College Transition & Success

Meet Our Students: Harri Anna Derulos (SEED Miami ‘21) Has Big Plans to Become a Lawyer

Harri Anna is pictured above third from the right.

Harri Anna is pictured above third from the right.

Harri Anna Derulos (SEED Miami ’21) enrolled at SEED because of its track record in helping underserved students successfully get to and through college. She is determined to be the first person in her family to become a college graduate, and as an honor-roll student, she is well on her way.

A natural leader, Harri Anna served as class president for two consecutive years. During her tenure, she advocated for better catering that would offer more diverse and healthy dining options. Her strategy worked! The school now offers a greater variety of food at breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the students to enjoy.

Harri-Anna is one of the most dedicated students I’ve had the pleasure of working with. She’s constantly pushing herself to maintain her academic and personal successes,” said Kiara Muhammad, student life counselor at SEED Miami.

Harri Anna is also a SEED ambassador. In this role, she serves as an official student representative for The SEED School of Miami and hosts tours for prospective donors, incoming SEED students, and prospective families. Alongside her mother, who is a parent champion, Harri Anna hosted representatives from one of SEED Miami’s largest donor organizations. Her personal testimony has been vital to individuals looking to gain a better understanding of SEED’s impact.

One of Harri Anna’s most rewarding experiences has been participating in SEED Miami’s Mock Trial. This program is offered through SEED Miami’s Sparks program, which is a component of the school’s student life curriculum. In Mock Trial, Harri Anna learned about the key elements of a trial—and the U.S. legal system—through preparing for and participating in simulated trial competitions. This experience has inspired Harri Anna to want to earn a Juris Doctor after completing her undergraduate education.

We’re proud of Harri Anna’s accomplishments and excited to be a part of her continued success!

Learn more about SEED Miami’s Sparks program.

Where Are They Now? Jeremiah Paige (SEED MD ’15, Mount St. Mary’s University ’19)

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In July 2008, The SEED School of Maryland welcomed its first class of sixth graders. By attending Maryland’s first public college-preparatory boarding school, these students were making history.

After nearly seven years of rigorous academics, social and enrichment programs, and college exposure, every single graduate was accepted to a four-year college. But their journey with SEED wasn’t complete. To ensure that each graduate persisted through college, SEED provided each student with a college success advisor to serve as their personal advocate, mentor, and cheerleader from move-in day to graduation day.

This year, we celebrate SEED MD’s first class of college graduates and the fruition of SEED’s vision—to get our students to and through college. One of these graduates is Jeremiah Paige (SEED MD ’15). For him, SEED served as a reminder of his ability to achieve at the highest level. “SEED taught us that we could accomplish anything we wanted. This mindset pushed me to invest in and explore my passion for music as a student at Mount St. Mary’s.”

Last month, Jeremiah served as the keynote speaker for the 2019 SEED Foundation Scholarship Reception. He offered words of encouragement to SEED’s next graduating class and reminded them that wherever they go, they can find comfort in knowing that SEED is always there. Read the short interview below to learn more about Jeremiah’s college journey and where he is now.

What college or university did you attend?

I attended Mount St. Mary’s University, where I majored in communications and minored in business.

How was your transition from SEED to college?

My transition to college hit me hard. I felt like I was all alone. I couldn’t see my mother every weekend, and I was no longer with my SEED family five days a week. However, I soon realized that no matter the distance, my biological and SEED families would always be there. Mrs. Baker Jones, my SEED college success advisor, constantly reached out to me, came to visit, and even took me out to eat!

I found SEED’s approach of intrusive advising helpful when I started at Mount St. Mary’s. It was great to have someone on my side who genuinely cared about my success. If I had issues with my financial aid or classes, they were there to listen and provide support.

Did you stay connected to SEED while in college?

I would often go and visit my former counselors at SEED MD to play basketball. I also had the opportunity to reconnect with my former classmates through SEED-sponsored events like the SEED Graduate Institute and annual bowling party.

What are your plans for the future?

As a recent college graduate, I feel that the possibilities are endless. I am interested in pursuing my passion for music. While at Mount St. Mary’s, I had the opportunity to perform all over campus and even opened for artist O.T. Genasis. These experiences made me want to further express my creative abilities. I’m dedicated to remaining productive and making the most of the connections I’ve made while in school.

