Building Partnerships: An Example 13 Years in the Making

SEED is a partnership between students, families, and SEED staff. When our students face challenges, we all work together to morph into the support system that the student needs.
— The SEED Foundation CEO Lesley Poole, with Tamia Spells, SEED DC ’10

The SEED Foundation’s new CEO, Lesley Poole, has seen the power of partnership between families and staff during her 18 years at SEED. Ms. Poole’s 13-year relationship with Tamia Spells is just one story of how these partnerships can make all the difference in our students’ path to college:

Part I: A Leap of Faith to SEED DC

 Tamia, during a SEED-sponsored trip to India, where she volunteered at a school.

Tamia, during a SEED-sponsored trip to India, where she volunteered at a school.

According to Tamia, Ms. Poole was “a constant, nurturing, and commanding presence.” Tamia’s family welcomed Ms. Poole into their home for an informational visit, where she convinced them to take the leap of faith in SEED and apply. After Tamia enrolled, Ms. Poole’s consistent presence on campus helped cement their confidence in SEED. And when a health crisis struck Tamia’s mom, Ms. Poole and Tamia were the first family members to reach her bedside.
“Ms. Poole didn’t have to be the one to drive me to the hospital—to coordinate with doctors, tell me what was happening with my mom, help my family with the paperwork—but she made it a priority,” says Tamia.

Ms. Poole’s motivation was simple: “Our investment in Tamia was far too important to let this tragic situation undermine it.”

Ms. Poole wasn’t just there for the tough times—she also watched Tamia grow and expand her worldview through SEED’s many opportunities, including challenging academic coursework, varsity sports, and exposure trips in India and Greece.

Part II: Becoming a Hokie...and a College Graduate

 Tamia and her grandmother at her college graduation.

Tamia and her grandmother at her college graduation.

Numerous SEED staff members, including Ms. Poole, continued to help Tamia and her family navigate the next big phase of her life: transitioning to college at Virginia Tech. Ms. Poole witnessed Tamia mature and learn how to ask for help when needed—especially from The SEED Foundation’s College Transition & Success Team, which helped her find housing, jobs, and mentors on her campus. But their relationship was a two-way street: “[Ms. Poole] watched me grow, and I watched her grow—from a faculty member at SEED DC to advocating for the opening of SEED Miami. Seeing a black woman in a position of power was inspiring,” says Tamia.

Part III: Giving Back & Paying it Forward

Tamia’s career has brought her SEED story full circle. Not only has she devoted herself to students from underserved communities in Miami as a Teach For America corps member, but she also volunteers at the very school that Ms. Poole helped to found in 2014. Tamia helps recruit students alongside SEED Miami Head of School Kara Locke, another mentor from her time at SEED DC. As she visits with prospective parents and students in their homes, Tamia is living proof that SEED is worth their leap of faith.

 Tamia confers with a SEED Miami student during an end-of-year celebration

Tamia confers with a SEED Miami student during an end-of-year celebration