Darrion Willis ’08 is currently a senior at the University of Vermont, where he is studying both English and Political Science. Outside of school, Darrion is extremely active, as he takes on a leadership role within the school’s Student Government, and is also the President of Phi Mu Delta Fraternity.
For Darrion, the greatest challenge in college has been the workload and being able to pull all-nighters when needed (he has pulled three consecutive all-nighters before)! However, Darrion takes great pride in serving as a leader for the UVM community, and one of his favorite things about college is being an advocate on behalf of the student body.
What Darrion has to say to former teachers: To Ms. Penney & Ms. Lyons: Thank you for steering me into the majors I currently hold. My field of study has taken me to places that will provide the best opportunities in life for me. I am very thankful and honored to have been taught by wonderful high school teachers that made me realize my academic potential and purpose in life.
Rashada Coton, is a 2014 graduate of Trinity Washington University. Having received her degree – with honors – in Mass Communications and a minor in International Affairs, she has jump started her career by contributing to theJasminebrand.com, a pop culture website, and by managing her own blog at outlookpress.blogspot.com As an aspiring writer, Rashada plans to pursue her career ambitions – working in the television/entertainment industry – by enrolling in a Master’s degree program at American University in Spring 2015.
Looking back on her undergraduate experience, Rashada finds that one of her biggest challenges was taking advantage of opportunities present at her college: “I believe I went into college very naïve in the sense that I thought things would just happen for me. I learned that hard work gets you opportunities – you can’t sit around waiting for opportunities to come.” Rashada says “the rewarding things about college for me were the opportunities I earned. I learned how to be self-sufficient. I interned with radio station WPGC 95.5 and at the White House.” At WPGC 95.5, Rashada was a street team member: “I helped set up events, interact with listeners, meet different celebrities, and gain great insight in the entertainment industry,” she explains. During her time at the White House, Rashada communicated with constituents by who wrote to the White House with various concerns. Of her undergraduate experience, Rashada says: “college helped me see my full potential.”
In reflecting on time at Thurgood Marshall Academy, it is the teachers, and their firm belief in each student’s potential, that Rashada remembers most. “I remember specifically taking an AP English course and hating the class but in the end I learned that I had potential and the class led me to writing,” she says. Rashada thanks them for “putting up with my feisty attitude…[and] for not giving up on me.”
Four year ago, Jacquelyn Patterson walked the across Thurgood Marshall Academy’s stage to receive her high school diploma. In May 2013, she became an alumna of Spelman College in Atlanta, GA, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a concentration in Pre-Law.
In high school, “I knew that I wanted to advocate for those in my community, but I was unsure how,” recalls Jacquelyn. Early on, out-of-school programs at Thurgood Marshall Academy helped solidify her interest in finding a way to give back to her community. Thanks to Thurgood Marshall Academy’s links to local and national stakeholders, Jacquelyn worked with Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton to complete community service hours. In this role, Jacquelyn says, “I interacted with the residents of DC and heard their concerns about their communities as well as how legislation affected them.”
The summer before senior year, Jacquelyn, along with five other classmates, participated in a pilot internship with the DC Superior Court Family Division. From this internship, Jacquelyn gained a long-term mentor and advocate: Judge Gregory Jackson. “He asked about our future aspirations for college and for our careers. He told us that if we promised to stay on our path, he’d stay in contact. I’m proud to say that six years later, Judge Jackson is still one of my mentors.”
Jacquelyn believes Thurgood Marshall Academy’s five legal skills—Advocacy, Argumentation, Critical Thinking, Negotiation, and Research—continue to play an important role in her professional development. “I worked with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People during a domestic exchange semester at American University. During this internship, I used the research skill while compiling an executive summary and binder on President Obama’s proposed 2011 American Jobs Act.” Working with the NAACP has also given Jacquelyn many opportunities to work as an advocate. She facilitated constituent phone calls to congressional representatives in support of the Voting Rights Act and was politically active during the 2012 election season. “I accompanied NAACP Washington Bureau Director Hilary O. Shelton to advocacy hearings before various committees on Capitol Hill to help dismantle some of the legislation that was being passed in many states to disenfranchise many American citizens,” she recalls.
As a result of her collective academic and professional experiences, Jacquelyn decided to pursue a degree in law. “My goal is to ultimately become a lawyer and work for a non-profit or advocacy program and then ultimately work for the U.S. Department of Justice in the Civil Rights Division,” she explains. Jacquelyn is currently preparing to apply for law school by gaining hands-on experience in the field, working as a paralegal for the National Criminal Enforcement section of the U.S. Department of Justice – Antitrust division. She continues to study for the LSAT, and is taking the law-school entrance examination in December 2014.
Jereme Speight, a junior at Fairmont State University, is pursuing a degree in criminal justice. He aspires to work in social services after graduating in order to help his community. Jereme has highlighted opportunities working in low-security detention centers in order to serve as a mentor to at-risk youth.
In college, Jereme finds that one of his biggest challenges has been staying focused on school work. He found that the variety of social commitments open to undergraduate students could be distracting, but learned to manage his time and balance his academic and social priorities.
For Jereme, the most rewarding aspect of the undergraduate experience has been the opportunity to meet people from a variety of different backgrounds and gain a deeper understanding of new cultures.
Looking back on his experiences at Thurgood Marshall Academy, Jereme thanks the school’s teachers and staff “for all the help, support and encouragement throughout my years at TMA. I want to especially thank Dean Krein for being there, Ms. Allison for always staying on my case and Ms. Lyons for being an awesome teacher.”