How did your experience at SEED impact you?

SEED prepared me for college academically. As a senior at SEED, I participated in a dual-enrollment program at Morgan State University. I saw the campus up close, met professors, and took classes with other college kids. This experience gave me an early look at college life and increased my interest in continuing my education.

Beyond academic preparation, the constant encouragement I received from my SEED counselors made a big difference. At the time, I didn’t appreciate their firmness, but as an adult I find myself implementing their advice. I am the person I am today because of SEED, and I am thankful for my experience.

What We’re Learning: SEED Miami Recruits Its First College Counselor

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Becoming a college graduate is no easy feat. This is especially true for low-income, first-generation students who must overcome barriers such as financial challenges and balancing family and personal priorities.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 67 percent of low-income, first-generation students enroll in college, yet only 11 percent successfully earn a college degree. Without a degree, these students won’t be equipped to succeed in the 21st-century economy, will make nearly $1 million less in their lifetime compared to their peers, and will struggle to reach their full potential.

At SEED, we know that college readiness services are crucial to college success. That’s why our College Transition & Success team works diligently to ensure that every SEED student has the tools, support, and knowledge to effectively navigate the college application process and adjust to college life. This year, The SEED School of Miami will welcome its first college counselor to prepare for its inaugural graduating class in 2021. “We’re so excited to be in the final stages of selecting our founding college counselor,” said Luna Otero, director of talent management at SEED Miami. As a member of the College Transition & Success team, SEED Miami’s college counselor will provide personalized assistance with searching for scholarships, researching universities, and navigating any challenges the school’s students face when applying to college.

We look forward to welcoming this new team member to the SEED community, as they will play a pivotal role in the academic success of our scholars.

Meet Our Students: Yazmine Ali (SEED DC '20) Dreams of Becoming a Cardiovascular Surgeon

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Eleventh grade is a crucial year for college-bound students nationwide. Balancing classes, extracurricular activities, and the preliminary phases of college admissions can seem nearly impossible, yet Yazmine Ali (SEED DC ‘20) has found a way to make it work.

In addition to being an honor-roll student, Yazmine is an active member of The SEED Falcon Theatre and the SEED Falcon volleyball, soccer, and track teams. Her involvement with extracurricular activities at SEED doesn’t end there—Yazmine is also a Peer Group Connection leader. In this role, she mentors and gives advice to incoming ninth-grade students who are adjusting to the rigor of SEED’s high school courses. “I love being involved with Peer Group Connection. It feels great to know that I’m helping to ease the transition for our incoming students.”

Yazmine’s leadership extends beyond SEED’s incoming ninth graders. She has already racked up more than 70 community service hours by volunteering at DC Central Kitchen, where she assists with cooking and packaging meals for the elderly, homeless, and ill. Yazmine has also traveled to Santana do Deserto, Brazil, with SEED DC’s Experiential Learning & External Opportunities program. Her most memorable moment from the trip was aiding a young boy suffering from a severe cut on his foot. She cleaned and bandaged his wound and provided him with a pair of her own socks to protect the injury and reduce the risk of infection. This experience, coupled with her internship at Children’s National Hospital, has inspired Yazmine to declare a biology pre-med major in pursuit of her dream to become a cardiovascular surgeon.

Clearly Yazmine is on the path to success, and her accomplishments have led to being a recipient of the 2020 SEED Foundation Scholarship! We admire her ambition and look forward to learning which college she will be heading to in fall 2020.

Meet Our Students: SEED Ambassador Jadyn Peterson (SEED MD ’21) to Broaden Her Horizons in Kingston, Jamaica

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Jadyn Peterson (SEED MD ’21) began her journey with The SEED School of Maryland as a seventh-grade student, after relocating from Washington, DC, to Baltimore with her mother. Now a sophomore, Jadyn feels SEED’s 24-hour learning environment has brought a college education within her reach. She plans to double major in architectural engineering and sports management at Tuskegee University, in Tuskegee, Alabama. “College is something I used to look up to, but because of SEED, it’s something I look forward to,” said Jadyn.

