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TMCF Names Dawna Taylor-Thornton to Lead Vivian Burey Marshall STEM Pilot Initiative

///TMCF Names Dawna Taylor-Thornton to Lead Vivian Burey Marshall STEM Pilot Initiative

TMCF Names Dawna Taylor-Thornton to Lead Vivian Burey Marshall STEM Pilot Initiative

Vicksburg, MS Selected to Host One of Two Pilot Sites


(Bottom row) Mr. Chad Shealy, Superintendent of Vicksburg Warren School District; Ms. Dawna Taylor-Thornton, Principal Investigator and Executive Director of the Vivian Burey Marshall STEM Program; and Lucy DeRossette,Vicksburg Warren School District Career Technical Administrator. (Top row) Dr. Gary Anderton, Director of the Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), Human Capital Office, U.S. Army; Ms. Carla Koestler, ERDC Human Capital Office Talent Acquisition Coordinator, U.S. Army; Dr. Michael Winters, Vicksburg Warren School District Administrative Assistant; Mr. David Campbell, Assistant Superintendent of Vicksburg Warren School District; and Rick Tillotson, ERDC Education Outreach Coordinator, U.S. Army.

Washington, DC (January 4, 2016) – The Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) announced Dawna Taylor-Thornton as Executive Director and Principal Investigator of its newest K-12 initiative, the Vivian Burey Marshall STEM Pilot Initiative (VBM). Named in honor of Justice Thurgood Marshall’s first wife, the VBM will engage students in under-represented and disadvantaged populations in Vicksburg, MS and Baltimore, MD in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education – leading to both STEM literacy and an increase in the participation in the STEM workforce. The City of Vicksburg has been selected as one of only two sites in the country to host the pilot initiative, also aimed at leveraging existing relationships between local Army facilities and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

VBM’s most important outcome is to provide experiences and exposure to students that will lead to sustained interest in the STEM field. Taylor-Thornton brings an extensive background in education and will be responsible for launching this innovative pilot that will follow a cohort of students from sixth through tenth grade. Most recently, she served as the Director for Commonwealth Connections Academy Philadelphia and Harrisburg Midtown Learning Centers. Prior to her work with Connections, she served as the Director of Blended Learning Programs for one of the largest public cyber schools across the country, which operated in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Delaware and Pennsylvania.

“We are fortunate to have someone like Ms. Taylor-Thornton head up this new initiative and help us reach students earlier in their development,” said TMCF’s Vice President of Programs, Scott Lilly. “This pilot is vital for K-12 students in encouraging them to consider STEM careers. With her vision and expertise, I am positive we have selected the right person to help TMCF develop and implement yet another successful component to our K-12 work.”

In partnership with the U.S. Army, TMCF will engage and support middle school students with year-round, out-of-school-time activities. Taylor-Thornton has already hit the ground running with her vision of increasing students’ interest and aptitude in the STEM subject areas – ultimately captivating them early and building a solid academic foundation with the likelihood students will remain in the field. Over the next few months she and her team will meet with school officials, families, and community members to gain a better understanding of their needs.

“The Vicksburg Warren School District (VWSD) is overjoyed to participate in the VBM. To be chosen as one of only two school districts in the country, and to be affiliated with such a prestigious organization as the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, is both humbling and exciting,” said Mr. Chad Shealy, Superintendent of the Vicksburg Warren School District. “We are excited to partner with Baltimore Maryland schools in this opportunity, which would otherwise be outside our reach as a school district and a community.”

“Over the span of my career, I have touched the lives of many students and working with TMCF provides me with an opportunity to not only impact the lives of students but to help shape the future for communities and our world,” said Taylor-Thornton.

TMCF began working in the K-12 sector in 2006 with a school reform program funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and evolved into one of TMCF’s signature programs, the Teacher Quality & Retention Program (TQRP). Since its inception in 2009, the TQRP has trained over 200 Program Fellows and the current TQRP cohort alone impacts over 4300 K-12 students across 22 states. For more information about the Vivian Burey Marshall STEM Pilot Initiative or TMCF, visit


About The Thurgood Marshall College FUND (TMCF)
TMCF is named for the U.S. Supreme Court’s first African-American Justice. Established in 1987, TMCF supports and represents nearly 300,000 students attending its 47 member-schools that include publicly-supported Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), medical schools and law schools. Through its scholarships and programs, TMCF plays a key role in preparing the leaders of tomorrow.