eSN: D.C. has a booming tech sector, with companies like Amazon choosing to move there over other big cities. As DPA expands its grade levels, do you have plans to establish relationships with any of these companies?
Ashton: We’re already partnering with Microsoft and Deloitte to give our students opportunities to work with leaders in the tech industry and expose them to the kind of careers they could enter in a few years after college. We are trying to create more opportunities for our students to take part in “expeditions,” where they are exposed to tech careers in which they can apply what they are learning in the classroom. They might get to show off their skills to experts from these companies and then tour the companies’ offices to see their work up close. We think it’s important for our scholars to experience these environments in person so that the prospect of high achievement after graduation becomes something tangible.
eSN: Where do you hope to see DPA in 20 years? Are you planning any new projects/school startups for the future?
Ashton: Our plan is simple: to be the most innovative school in America. We want to close the achievement and opportunity gap for low-income and working-class students of color.
We hope that DPA equips all our students to enter higher education and eventually the job market, where they can secure in high-paying careers. With more high-quality college-prep schools that prepare students for the digital economy, we believe we can help break the cycle of poverty in areas like southeast D.C. In the coming years, we hope to open up to 25 DPA schools in cities across the country. We are creating an educational model that allows for schools to be tailor-made for their communities and totally replicable in new areas.