Jadyn has always looked for new opportunities to engage with the SEED community. Her passion for sports motivated her to become a team manager for the SEED Saber volleyball and basketball teams. As a team manager, Jadyn regularly meets with the director of athletics to discuss the outcomes of each game, provide individual player statistics, and give feedback on how the athletes can improve.

One of Jadyn’s most memorable moments at SEED was being selected as a SEED Ambassador. SEED Ambassadors serve as official student representatives for SEED schools. Since becoming a SEED Ambassador, Jadyn has led campus tours for prospective SEED scholars, their families, and donors. She has also served as a mentor for incoming students and attended job fairs with the human resources team to help recruit staff and faculty.

Jadyn is a well-known scholar at SEED MD and has built relationships with several staff members. Her student life counselor, Adaobi Ezeani, has seen Jadyn mature over the years. “Jadyn is an amazing student. Watching her become a phenomenal young lady has been a wonderful experience,” said Ms. Ezeani.

This summer, Jadyn will spend a week in Kingston, Jamaica—an opportunity provided by SEED MD’s Experiential Learning & External Opportunities program. She’ll engage in botanical research and explore Kingston’s Hope Zoo, which features indigenous animals and species from across the world. Her cohort will also visit an all-girls shelter to provide clothing and resources to young women in need.

Jadyn is a leader among her peers, and she consistently sets a positive example for younger students. We’re honored to have her as a member of the SEED family and are eager to see her excel in her college career.

Our Impact: Can You Say, “Road Trip”?!

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Getting to and through college is no small feat. That’s why we do everything we can to set our students up for success.

This year, the college counselors and college success advisors from SEED’s College Transition & Success team hosted 70 SEED juniors on the annual college tour for juniors. Students from SEED DC and SEED MD visited seven colleges, including Albertus Magnus College, Amherst College, Rider University, Rutgers University—Camden, Swarthmore College, West Chester University, and Wilkes University.

The goal of the tour is to give students a keen grasp on what a college looks, feels, and even tastes like! In addition to touring campus housing and buildings, students met college students and asked questions during a panel discussion.

“The majority of our students will be the first members of their families to go to college. Thus, college tours give them real-life exposure to different campuses,” said Joi Baker Jones, director of College Transition & Success. “Our goal is to demystify the experience so that they feel like college is a place where they will thrive and belong.

The colleges and universities selected for the annual tour must be SEED endorsed, which means they must have a track record of success for underrepresented students. Through our College Matching Tier System, we evaluate colleges on three criteria most vital to the success of low-income, first-generation students. First, we assess the quality and availability of campus supports. Second, we rank colleges based on the generosity of their financial aid packages. It’s critical to us that our students not take on lots of debt in order to obtain their degrees. Third, we look at the graduation rate of each institution. Only institutions with strong graduation rates are endorsed. SEED has ranked over 400 colleges and universities based on their performance in these three areas.

“In the same way that students need to be college ready, we believe that colleges need to be student ready, especially when it comes to serving underrepresented students,” said Vincena Allen, chief growth officer at SEED.

Ensuring that SEED students go to a SEED-endorsed school pays off. Sixty four percent of all SEED graduates who start at SEED-endorsed schools graduate. That’s more than four times the rate for students who start at colleges that are not SEED endorsed.

“Our data shows that choosing a right-fit college can make all the difference for our students,” said Ms. Allen. “We’re committed to ensuring that our students and families become informed consumers and better understand what to look for in a college. Choosing a college is one of the most important life decisions you can make. We want to be sure that SEED graduates get it right.”

Malik Conway (SEED MD ‘20) enrolled in SEED MD as a sixth-grade student and is now in his junior year of high school. He joined this year’s college tour. “I was so excited to visit West Chester University, Wilkes College, and Rider University to see what college is really like. This tour has allowed me to broaden my horizons. I’ve always wanted to go to college. It’s hard to believe that I may be a student at one of these schools very soon.”

What We're Learning: SEED DC Scholars Serve the Community and Learn Real-World Skills as Tax Prep Ambassadors

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For some of us, filing our taxes is as simple as working with a tax professional or creating an online account with a tax services provider, submitting the necessary documents, and pressing send. Unfortunately, for many residents in Wards 7 and 8 in Washington, D.C., the story is quite different.

