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1027 45th St. NE, Washington, DC 20019 Phone: (202) 399-4750
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Alumni Spotlight: Ty'Kirah Ellis, Class of 2021

Whether she’s at school, at work, or in the community, Ty’Kirah Ellis always walks into the room ready to learn and ready to lead. Currently a freshman at Delaware State University, Ty’Kirah prepared well for college by working hard inside and outside the classroom while in high school.

“I can honestly say IDEA really pushed me on my academic path and in developing my leadership skills,” Ty’Kirah said. “By being in the National Honor Society and mentoring 9th graders through Peer Group Connection, I thought a lot about what it means to help others. I realized when I look at where I am today and where I’m going, I didn’t get here by myself.”

As an IDEA scholar, Ty’Kirah consistently made the honor roll, played basketball for the Lady Timberwolves, worked as a junior athletic director, and was named Scholar of the Month in December 2020. Upon graduation, she received IDEA’s Booker T Washington Scholarship as well as the DC CAP scholarship which covers the costs of tuition, room, and board at Delaware State.

A seasoned community activist, Ty’Kirah is a longtime member of Black Swan Academy. “Black Swan is a nonprofit organization for youth of color to let their voices be heard,” she explained. “I was a youth leader and graduated to become a youth ambassador. Now that I’m in college, I’m remote but I’m still involved. Right now we’re discussing topics such as gun violence, LGBTQ advocacy, and youth homelessness, and I’m contributing my input and ideas to the conversations.”

Throughout her senior year and during the summer before beginning college, in addition to studying and volunteering, Ty’Kirah was working, first as an Urban Alliance intern and then adding an IDEA Summer Internship to the mix. Urban Alliance placed Ty’Kirah at EDENS DC, a commercial real estate firm that manages Union Market in the NOMA neighborhood of DC. 

“I was working for the operations manager, looking at data on foot traffic--how many people come to the shops and the restaurants in the area,” Ty’Kirah said. “I was also entering data about how much money each tenant made during the week and putting up posters about COVID safety measures and protocols.” While she was familiar with residential real estate, before the internship, Ty’Kirah hadn’t thought about commercial real estate. “They taught me a lot. I found out it was really about building a community with different tenants like shops and eateries. We were making a calculation of community-based engagement.” 

During the school year, the EDENS DC work was virtual, but during the summer Ty’Kirah added some in-person days while also starting her IDEA internship assisting Director of Career and Technical Education Andrea Zimmermann and supporting summer school. “I wanted to work at IDEA because I know the school and the area, and everyone knows me around the school. I just like helping people.”

As an IDEA summer intern, Ty’Kirah helped the security desk by greeting and checking-in students and staff, distributing schedules, making and posting signs, and other tasks. “I was maneuvering around the school. If anyone needed help, I was there to help.”

Those time management skills are coming in handy as Ty’Kirah balances a full course load for the first semester: Sociology, Criminal Justice, Data Analysis, Rhetoric and Composition, Elementary Spanish and Culture, and University Seminar. She is focusing on her academics before she explores any college clubs or extracurriculars, but she does plan to join an organization for criminal justice majors and eventually pledge a sorority and join student government. Ty’Kirah wants to make sure her activities support her aspiration to have a career in law.

“I think it’s important for young people to know you should be what you want to be, and do what you want to do,” Ty’Kirah said. “Live up to your own expectations, not someone else’s. Get up and do things.”

She is definitely taking her own advice.

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