Alumna’s 50-year fight for education and health services for children

Alumna’s 50-year fight for education and health services for children

Alumna’s 50-year fight for education and health services for children


Carrie Thornhill

A graduate of District of Columbia Teachers College  (’66), Carrie Thornhill has been impacting policy and research to improve the lives of District families for many years. She has fought to expand pre-kindergarten services for all three and four-year-olds in the District and worked toward improving education and health services for children. She currently leads the DC Early Learning Collaborative, the Dunbar Alumni Federation and Skyland Urban LLC. A UDC Board of Trustee member from 1993 to 1998, Thornhill has also been a member of the Advisory Committee on the Community College of the District of Columbia (CCDC).

Her economic and community development work involved the purchase of a $9.5 million shopping center, producing 1,170 affordable housing units by an East End community development organization, and designing and constructing the $122 million state-of-the-art Dunbar High School by the DC government.

Thornhill is the eldest of eight children. She was the first and only member of her family to attend college. She was married to her husband and best friend for 38 years, who passed away 20 years ago.

“I was always taking care of my sisters and brothers; we didn’t have time to have kids,” Thornhill said, who is beloved by nieces and nephews. “I’ve spent my time caring for the city’s kids.”

Thornhill has chaired Great Start DC, formerly Pre-K for All DC Inc., a citywide nonprofit organization that evolved from a successful two-year campaign resulting in landmark City Council legislation to provide high-quality pre-K services to all eligible three-and-four-year-olds in the District by 2014 at the cost of $64 million. Great Start DC has evolved into the DC Early Childhood Education Collaborative where Thornhill serves as president.

“Teaching and education is a theme through all of my work,” she said. “I was always trying to improve the quality of education in everything I did.”

Thornhill chaired her first organization at the age of 12 as the head of a teen club at a DC recreation center and she has been actively supporting the community since then.

She is a founding architect of Marshall Heights Community Development Organization, Inc. DC Agenda, the Children Youth Investment Trust Corporation, the DC Neighborhood College, the DC Childcare Corporation, the Deanwood Heights Main Streets Inc., the East Washington LLC, and Skyland Urban LLC.

“I’d like to think that I have been blessed to help to make big and important things happen to advance this city and particularly its young people that has major implications for the health and well-being of this city,” Thornhill said.

Development projects that she has been involved in range from the purchase and renovation of the East River Park Shopping Center in 1984 to building affordable single-family homes in the Benning Ridge neighborhood in 2006. She played an executive leadership role in five major housing projects over eight years, resulting in 1,170 affordable units.

Thornhill has served the community in numerous capacities, including recreation specialist for DC Department of Recreation, association director for programs for the National Conference of Christians and Jews, project director for the Response to Educational Needs Project and Old Anacostia School Project, president of the Committee on Strategies to Reduce Chronic Poverty at the Greater Washington Research Center, and vice president for Neighborhood Support Programs at DC Agenda.

At the neighborhood level, she chairs the board of directors of the Washington East Foundation, the Ward 7 Business Partnership, formerly Deanwood Heights Main Streets, the East Washington LLC, and the Skyland Urban LLC. She has served in several leadership roles with the Hillcrest Community Civic Association for over 30 years.

Thornhill has served as a member of the Federal Law Enforcement Nominating Commission, making recommendations to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton for consideration by President Obama.

She has previously served as an officer of the Eugene and Agnes Meyer Foundation and Wesley Theological Seminary board of directors, each for 12 years. Thornhill also chaired the Board of Zoning Adjustment for the city government for 10 years. She was an appointed At-Large member of the DC Board of Education from 2003 to 2006.

Nationally, she served as secretary of the National Civic League’s board of directors for 12 years and as a juror for the All-America City Awards for five years. She helped to found the National Community Building Network and served as a board member.

Thornhill serves as the treasurer and office manager for the Dunbar Alumni Federation, Inc. (DAF), an alliance of more than 2,000 alumni and friends of Dunbar. She is also the liaison to the school administration on school improvement matters and was an active member of the School Improvement Team that guided the design and building of the $122 million new state-of-the-art facility.

She recently served as the managing director for Israel Manor Inc., a faith-based developer and business development nonprofit which established a state-of-the-art Life Learning Center and a 47-unit Senior Housing Center in 2015 and 2016.

Thornhill is the recipient of numerous awards, including A Phenomenal Woman award from Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Xi Omega Chapter 2011 and a Pillar of Excellence award in 2014 from the East River Family Strengthening Collaborative, Inc.