Peter Nouhan, a graduate student at Georgetown University, saw a need for professional tax services for underserved populations who don’t have access to technology in these communities. He decided to start the first high-school-led, free tax prep initiative in Washington, D.C., offering a unique opportunity for local college-bound students to serve their community.

After receiving the 2018 Baker Innovation Grant, a $20,000 grant to fund social and political programs, Mr. Nouhan partnered with Community Tax Aid (CTA), a free, local tax assistance organization, and Hoya Taxa, a Georgetown University undergraduate student organization, to pilot the SEED Tax Prep Ambassadors program.

“We approached over 30 schools in the DC area, and Lesli Thompson, director of experiential learning & external opportunities at SEED DC, was the only person who took the leap. She believed in our initiative. We wouldn’t have been able to do it without her,” Mr. Nouhan said.

Every Monday evening, beginning on February 4, the SEED Tax Prep Ambassadors went to St. Luke Catholic Church to learn how to properly prepare tax documents, which included collecting the client’s tax documents, photo ID, and Social Security card and uploading them to a secure Google Drive account. With the help of Ron Hayes, tax program manager at CTA, and Hoya Taxa members Daphne Chiang (Georgetown University ’19) and Mark McNiskin (Georgetown University ’20), the SEED scholars worked closely with their clients to schedule appointments, provide consultations, and input tax information. A certified public accountant then prepared the taxes remotely, and the clients returned a week later to go over their returns and submit them.

“Because of this program, I learned what it means to be an effective multitasker and successfully handle multiple clients at one time,” said Kendriss Johnson (SEED DC ’19).

Congratulations to the following SEED DC scholars—Zachary Clark (SEED DC ’19), London Hart (SEED DC ’19), Kendriss Johnson (SEED DC ’19), Jeffrey Moore IV (SEED DC ’19), Imani Nixon (SEED DC ’19), and Jaymar Richards (SEED DC ’19)—for making history by being a part of such an amazing initiative and serving their community!

Where Are They Now? Monique Matthews (SEED DC ’04, Southeastern University ’09, Trinity Washington University ’12) Celebrates 13 Years with the US Government

At SEED, we begin to offer intensive college preparation to our students their junior year of high school. Our students learn how to financially prepare for college, tour colleges and universities across the country, and enroll in a semester-long course focused on ensuring a smooth transition from SEED to college life.

But we know that unexpected challenges that may arise while in college can derail our students’ college dreams. That’s why SEED’s College Transition & Success team is here to help every SEED student throughout the entire college process—from junior year of high school to college graduation.

Monique Matthews (SEED DC ’04) hit a snag her freshman year and began to rethink her college journey. With the support of Vincena Allen, who founded the College Transition & Success program, Monique remained on track and persisted to college completion.

This month, we spoke to Monique to learn more about her college journey and where she is now.

What college or university did you attend?

I attended Southeastern University, where I majored in public health and clinical science.

How was your transition from SEED to college?

My transition from SEED was hard, because I initially chose to attend a college that was not the best fit for me. I thank Ms. Vincena Allen for helping me successfully get through my freshman year. There were many days I wanted to quit because I was unhappy, but she continued to support me and encouraged me to finish the year strong—and I did. By my sophomore year, I was enrolled at Southeastern University—and there I found what “worked” for me. I got into a better rhythm and took full advantage of every opportunity.

Did you stay connected to SEED while in college?

While in college, I participated in many SEED events, including the Alumni Institute [now the SEED Graduate Institute]. I am thankful for the friendships and relationships I built at SEED, because they helped me to navigate the college process and to overcome any obstacles.

What did you do after graduating from Southeastern University?

After graduating from Southeastern University in 2009, I took a year off from school to focus on establishing my career in the federal government. I had a desire to obtain my master’s degree. Ms. Allen was there to support my goal and cheer me along the way, and in 2010 I enrolled at Trinity Washington University and graduated in 2012 with a Master of Public Community Health degree.

I will be celebrating 13 years of working in the federal government this September! I currently serve as a program manager at the US Department of Labor, where I manage the department’s services and programs that help our employees maintain a healthy work-life balance.

How did your experience at SEED impact you?

My experience at SEED has impacted me in more ways than one. I learned that only I am in control of my success and not to compare my success to others around me. This has helped me remain focused on the bigger picture and my long-term goals.

SEED has also provided me with a tremendous support system. Having a dream is great, but having a group of people behind you, pushing you to be a better you with every breath in their bodies—there is no feeling greater.

SEED continues to be a significant part of my life. The relationships I formed at SEED 20 years ago still thrive today. I am the woman I have become today mostly because of SEED. I am proud to say I am a SEED alumna and proud of my experience.

Meet Our Students: Jermaine Murchison (SEED Miami ’23) Sets His Sights on West Point

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Although still in middle school, Jermaine Murchison (SEED Miami ’23) is already focused on charting his path to a college degree. An eighth grader at SEED Miami, Jermaine is an honor roll student who sets a stellar example for his peers. As a member of the Student Ambassador program, Jermaine gives tours to prospective SEED students and donors. He is also a member of the Bulldog flag football team, where he plays safety, corner, and wide receiver.

“I’ve had the pleasure of serving as Jermaine’s student life counselor for three years. During this time, Jermaine has truly become a leader. Whether it’s in the classroom or on the football field, Jermaine has faced every challenge with tenacity and courage,” shared Kem Chatfield, a student life counselor at SEED Miami.

Jermaine is committed to taking advantage of every opportunity he is offered. As a sixth-grade scholar, he boarded a plane for the first time to travel to Buffalo Cove Outdoor Education Center in Deep Gap, North Carolina. Founded in 2003, Buffalo Cove encourages visitors to find harmony and empowerment through self-understanding, self-confidence, friends, and fun. Jermaine had the chance to explore nature, learn new skills, and connect with other Buffalo Cove campers.

“When our admissions director, Mr. Lewis, visited my home when I was in the fifth grade, I knew SEED was the school for me. I was most excited to live in the dorm, because it was something new, but traveling to Buffalo Cove gave me the opportunity to really get out of my comfort zone and try new things,” said Jermaine.

Jermaine is excited to begin high school and work with an advisor from SEED’s College Transition & Success program. He hopes to find a college or university that is the right fit for him. Currently, he has his sights set on earning a degree from the United States Military Academy at West Point.

We’re proud of Jermaine’s progress and excited to see where his educational journey takes him!

What We’re Learning: Acceleration Academies Work!

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At SEED, we’re committed to using evidence-based practices to improve our academic instruction and help our students succeed.

That’s why, last spring, we piloted an Acceleration Academy with students at SEED DC. Acceleration Academies provide targeted instruction in English language arts and math during a school vacation. We learned about this powerful intervention through research conducted on a district-wide improvement effort in Lawrence, Massachusetts, which found that the Acceleration Academies had a significant impact on student achievement and accounted for a larger proportion of learning gains than all the other strategies combined.

Instead of having fun in the sun during their spring break, nearly 40 SEED students participated in the Acceleration Academy. The students spent 20 hours over a five-day period honing their skills and mastering content aligned with the PARCC standardized test.

SEED’s Acceleration Academy worked!

  • Fifty-two (52) percent of students who participated in the Acceleration Academy improved their raw score on PARCC, compared to 12 percent of students who did not participate in the Acceleration Academy.

  • Thirty-two (32) percent of students who participated in the Acceleration Academy improved their PARCC performance level (PARCC has five levels of achievement), compared to 12 percent of students who did not participate in the Acceleration Academy. 

During our February 2019 winter break, we held another Acceleration Academy at SEED DC and are waiting to see the results.

Going forward, we’re excited about piloting more Acceleration Academies and other evidence-based practices across the network to help all SEED students improve.

Where Are They Now? Bradley Jacobs (SEED DC ’09, Towson University ’15) Is Living His Dream in New York City

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From the very first day our students set foot on campus, they begin to develop long-lasting and meaningful relationships.

These relationships are key to our students’ success. With the support of their counselors, teachers, and advisors, our scholars and graduates own their educational journeys and succeed in college and beyond.

This month, we spoke to Bradley Jacobs (SEED DC ’09). He shared with us how SEED’s guidance helped him to meet his goals and how the bonds he built are unbreakable.

