LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Keishia Thorpe

Position: Twelth Grade Teacher / Track & Field Head Coach
School: International High School Langley Park
School District: Prince George's County Public Schools
City, State: Bladensburg, MD

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Keishia Thorpe was nominated by a family member, Dr. Tresha Borris.

As a young woman and immigrant from a country with most of its population living below poverty line, Ms. Thorpe dreamed of living the American Dream.  She worked very hard to earn a track and field scholarship to a college in the U.S, where she graduated at the top of her class.  Since then, she made it her civic and personal responsibility to help others achieve their dreams of going to college, as well.  After college, she began teaching English in Title I public schools, where she could help students from disadvantaged backgrounds realize and maximize their potential. 

Over her 14 years as an educator, Ms. Thorpe has dedicated herself to preparing students for college, both in and outside of the classroom.  The students she teaches are from similar backgrounds.  Many of them are undocumented and struggle with the English language.  Over the past six years, she has dedicated herself to helping her English language learners level up and prepare for college, an opportunity that most of them did not see as a possibility. Every year, more than 90% of her students vastly improve their English skills, both in their post-test scores and WIDA levels.

Even though she is a single mother, Ms. Thorpe has stayed after school at her workplace on many evenings, assisting a great number of her students with applying to colleges. As a result, she was honored as the district's Teacher of the Year Runner-up for 2018. She has also earned two mission awards from her school for preparing students for college and contributing to the school’s mission. She still stays in touch with and is a mentor to some of her students who are now in college.

One of her former students is now working in the Mayor’s office as Director of Culture and Diversity. This particular student was a part of an organization Ms. Thorpe started at school called the Hope Beyond Distance Foundation. With the foundation, she created a program to support immigrant students, especially those who were undocumented. She invited speakers who are immigrants to share their stories and created a safe space where students felt supported. She also successfully hosted two forums where she invited the Chancellor, city leaders, council members and immigration lawyers to answer questions from immigrant students’ families and offer support services. As a Union Leader representing her school, she was also involved in the initiative for DC to become a sanctuary city and promote safe schools for the immigrant student population. She also led her students in researching and developing presentations on immigration and created a platform through the program where they could share their voice about their immigrant experience in America with city leaders.

Several students received college scholarships from the Kiwanis and One World Education as a result. Along with her students, she wrote many letters to Congresswoman Eleanor Norton Holmes in favor of the DACA program.  Beyond that, the program also allowed students to connect to their home countries. On different holidays she would sit with them and write hundreds of cards to send to schools and hospitals in their home countries.

Because of her care and involvement with her school, students and community, she was chosen by her school and school district as a travel ambassador. She visited the Bahamas with her students and taught at one of their high schools in Cat Island.  She was instrumental in helping the school she taught at to become the first government-registered school in the Bahamas to offer AP subjects in preparing students to compete for scholarships and admission into US colleges. During her trip, she taught AP Language and Literature. After she returned to the U.S., she continued teaching and mentoring the students through Skype. The small cohort of students were all granted scholarships to college because of their Advanced Placement scores. Since then, more schools began using the model with their students to access AP courses, since most teachers on the island are not trained to teach AP courses.

"This goes to show how far reaching her impact is on students as an educator. I know she is still working with one superintendent in the Bahamas to expand the program so more students there will have access to AP courses, which will offer more opportunities for them to access colleges in the U.S," Borris said.

Outside of the classroom, Ms. Thorpe is the co-founder of a registered nonprofit, U.S. Elite International Track and Field, Inc. under which she created the Liaison International Scholarship Program. The Liaison Program was established to give student-athletes an opportunity to use their gifts and talents as a vehicle to access scholarships to earn a college diploma debt-free. As a student athlete from a disadvantaged background, the only opportunity she had to go to college was through her involvement in sports. Through the program, she helped student athletes realize their dream of college by encouraging them to use their talents.

