planned when she joined TMA in 2015 as an academic volunteer on the College Counseling team. As her volunteer year was coming to an end, Stevens was asked to teach Spanish during summer school. During those five weeks, she realized how much she enjoyed being in front of students and quickly expressed an interest in applying for the open Spanish teacher position in 2016.

Fast forward two years, Stevens has many benefits to add to the list. “This time is needed to make sure my team and I are prepared for success. I spent last year finding my teacher voice and building my tool kit. Teacher Academy gave me time to reflect on what worked, unpack tricky scenarios with my academic team, provide input on school and academic culture, and most importantly, spend time getting to know my 9th grade team.”

The work completed by TMA faculty and staff during the Academy will continue throughout the year. Melanie Sala, Head of School says, “It is important we continue to collaborate as a school on the goals set during those two weeks. I am looking forward to an engaging and rigorous year!”

Alumni Blogpost: My Experience Interning for the DC City Council

By Tavian Southall – (TMA ’17 & Goucher College ’21)

This summer I had the amazing opportunity to work for the DC District Council as an intern! The wonderful staff at Mikva Challenge DC made it their mission to place high school students and recent high school graduates in District Government agencies as interns. The purpose of the internship was to ensure that District youth are seen as valuable resources to DC officials and community leaders, and to help DC youth learn about local government. I was placed in my Ward 5 Council Member Kenyan McDuffie’s Office.

Everyone in the office was extremely friendly when I arrived for my first day. My supervisor for the summer, Chief of Staff Ronan Gulstone, gave me a tour of the Councilmember’s committee and council offices, and even took me out to lunch. I was excited to learn I would work out of Councilmember McDuffie’s committee office, where I would have my own desk space, computer and Council email account.

During my time as an intern, I was not expecting to work on as many projects as I did. I wrote memorandums for public records and the Councilmember, attended Legislative meetings, and created a plan to increase opportunities for youth engagement in the District. I believe youth are the future and should be offered as many experiences to become as successful as possible. For my plan, I drafted a document that explained the issues, solutions and possible legislation. Luckily, through a little research, I was able to find written legislation that was intended to create a Youth Council at the District Council. Unfortunately, a week later, I was informed that this Youth Council had not been initiated. And so, I made it my mission to create a similar group that would work under the District Council, but work independently, similar to the District’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission.

I am so humbled to have been offered this internship. I was able to experience what it is like working for a Councilmember, made lifelong connections with people in the office, and am even more motivated towards my future goals – graduating from college and starting my own nonprofit that focuses on youth engagement and education in DC.

Why TMA’s Summer Prep Program Matters

While many kids in the District started their summer vacations in July, roughly one hundred came to Thurgood Marshall Academy for Summer Prep, the annual five-week program that introduces incoming ninth and tenth graders to the academic and social life of our school. Starting at 8am, students arrived for breakfast and began classes at 8:30. They studied English, Math, and Keyboarding, and took a Freshman Seminar to help prepare them for succeeding their first year at TMA, including the school’s No Brainers – nine rules of conduct. While they don’t wear the traditional year-round uniform, a modified ensemble was required — a grey t-shirt with the Summer Prep logo; khaki knee-length shorts, skirts, or pants; a plain black belt; and all-black closed-toe shoes or sneakers. Mondays through Thursdays, students spent the day on academic skills that will form the foundation of their ninth grade year. They learned how to write longer essays, how to use a computer for research, and basic mathematical equations. “I’m learning how to write better,” said Trikivis Hunter, who will be starting this Fall as a ninth grader. “I wanted to come here because academic-wise it will get me into a good college later on.” “The enrichment program not only introduces students to our school, it also serves as a benchmark for teachers, so they know the academic level of each student,” said Byron Johnson, Dean of Summer Prep and year-round Dean for tenth and 11th grade students. On Fridays, students took field trips. They visited three local college campuses, and a downtown law firm for a unique experience known as Law Day, one of TMA’s signature legal programs. Wiley Rein LLP has hosted students for the Summer Law Day for more than seven years. The firm’s attorneys led a workshop on the basics of contracts, practiced negotiation skills with students, and the day concluded with a mock trial. “I enjoyed Summer Prep – it gave me a feel of what the school year is going to be like, and I am also getting to know my classmates,” said incoming 9th grader Kourtney Taylor. The Summer Prep Program is not mandatory in order to attend TMA, but it is strongly encouraged. More than half of the students in Summer Prep attend TMA year-round; data shows that these students go on to excel academically and behaviorally during the academic year.

Student Spotlight: Christina Price Reflects on her Internship at The Motley Fool

As a long-time supporter of Thurgood Marshall Academy (TMA), The Motley Fool is a popular internship destination for graduating seniors.Summer internships allow Warriors to learn more about a profession they are interested in, reinforce the importance of professionalism and understand the expectations and demands of a career. After completing the application process, Christina Price (Temple University, Class of 2021) was offered the position.

