Tennessee State Alum Highlight: Rhonda Thomas Founder of Leap Forward

Why did you choose TSU?

TSU was presented to me as an option to become part of a cooperative education program with the Navy in Southern Maryland. It met my criteria at the time, which was a HBCU located out of state.Through this program, 50% of my education was funded by the Navy.

How did TSU prepare you for your current profession?

The engineering education I received from TSU was wonderful.  I didn’t even learn about the engineering profession until my senior year in high school.  The program allowed me to learn all about each discipline before finally deciding on electrical engineering my junior year.  The problem solving alone surely prepared me for my work place and enhanced my ability to think through solutions.

What’s the best advice you received from a parent, grandparent, family member, mentor or friend?

The common theme from all was – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Why do you love TSU?

I learned that I wouldn’t have many of my life’s successes without my educational foundation.  That foundation is TSU.  I love the unity and the feel of family and I am always mindful of the school’s many accomplishments and of the students coming up behind me. That’s why I give back.

What inspired you to start Leap Forward?
I learned about engineering from my high school counselor (the late Mr. Wallace Leeper) during my senior year.  He suggested that I consider engineering and the Navy cooperative education program.  This divine intervention through a hallway conversation changed the course of my life.  Just as my counselor helped me, I wanted to help others and became dedicated to exposing under served minority students to science, technology, engineering and math career opportunities.

How many students have you assisted in sending to TSU?

In 1996, we started conducting college tours to TSU particularly around homecoming while there are a lot of activities going on.  Our ultimate goal is to encourage students to just further their education and attend any college.  Through our efforts approximately 40 students have visited the school from the DMV.  We have had a few student successes with our College of Engineering students completing their studies at TSU, but most returned to the east coast to further their education.

For More information on Leap Forward, please check her website:

Leap Forward


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