Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Juniors Have Law Firm Tutoring to Thank for Success

Now that most students are home for the summer, they have time to reflect on some of the achievements that they’ve accomplished this past school year.
Juniors who were promoted are preparing for senior year. They forged through a challenging curriculum that included SAT preparation, AP and Honors courses, and portfolio presentations. Among the extra supports that keep students on track at TMA, juniors have the opportunity to get additional guidance alongside lawyers during bi-weekly Law Firm Tutoring.
An after-school program built into Thurgood Marshall Academy’s law-themed curriculum, Law Firm Tutoring is an enrichment activity that gives 11th graders access to knowledgeable legal professionals who help them apply legal skills to their school work and civic engagement efforts. The seasoned lawyers, all of whom work one-on-one with students, exhibit and apply the same legal skills that students are required to implement throughout their academic performance.
Pairing students with like-minded professionals ensures that they develop and learn the skills that lawyers have – the ability to solve complex problems, think critically, and advocate persuasively. Students come prepared to go over classwork, edit college essays, research scholarship opportunities, or talk about current events and other topics they discover they have in common with tutors.
“Even though they [law firm tutors] are intellectuals, they are easy to gel with and will help break you out of your shell,” said Jibri Tucker, 11th grader. “I see Law Firm Tutoring as a good experience because law firm tutors encourage students to pick up the slack – if there is any. They really care.”
This school year, six law firms participated in the program and provided public support to the junior class. Each tutor imparted not just academic knowledge, but sound advice that can guide college and career choices and student efforts to serve our democratic society.

  • Blank Rome
  • Crowell & Moring
  • Jenner & Block
  • King & Spalding
  • Vinson & Elkins
  • Williams & Connolly

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

SGA Representative Talks Next Steps as Hopeful Prez

Rose Bowers recently finished a term as Vice President of the Student Government Association (SGA). Thurgood Marshall Academy elects a Student Government each year at the beginning of the first semester. Upon returning to school in August, Rose plans to run for President of the student-run organization.

Rose Bowers, (far left) 11th grade

Below, Rose talks about her vision as President and what her involvement in SGA and other enrichment activities (COLSA participant) means to her success as a college student.

Why is SGA important?

I feel like teachers and students, in some ways, have different ways of looking at things. SGA allows students to represent students. I decided to join [SGA] and make changes within the school because as a student, you understand the concerns of your peers because they affect you as well. There’s a more of a personal connection to the students’ needs and it makes you more passionate to advocate for those needs.

What were some school issues that you pushed forward as Vice President and why were they important to you?

I really focused on making the students’ voices heard and worked to create an environment where they feel comfortable being who they are in the classroom and throughout the halls of TMA. I noticed that many of my friends were not taking advantage of school resources like Homework Help, which I attend consistently to keep my grades up. I understood the value of Homework help and encouraged students to go. Because of my personal experience attending Homework Help sessions, students were more trusting of my advice.

What is your vision for the next SGA team? How can they work together to be an effective team and create change?

My vision for the next SGA team is to work better together so that we can be a more effective group. I noticed that SGA has so many great ideas. However, we are not putting up enough effort to create change, which causes the students, those we are supposed to be standing up for, to second-guess our roles as their selected representatives. As future SGA President, I will need to address these issues early on so my team knows what they are expected to do to be a great leadership committee.

How has your involvement with SGA prepared you for college?

My involvement in SGA has prepared me for college because I have developed strong leadership skills. I know how to handle situations and how to connect not only with students, but also with adults. As an SGA representative, you have to take the concerns and issues of your peers to the teachers and faculty. Then you have to find a way to present a case so that teachers and faculty will understand and be in favor of your solutions. This takes a certain level of communication skills that I will be able to use when I go off to college.

What is the Coalition of Local Student Activists (COLSA)? And tell us more about your experience with the organization.

COLSA is a student-run organization where I worked with other teenagers from DC high schools to raise awareness about modern civil rights issues. We had to come up with a plan to solve them. Being involved with COLSA made me want to be more open. I only talked about controversial issues that target my community when the news was on at home and I was around my family. But COLSA empowered me to bring these issues up in the classroom, among my peers, and in discussions with my teachers.

What were some of the civil rights issues that your COLSA group addressed?

Police brutality in our communities. We came up with a plan to help police officers and the youth trust each other better. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Out-of-School-Time Programs Prepare Students for College: Carlos’ Story

Carlos McKnight is a well-rounded high school student whose participation in Thurgood Marshall Academy’s (TMA) extra-curricular activities has given him a sure advantage to perform well at Daemen College this fall. With plans to major in Political Science, McKnight’s long-terms goals are to get involved in government and, eventually, run for public office.

Today, his long-term goals are a reality but McKnight remembers when the idea of going to college was simply that – an idea. “I am proud that I was accepted into college,” he said. “It was something that I only dreamed about. I never thought that I could go to college.”

