AU Alumna finds new ways to educate DC students with Raising A Village

Jaleesa Hall’s nonprofit organization provides effective K-12 tutoring with help from AU students

AU Alumna finds new ways to educate DC students with Raising A Village

Jaleesa Hall with Driven 2 Succeed students and Student Corps Members

Editor’s Note: Jordan Young, the news managing editor for The Eagle and a former employee of the Raising A Village Foundation, was not involved in the reporting or editing of this article.

With the recent expansion of tutoring programs in D.C. public schools through the mayor’s office, tutoring is becoming more popular and getting better funding in local schools.

One emerging organization in this field is Raising a Village, a D.C. nonprofit that provides high-impact tutoring and support to disadvantaged communities through its Driven 2 Succeed program. The program helps students in vulnerable areas with topics like math and literacy, as well as with college prep. 

The organization was founded in 2017 by CEO and American University alumna Jaleesa Hall. The Miami native wanted to address issues she had observed in D.C. public schools.

“I noticed that students didn't have an additional space for learning,” Hall said. “Classrooms lacked additional spaces for students to learn, especially [for] those that had difficulty learning in the classroom. Seeing all of those things made me realize that there was space for Raising a Village and space for the Driven 2 Succeed program.”

The Driven 2 Succeed program provides academic and social-emotional support to K-12 students in D.C. D2C tutors and mentors help students both in the classroom and at community learning centers after school. D2C has 15  D.C. Public Schools sites, which include Anacostia High School, Kramer Middle School and Theodore Roosevelt High School. 

The program follows the “Four Cs” philosophy, Hall said.

“The four Cs are community-minded, consistency, companionship and completion,” she said. “Those are the tenets of how we build relationships with students before we can help them academically. We have to build a solid relationship with them, because relationships open the door for trust and success.” 

The organization also provides students with experiences outside of academics like ziplining and yoga. 

An important component of the D2C program is the Driven Student Corps, which allows college students to work with K-12 students in various ways, such as one-on-one tutoring or helping teachers with school lessons. Hall sees the Driven Student Corps members as companions to the students they work with.

“Our driven student core members are near-peer tutors and mentors,” Hall said. “They serve as role models and future reflections or projections of what those children can be.”

The Driven Student Corps comprises college students from various D.C. universities like AU and Howard University. Vanessa Flores, a senior In the School of Education, joined D2C after learning about it from a friend. The California native is majoring in elementary education and has enjoyed tutoring students through the program.

“As someone who isn’t from D.C., participating in RAV has really allowed me to learn more about the community that I will be serving once I become a full-time educator in DCPS,” said Flores. “I really think RAV has been a great opportunity for all of us to interact with the community.”

While Raising a Village is just six years old, Hall has been doing this type of community and educational work for years. While pursuing her Bachelor’s in Mass Media Arts, Radio, TV, Film from Clark Atlanta University, Hall started the Driven Student Organization in 2009. The campus-chartered organization helps college students serve their community and pursue academic opportunities. 

Hall originally wanted a career in media, but after having success with Driven 2 Succeed’s Atlanta Children’s Shelter program, she decided that she wanted to create a nonprofit organization that would focus on this same kind of service. 

Before starting her own nonprofit, Hall knew that she would need to gain experience and learn the inner workings of nonprofit management and public service. Hall pursued a Master’s of Public Administration degree at AU’s School of Public Affairs, where she concentrated in both nonprofit management and arts management. Hall also spent years working at nonprofits and government agencies like the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts and Center City Public Charter Schools.

In addition to gaining valuable experience in the field, Hall was awarded the Community Engagement Fellowship from the Wesley Theological Seminary, where she received a Master’s of Divinity. During her time at Wesley Theological Seminary, Hall’s fellowship provided her with $10,000 to start a community engagement initiative. Hall used this money to ultimately start Raising a Village and pilot the Driven 2 Succeed program at D.C.’s Calvary Christian Academy in Fall 2017. 

“I knew the administration there through a relationship that I had with my faith community at the time,” Hall said. “And so that seemed like the perfect place because it was in Ward 5, the population of those students fit the criteria of those who really needed support and I had the support and the relationship with the administration.”

Hall led high-impact tutoring once a week at the academy until it closed. After the academy closed, Hall suspended the program so she could plan and acquire more resources for a full program launch. AmeriCorps was one organization that helped further fund D2C. 

In 2019, D2C had its first DCPS partnership at H.D. Woodson STEM High School, where she established relationships with school officials, teachers and parents.

“When parents or guardians drop their kids off at school, they're entrusting that the school does what's best for their child educationally,” Hall said. “And so, we had to first build trust with them. Once we were able to do that, parents began to meet us at back-to-school nights and other extracurricular activities around the school. That gave us the headway to be able to engage with parents to talk about the academic trajectory of their children.”

Since achieving success at H.D. Woodson, Raising a Village has continued to connect with communities and schools across D.C., helping thousands of students

“I think Raising a Village has done a really good job not only in our language, but in how we operate within communities to really say, ‘No, we want to join the party, we want to join you however you need us to,’” said Hall. “I think people feel that and know that which is why we have seen the growth we have seen in terms of program expansion.”

Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Jaleesa Hall's name. The article has been updated with the accurate spelling. 

This article was edited by Abigail Hatting, Maeve Fishel and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis and Daniel Carson. 

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