"Most of these students do not necessarily have the highest GPA or SAT scores, but through the network she established with many college coaches, she is able to assist student athletes she coaches and those in the school district in achieving a debt-free education through track scholarship opportunities," Borris said. 

The program she developed targets student athletes from low to moderate income families and those who are considered “at-risk." Most of the student athletes who enroll in her program and ones who she mentors are first-generation high school or college students.

"Since track and field gave her the hope of college when she was in high school and had no clue what was going to happen next, I think she feels obligated to pay it forward," Borris explained. "Through a track scholarship, she was able to complete college and had the opportunity to help her family.  With the program, she wanted to provide the same access and opportunity for other student athletes to change their lives in the same way that higher education was able to change hers – not just for the athletes she coaches, but all athletes in her school district and community."

From the beginning, Ms. Thorpe has been using her own paycheck to make sure students had a way to pay for clearance for the Eligibility Center, pay for the SATs, or even admission fees to college for those experiencing extreme financial hardships. For the past nine years, she has reached out to community businesses and organizations to sponsor an Annual Scholarship and Athletic Convention. The Convention brings together a team of college coaches and college admissions and compliance teams who educate student athletes on college admissions, the Eligibility Center, SAT and ACT, DI, DII, and NAIA standards, NCAA compliance, and more topics that will help them to transition to college successfully.  The day ends with an Olympic guest motivational speaker and a two-hour college fair, where student athletes get to interact with college coaches and admission representatives one on one. Most students usually get recruited on the spot.

Ms. Thorpe has spent hours writing grants and partnering with shoe companies to make sure all athletes who cannot afford tennis shoes for track practice get a pair at the event.  What started as a local initiative became an international one, as the student athletes in the program talked about how they benefitted, and coaches requested her to do workshops with their athletes in other states and countries.

"It is intruiging to see how she forms a personal relationship with each individual student athlete, guarantee each of them a college scholarship, and come through for each of them.  Not only was she helping domestic students, but her international population grew because students wanted to attend college in the U.S., but were totally unaware of the legalities and the international student process," Borris said. 

Ms. Thorpe wanted to make sure she equipped those students, not only with equal access to opportunities, but all the necessary information for attending U.S. colleges, especially due to the current immigration laws. With many international students reaching out, especially from the Caribbean, she hosted three successful conventions in Jamaica to educate college-bound student athletes, and she received a lot of support there.  This year, she hosted the Annual Scholarship and Athletic Convention in Freeport, Bahamas and was able to get the Ministry of Education in the Bahamas to support my initiative. 

On October 17, 2018, the country-wide newspaper, The Freeport News, published a spread on the benefits of her college bound initiative to the Bahamas. It will offer students a chance to go to college debt-free and help reduce the opportunity, income and achievement gaps in the Bahamas, where the largest population contributing to the unemployment rate are those under 20 years old (high school graduates). She continues to do the same for her students and those in her school community daily.

While helping students to achieve their dreams, she made sure she stuck to accomplishing her own professional goals as well, to be a constant role model and equip herself enough to advocate for students in meaningful ways.  While managing the organization’s college bound programs, she qualified for 2 Olympic trials, completed her MEd. and her USA Track and Field Level II and AIC National Coach’s Certification.  She has been chosen a presenter in various school district professional development and at College Board AP Conferences, sharing her best classroom practices with other educators.  She has also published research in education.

"She continues to strive for greatness to be an example to the college bound students she mentors, to show them if she can do it, then they can," Borris said.

Ms. Thorpe currently teaches at a new Title I school for English Language Learners, where she has been put in charge of creating and teaching the entire English Language Curriculum and two AP courses – AP English Literature and Composition and the new AP Capstone Seminar.  Her goal is to expose her students to the kind of academic rigor they will experience in college and prepare them for life beyond the classroom, with skills they can transfer to any aspects of their lives.

"Many critics believe that ELL students are incapable of taking and being successful in AP courses, but she thinks that whether or not they pass the exam with a high score, the level of critical thinking they are able to achieve and the knowledge they are able gain is going to be invaluable to their post-secondary pursuits," Borris said. "Therefore, she is relentless in encouraging perseverance in her students and giving them hope where many doubt their abilities. She has stayed after school to tutor her students and is always available through her email anytime to help them. "

Ms. Thorpe has registered her students to be exposed to and attend their first live Shakespeare play.  She has also just helped her students to write and revise their Common Application essays for college admission and mentoring a large group of them, no easy feat when you teach more than 70 students. Under her coaching of track and field, her cross-country athletes placed first in the regional championship, placed second as a team, and have qualified for the first time for the national championship. This is a great accomplishment for a new school of 3 years. 

"The school will graduate its first class of seniors in 2019, and I am proud of her work with the students and her role in their journey," Borris said.



Comments (23)


Tomas Posted 7 days ago

Your class help me a lot because when you has a lot responsibilities you has to has to make time or aways to complete the work or homeworks because if i don't do my work on time i will lose a lot grades or i will lose the years as the same the work if i don't do what they ask for it i will lose the job. I learned how to make time a every single thing during my day. Thanks because this changed how i look at life.

Isabela Ortiz Posted 7 days ago

Ms. Thorpe,your teaching shaped me and the way I think, act and it has changed me because now I'm thinking about life in a deeper way to be successful in life. Also, by influencing me to change the way I use to do my assignments and It has also pushed me to always be on time with any deadline assignments. Some life lesson that I have learned since the being in this class is that I should always be ahead of everything and always improve myself to do better things.You are always caring and I appreciate it.

Josselyn M. Posted 7 days ago

Your teaching shaped me and make me think about being responsible and trying to be on time but also to don´t get distracted in class. In your class, I learn that not everything is easy and work is given every day. Since I being in this class I learned that I need to take things serious and not as a game.

Winnie D. Posted 7 days ago

Ms. Thope’s teaching shaped my thinking because this class makes me wants to work twice harder and it also motivate me push myself so I ca have a better grade in her class. What I've learned in this class will prepare me for college or work life because I learn to write a perfect essay because she made us do it over and over so we can get used to it. Also because I've learn to work with people who I thought I would never be able to work for example I never picture myself be a partner with yaya working on a class work or keeping him on track so he can do his homework so we both won’t have a bad grade, and this class really push to get out of my boundary. I learn to work people who I don’t without an arguement or complaining. Thank you for that!

Rosana Artiga Posted 7 days ago

Your teaching has changed my life making me know that not everything in life is easy, that I have work hard to go so far and learn. Something that I learned from you is how to be responsible and how to work with partner.

Ana Rivera Posted 8 days ago

Your class has shown me what social and physical development are. Every day in this class I am learning to balance my time and be organized. By being organized I can get more things done by the time they are due. I have learned to be more prepared with supplies and that there are no excuses. Work has to be turned on time and you are giving us an opportunity to do the work the have not turned in which is helping me get a better grade in her class.I appreciate you.

edvin ortegavasquez Posted 8 days ago

In Ms. Thorpe's class I have learned a lot of lessons. One of them is a big lesson about responsibility and hard work. Also, this change me as a person been more responsible and taking care of the work and putting more effort in all the work of the class. What i have learn in this class it's preparing me to be ready for college and real life. Thanks for the lessons.

Edwin Jordan Posted 8 days ago

I learned in Ms. Thorpe's class many things about myself. I always try to be a good student but this class is teaching me to be a responsible person this is why now i'm trying to get this class on point to get or increase my grade in english. Ms Thorpe has been telling us about life and giving us examples of what our life looks like without education. Of this class I learn to work as a team and always support who need help in some work.

Iqlima ismailee Posted 8 days ago

What life lessons I have learned since I have been in Ms. Thorpe's class are to not easily give up on life even though we don't have any idea what to do still we have to try hard. I have learned to be awake and active by doing whatever we are deciding to do. Ms. Thorpe’s teachings really affected me as a person actually not only by being a student but being a human being. These teachings really shaped how I think and collaborate with others, this way I get stronger and become more mature. This is a big challenge for everyone to be in this class and have a good grade and its for me too, but I never give up and even though sometimes when I even don’t have any idea what to do, I still do it. She gives us the courage to actually go to her during lunch time, after school or even email her to ask her any questions based on the lesson she gives. I think this is a great class to start it off by doing work and actually encouraging other classmates to work too. Her class can be very challenging but I like it because it prepares me for college and actually showing me that not everything comes easy, but by trying and putting effort on. She teach us that We have to believe in ourselves that we can do it.

Yennis Avalos Posted 8 days ago

The life lesson that I have learned since the being in Ms. Thorpe's class is that the time doesn't wait and that if you miss a day of work you have so much to catch up with after. My teacher shaped the way I think about life is by telling us that the work out there is even harder if you don't understand what you get in class. She change me as a person by making me think about the world when I graduate school. How not everything in life is going to be easy. What I learn in her class is preparing me for college and work life because it is giving me an experience in how work life and college is going to be. For example if you don't get something done on time there is consequences, and if you do the same for college and work you will get in trouble and bring you score down and even faired if your working. Thank you!

Linda A. Posted 8 days ago

Ms. Thorpe, In your class I have learned things that I know will help me in my life after. I have learn to work hard and also not to think only about myself. In this class we are learning to work as a group and with partners. This is a life skill because when we go outside and need to a good job we will need to work with different kind of people. This will also help me personally because I am not a really social person but, I try to work even more with the people around me. I am growing this skill and developing it as I work in the class and in school all because of you.

Carlos Z Posted 8 days ago

I changed because you teach me how to be ordered with our things and here I learned it little by little.

Melvin Posted 8 days ago

The lessons of life that I have learned from Ms. Thorpe is how to be responsible and how to prepare for college. I have learned that going to college requires being able to do things without going to Google.This have changed the way I study.

Jasson Reyes Posted 16 days ago

I learned so many lessons of life from Ms Thorpe - how to be responsible and how to prepare for college. I have learned that going to college requires being able to do things without going to Google. she helped me changed the way I study. She teaches me things that will help me if I go to college because she cares.

Kimberly Ortiz Posted 16 days ago

The things that I like about Ms. Thorpe's class is it's helpful for a college or my work life because of everything I learn . Writing well is one of those skills that will benefit me for the rest of my life. How to take the time to do each task and above all have a responsibility. She instilled in me that Life is not just a moment, life continues with good news, so learn to love your life right now and you will have an incredible life.

Ivan Posted 16 days ago

The lessons I learned since knowing Ms. Thorpe is that you have to face the real-life problems and faced the future. I had changed a lot because in her class I learn so much important things about life and how to respect and be on time.

Erick Posted 16 days ago

Her class has actually teached me some basics that will be really helpful, from how to write the headings of a paper in a correct way, to teaching me the right structure for an essay.Her class have changed my mind because it has been a challenge for me, so I have learn to work hard and to try again when I failed. Being in the class with Ms. Thorpe have made me a better person, because it taught me that there is going to be situations in life in which we have to work with people that we don’t connect but we just have to keep going and work hard and try to leave feelings behind in order to succeed.

Asma Ismailee Posted 17 days ago

I have learned a lot of things from Ms. Thorpe to prepare for college. I learned what to do when I write an essay. The life lesson I have learned since being in this class is how to cooperate with others. I learned how to communicate in a group. I think life is easy if you make it easy. If you work hard on something to achieve it, you will make it. These things changed my life. She is a life changer.

Abiel Posted 17 days ago

I think what all I been learning in Ms. Thorpe's class would help me by showing me the hard work and prepare for the future I see this class as a preparation for students. I learned from her that hard work makes us more available to do hard things in life, for example, the essays and the books, novels, plays that we been reading prepare us. This changed me as a person because it shows me that if I want something better I need to work hard.

Victor Posted 17 days ago

Ms Thorpe's class prepare me college by giving me the experience. Being in her class make learned that the outside world is not an easy life, like College is very different from High School because in College a student is not allowed to turn in late assignments, but in High School, things are different because of some teachers allow students to turn in a missing assignment even if it is a week later. The teaching you gave to me, has shaped my life because you tell us to do our very best and being responsible for our assignments and our partners, to communicate and help them to their best.

Rafael Posted 17 days ago

What I have learned in Ms. Thorpe's class can help me know what the college will be like so I can be prepared for that day.One life lessons that I learn in her class is always do all your work and always give the best of yourself, no matter what obstacles are ahead.And your teaching shaped give me the feedback that I need to keep fighting for my dreams and and it change me to be always positive in life.

Saba Amara Posted 1 months ago

I am currently at Gordon College, majoring in Political Science and Sociology. I also happened to be Ms. Thorpe's former student and current mentee. This an opportunity for me to highlight Ms. Thorpe's contributions to my community and her unrelenting dedication to her students. Teachers are the leaders and the examples for our tomorrow; it is through their diligence and passion, that we understand the world around us and further realize our destiny; educators evidently play a powerful but sometimes undervalued role, hence why I believe that Life Changer Of The Year is a wonderful way to change the ways in which we view our educators by shedding light on their hard work and encouraging them. There are two teaching approaches held by most teachers in the Public School systems; one is a common pursuit to ensure that students have the best grades possible and on the other hand, the second method approaches students with rigor and the expectancy that even if their growth is not always reflected in their grades, they do not remain stagnant admits poor education. To no surprise, Ms. Thorpe is and has always been the second kind. Ms. Thorpe’s class is always ranked the most difficult in the school and often the class that students complain about when initially placed in it. Nonetheless, it is also the class that students find most rewarding. I know plenty of students that mention how grateful they are to have taken her course in preparation for college and that they have no idea how they would have completed their research papers or presentations. Not only does Ms. Thorpe ensure students are being challenged academically, but she is adamant about helping to build character in her students and exposing them to opportunities that they never thought possible. During my senior year of High School, admits the stresses of college application and a great deal of class workload, I found myself earning grades that I had not achieved before; I owe much of that to her; I spent much of my after school hours with her, whether it be practicing on the track field or in her classroom conversing, I found that there was so much to admire and even more to take away from her life. In those months, I saw how dedicated she was to me, my goals, and that of all her students. I will never forget the time she sought out the White House Internship for me, ensuring that I applied and going as far as driving me to the functions and helping me prepare for the interviews. I felt like she treated me no different than her own daughter and for that I am evermore grateful. Thanks to her guidance and support, I was able to have a summer of a life time, interning under President Obama’s Administration. Beyond that, I was able to realize all that I had to offer this world. You see, that is what Ms. Thorpe does, her energy has a way of reminding one that even the sky is not the limit and that truly, I can do all that I put my mind to! She is the phenomenal women Maya Angelou speaks of; she has the heart of a champion, with her journey she brings the wisdom of the old, conveys passion in all her efforts, and remains meek in her success. She is a firm believer in the power of good education and a beautiful representation of how hard work never ends, but it always pays off. Growing up in the neighborhoods and the circumstances that my peers and I did, there was often a feeling of carelessness that came from our parental figures; by that I mean, they were more focused on putting food on the table and a bit less on how we were doing in classes regularly. This type of upbringing causes a student to sometimes be idle and lack discipline. However, in classrooms like Ms. Thorpe’s, excuses were not acceptable, and her high expectations, also sometimes foreign to us, pushed us to do more. Yes, far more than the bare minimal! All this being said, I have no doubt that Ms. Thorpe should receive recognition for her astounding efforts and be awarded Lofe Changer of the Year and frankly it strikes me that she has not been acknowledged already.

Community Member Posted 1 months ago

Ms. Thorpe has been an active community member and well respected for her passion in helping kids in the community chase their dreams. She is definitely a life changer. I applaud her for all that she is doing and I am so proud of her. Keep up the good work.