McKnight, like 96% of TMA students, is from one of DC’s most underserved communities. Ward 8, where TMA is located, has the lowest high school and graduation rates in the city. But McKnight has defied the odds. On June 12th, he will graduate with a 3.1 G.P.A. He leaves behind his contribution to the Debate Team, School Band, Gay Straight Alliance, school newspaper, and other after-school clubs.

Each year, TMA offers approximately 15 clubs that encourage students’ personal development, provide opportunities to build leadership skills, and connect students with their communities. Providing students with clubs and extra-curricular activities support TMA’s mission to prepare students for college and to actively engage in our democratic society. Out-of-school-time projects or extended teacher availability give students wrap-around supports to ensure students thrive beyond the classroom as future college students.

“In addition to clubs to get involved in, the [teacher] office hours are the best thing about TMA,” said McKnight. “Not only do I get help, but I am exposed to the same experiences as college students. TMA, in all forms, has programs that help students succeed and prepare us for college.”

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Saturday School Helps Students Prepare for Finals

Social Studies Teacher Joshua Biederman shares his experience teaching Saturday School to help students prepare for end-of-school year exams.

Teachers at TMA put in an incredible amount of time, thought, and action into preparing students for exams. Our students are dedicated and aim to be better, especially during this time of the year. TMA students take a GREAT DEAL of exams and even though students essentially earn the test scores, we, as teachers, play a crucial role in this process.

As an educator, I take pride in going the extra mile to prepare students for the slew of exams that they are required to take in order to advance to the next grade or be accepted into college. In addition to passing content specific exams in all their classes, students must take PARCC assessments in English, Math, and Biology, the SAT, the ACT, SAT II content exams, and AP exams. It’s no joke, and requires massive preparation.

So what do we do at TMA?  

We offer Saturday School and give students time outside of the traditional classroom setting to prepare for exams.

While this does require teachers to prepare additional lessons for an additional day of work, TMA teachers still put forth the extra effort. It is easy to do when you have an administration that supports you and students who are willing to study hard. Thanks to the support that TMA provides, including free lunch for students on these days, it is productive to work with students outside of the barriers and structure of traditional class.

What students and teachers look forward to most is the freedom that we can take advantage of on a weekend day. There’s no need to grade student work and students have the room to shout out answers and other fragments of information as it comes to mind. The beauty is not worrying about disrupting other classrooms and being surrounded by enthusiastic young people who gave up their Saturday because they are eager to learn.

Getting any student to school six days a week could be a struggle, but I have always found it easy to work with students on Saturdays. TMA offers incentives – a fabulous field trip to King’s Dominion amusement park – for students who improve their scores and attend Saturday sessions. So really, students have nothing to lose.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Hosts of TMA’s Job Shadow Day Are Inspired by Students’ Enthusiasm and Willingness to Learn

This year’s Job Shadow Day was an amazing opportunity for students in the sophomore class to explore careers and make professional connections.

Students look forward Job Shadow Day, an opportunity to travel to a job placement site and swap their school uniform for business attire. But the hosts, many of whom are experts in their line of work, are just as eager to mentor students and introduce them to typical work day activities. Job Shadow Day gives hosts a chance to experience, first-hand, the drive and hunger that TMA students continue to put forth in an effort to learn more about their future crafts.

Below are testimonials from this year’s hosts:

The company loved having DeAndre around. He got to meet with folks in several departments, do an energy efficiency walk-through of a commercial building, and visit the Earth Conservation Corps’ historic pump house on the Anacostia to learn about their programs.” Cory, DC Sustainable Energy Utility

The students are very outgoing and friendly. One of them, who expressed interest in being a lawyer, asked great questions after reading some case-related materials. Overall, they led educated discussions and are great students who are very intelligent and were very helpful.” Inez, Williams & Connolly, LLP

Christina was a pleasure to have at the office. She spent the day with FHH attorneys, watching us work, asking questions, and sharing her interest in going to law school one day. We even had a chance to treat her to a viewing spot on the rooftop patio, where we saw the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover in honor of the 70th anniversary of the V-E Day. It was definitely a perfect time for her to visit.” Jonathan, Fletcher Heald & Hildreth

Tayanna and Tiffany are a bit worn out, but we had fun! We walked the campus quite a bit and saw key areas of the schools. I was sure to take them on a tour of the engineering school and the medical school. Before they left, we presented them with emergency kits that will keep them informed about occupational health.  I think they've learned a lot about how we keep students, staff, and faculty of the university safe.” Naomi, George Washington University

TMA partners with a number of career professionals throughout the DC Metro area who host students at their respective place of work and offer advice on professionalism, new careers, and the necessary academic steps and skills required to become leaders in their field of choice.

If you want to introduce TMA students to a career you’re passionate about and host a Job Shadow Day in the future, please email Molly Rothschild:

Participating Job Placements include: