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Developing the next generation of innovators

Education Forward DC
Education Forward DC

At Digital Pioneers Academy (DPA), tenth grader Caron Owens spends a lot of his time experimenting, building, and creating, inside the classroom. Learning animation design, building robots, and writing code, are just a few of the skills he has learned as a scholar at the computer science immersion program for middle and high school students.

Located in Southeast DC, the public charter school became the District’s first computer science-focused middle school and welcomed its first class of 6th graders in 2018. The high school campus opened in 2021, and the first class will graduate in 2025. For Caron, who was part of the founding 6th-grade class, the focus on hands-on learning has taught him real-world skills, such as working in teams, using his imagination and creativity, and persevering to achieve a goal.

“We want our scholars to have the skills and experiences that will allow them to be on the path to four-year colleges, and high-paying, high-demand jobs.”

-Mashea Ashton, CEO & Principal.

As part of the curriculum, DPA scholars learn multiple programming languages, including C++, Python, and JavaScript. Scholars will be empowered to master two programming languages by graduation and pass the Computer Science Advanced Placement exam. They build websites, develop apps, and innovate game design. To prepare for jobs of the future, these skills will be critical. “We believe computer science is not a good to have, or a nice to have, it is a must-have,” said Dietra Hunter, Assistant Principal. “Digital Pioneers Academy believes in computer science for all, for real.”

For Caron, DPA’s sense of community offers another reason to enjoy coming to school. “Everyone knows each other,” he said. That feeling of closeness is by design, with a core DPA value being that every student is “known, loved, and respected.”

Simone Scott, Caron’s mother and DPA board member, chose the academy as much for its focus on computer science education as for its commitment to “educating the whole child,” which includes centering social-emotional learning, and giving scholars access to experiences outside of the classroom. For example, Caron traveled to Florida to speak at an education conference.

DPA prepares scholars to grab hold of opportunities, and high school graduation is just the beginning. “We want our scholars to have the skills and experiences that will allow them to be on the path to four-year colleges, and high-paying, high-demand jobs,” said Mashea Ashton, CEO & Principal.
“We want them to be relentless and unapologetic in the goals that they set for themselves, and expectations around education and achievement,” Mashea continued. “When they advance themselves, they will make opportunities for their families and their broader community.


DPA parent Simone Scott, student Caron Owens, and Principal Mashea Ashton.

Education Forward DC
Education Forward DC

Every DC student deserves to thrive.