From day one, Christina knew The Motley Fool was a special place and immersed herself in all aspects of the Communications Team. Christina conducted research on new influencers trending on Social Media and created an efficient and organized process for their hub – where all information for internal purposes is stored. The Motley Fool is committed to making sure all interns are able to complete a project from start to finish, have exposure and learn from other departments, and most importantly, leave The Motley Fool with real life skills that can be applied to any business.

To make sure interns have a well-rounded experience, Christina also participated in The Fool Classes – a time for interns to learn additional skills and how each team plays a vital role in The Motley Fool’s success. Classes ranged from Marketing 101, Google Analytics, Sales and Membership. As her internship came to a close, Christina was not only grateful for her time at The Motley Fool but learned “what it means to be collaborative, saw what honesty throughout the entire office looks like and how fun is instilled within its foundation.”

Class of 2017 Commencement Ceremony

On June 16th, Thurgood Marshall Academy’s (TMA) Class of 2017 met their biggest achievement yet – graduating high school! Continuing TMA’s 13-year tradition, one hundred percent of seniors were accepted to college. Seniors collectively applied to more than 250 schools and were accepted to NYU – Tisch School of the Arts, Norfolk State University, University of Redlands, Syracuse University, Temple University and University of Virginia. Scholarships awarded to the Class of 2017 totaled over $8 million – setting a new record earned by any graduating class at TMA. Congratulations to the Class of 2017!

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2017 College Acceptance Ceremony

Last week, Thurgood Marshall Academy (TMA) hosted its annual College Acceptance Ceremony. Continuing TMA’s 13-year tradition, one hundred percent of seniors in the Class of 2017 were accepted to college! Seniors collectively applied to more than 250 schools and accepted to NYU – Tisch School of the Arts, Norfolk State University, University of Redlands, Syracuse University, Temple University and University of Virginia. Scholarships awards to students in the Class of 2017 totaled over $8 million. Students earned scholarships from the College Success Foundation – DC Achievers Scholarship, Comcast Achievement Award Scholarship, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., The Economic Club of Washington DC, John G. Stone III Scholarship Fund, Korean American Grocers Association, The Motley Fool, The Posse Foundation and Washington Post Press Pass Mentors Scholarship. Congratulations Class of 2017!

Want to hear more from the Class of 2017? Make sure to like TMA on Facebook.

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Thurgood Marshall Academy welcomes Mrs. Betsy DeVos to celebrate National School Choice Week


WASHINGTON — Today, Thurgood Marshall Academy (TMA) welcomed Mrs. Betsy DeVos, nominee for Secretary of Education, to celebrate National School Choice Week. Mrs. DeVos is a long-time supporter of school choice and charter schools.

During the visit, Mrs. DeVos toured the school and heard from several students who reflected on why TMA and school choice is important to their education and the community. Also, school leaders had an opportunity to speak with Mrs. DeVos about issues impacting TMA – specifically, the importance of providing strong social services in addition to rigorous academics, creating a safe environment through anti-bullying and Restorative Justice efforts, and charter school autonomy in achieving our strong academic outcomes.

“We are so proud of our students, they did a great job telling their story and raising issues important to their lives at school and in our community,” said Richard Pohlman, TMA’s Executive Director.

Thurgood Marshall Academy understands many people in the community have different beliefs than those expressed by the current administration. Mr. Pohlman continues, “However, it is important that engagement not be limited to those that share common views, but as a community, TMA challenges itself and its students to engage in discourse across ideological difference.”

TMA’s mission is to “prepare students for college and to be actively engaged in our democratic society,” and has a goal to model what civic engagement means for students — to use areas of common ground as a springboard for discussions about areas where it may be different. TMA hopes its discussion with Mrs. DeVos and her experience today will have a positive impact on the many students in schools throughout the country.



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

TMA Annonuces New Partnership with Howard Law

10th graders practicing their elevator pitch in a small group setting.

Thurgood Marshall Academy is thrilled to announce our new partnership with Howard Law School. At TMA, we pride ourselves on integrating law-related components across our curriculum for all of our students. This year, we wanted to provide an opportunity for our 10th graders to work with young professionals in DC who are dedicated to the field of law. Howard Law Academy will allow our 10th graders to meet quarterly with Howard University Law students, dissect the amendments and apply their learning to everyday situations.

For their second session, the students in Howard Law Academy had an opportunity to learn about the First Amendment – Freedom of Expression. Students actively engaged in a discussion regarding how to self-express through a dress code, limitations on freedom of expression, professionalism on social media and how to effectively craft “your brand”. For the second half of the session, the students applied what they learned and created elevator pitches.

Howard Law students emphasized to the students in order to create an effective elevator pitch that allows you to stand out, students must dig deep and critically think about their long term goals, skills, and passion. Students were given ample time to draft their pitch, receive feedback from Howard Law students and their peers and competed to have the number one elevator pitch.

As the next two sessions are not until the spring, student have already submitted ideas for topics they are interested in learning more about. We know this partnership will add value to our students understanding of the amendments and continue to prepare them to actively participate in our democratic society.