What college or university did you attend after graduating from SEED?

I attended Towson University, where I majored in mass communications and minored in marketing.

How was your transition from SEED to college?

My transition was unique, since I spent my first year studying in Spain. When I returned, I spoke to my College Transition & Success (CTS) advisor, Melissa Freedman, and she helped me develop a plan. I enrolled at Allegany Community College [now Allegany College of Maryland] and secured my associate’s degree after two years. I then transferred to Towson University.

Did you stay connected to SEED while in college?

My CTS advisor was always available and constantly checked in with me. She helped me maneuver the college transfer process, determine which major was best for me, and develop a plan to ensure I had the GPA and credits to secure a degree in mass communications.

While in college, I also attended SEED’s Alumni Institute [now the SEED Graduate Institute] and received guidance on resume writing and financial literacy. The Institute helped me figure out what was beyond college and how to transition to adulthood. I found this super helpful.

What did you do after graduating from Towson University?

After graduating from Towson University, I moved to New York City.

It was my goal to work in the fashion industry, and today I work for a public relations agency where I manage relationships with fashion editors, celebrities, and online influencers. My focus is on helping my clients secure, maximize, and leverage press opportunities. Two of my clients are Nike and Helmut Lang.

How did your experience at SEED impact you?

Two things stand out for me: the importance of experiencing and traveling the world, and getting to—and through—college.

I was given a ton of opportunities to travel while at SEED. I traveled to Greece and then participated in the Experience International Living program, where I spent three weeks in Mexico. Traveling broadened my curiosity and led me to study in Spain for a year after graduation. I also studied for a semester in the Bahamas, where I learned a lot about ecology and the environment.

As a SEED student, I was guided through the financial aid process and how to apply for scholarships. The college tours gave me a firsthand look at college life and what each school had to offer. Through a tour, I learned of the opportunity to study abroad, and I am forever grateful for the experience.

But beyond travel and help with college, perhaps the thing I remember and cherish most about SEED is the relationships.

My relationship with SEED extends beyond school. In fact, this summer I’ll be attending the wedding of my former SEED advisor. The bonds I built are deep—SEED is my family.

Our Impact: SEED DC Celebrates Founders Day

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“Good afternoon, scholars!”

“Good afternoon.”

“I am sure you can do better than that. Good afternoon, scholars!”

“Good afternoon!”

On March 6, Mecha Inman, the head of school for The SEED School of Washington, D.C., kicked off Founders Day 2019 with this energetic greeting to scholars. SEED DC’s annual Founders Day celebration is an opportunity for scholars, staff, and graduates—the entire SEED family—to celebrate the accomplishments of fellow SEED community members. It’s also a time to remember why Eric Adler and Rajiv Vinnakota, co-founders of SEED and current SEED Foundation board members, started The SEED Foundation: They aspired to build the nation’s first network of college-preparatory boarding schools to provide youth living in low-income communities with an excellent education.

Founders Day is also a time to recognize eleventh and twelfth-grade scholars who have made significant contributions to SEED’s mission and vision. This year, the Vinnakota Award, was given to two remarkable scholars—Jeffrey Moore IV (SEED DC ’19) and Imani Nixon (SEED DC ’19).

Jeffrey and Imani are both members of the Peer Group Connection, where they serve as leaders and mentors for their fellow scholars. In addition, both students model the SEED mission by taking advantage of the many opportunities that SEED offers, such as traveling internationally with SEED’s Experiential Learning & External Opportunities program, performing with The SEED Falcon Theatre, and more!

“Founders Day is a wonderful time to celebrate and share our rich history and our mission with scholars, staff, and other stakeholders,” said, Ms. Inman. “We look forward to announcing the winners of the Vinnakota Award, and honoring our long-time staff members.”

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Finally, Founders Day is a time to recognize outstanding SEED teachers and faculty. Teachers who have served the school for four years receive a special chair to recognize their tenure at SEED and their commitment to SEED scholars. This year’s honorees were Brendan Dowd, campus operations manager; Alexis Holloway, school receptionist; Marjorie Howard, government grants manager; Davette Nutridge, special education teacher; Michael Street, director of information technology; Tina Taylor, student life counselor; and Nakeda Walker, administrative assistant.