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.
“When I came to TMA, I didn’t want to be there,” said Lamberson. “I didn’t care about my grades. I’d come from a school that didn’t prepare me for a place like TMA. I was fine with being just average. But after my service trip, I decided that I would not remain the typical southeast girl. I would push for what I wanted out of life,” she said.
Upon graduation from Delaware State University in 2014, Lamberson was accepted into an intensive 10-month fellowship program with Public Allies, an organization committed to furthering social change by developing youth leadership skills and providing opportunities for citizens of all backgrounds to step up, take responsibility, and work together. While Public Allies offers paid full-time nonprofit apprenticeships, the main component of the program is grounded in public service and community outreach work. Fellows are required to complete 1700 hours of community service. Projects include volunteering at soup kitchens, donating to food pantries and clothing drives, and maintaining vegetable gardens in impoverished neighborhoods, among other efforts.
“Community service teaches you to have morals and respect, and exposes you to the real things happening in our society,” said Lamberson. “From homelessness, domestic violence, and children growing up silently in homes that are drug infested to the driven student who can’t excel because of inadequate educational resources – these are real things happening all around us. Being exposed to these things humbles you.”
Lamberson grew up in Washington, DC’s Ward 7, a high-needs neighborhood where many of the residents are misinformed about educational resources. Today, she is a high school and college graduate and is considering a Master’s program. But she hasn’t forgotten the youth in her community and peers from Ward 8, an underserved community challenged with the lowest high school and college graduation rates in the district.
Lamberson worked with a group of 24 cohorts to complete a team service project for Public Allies. They chose Ward 8 as a target area and created an ongoing community resource for residents in the Anacostia area. After identifying the growing need to provide educational resources for youth, the team designed a blog that features high-performing nonprofits in Washington, DC that focus on youth development and education. The goal is for the website to become a social hub where DC youth can connect about like-minded ideas.
“By the time I left TMA, not only was I ready for research papers, but I built up enough self-esteem to embrace my leadership skills,” said Lamberson who served as the Program Manager of the Project.
Lamberson plans to pursue a Master’s degree in education and is interested in curriculum instruction. Considering her long-term goals, Public Allies placed Lamberson at Young Women’s Christian Association where she taught math and reading and helped to build the core curriculum as an Adult Education Assistant.
“When I get to a high point in my career and I am financially able, I am giving back to Thurgood Marshall Academy,” said Lamberson. “My change started in the 9th grade. I have nothing else to thank but Thurgood Marshall Academy.”