Today is International Women’s Day…the perfect day to lift up Detroit Public Schools’ women who have made a difference! Today we are celebrating our own – DPS alumnae Karinda L. Washington!

Karinda is the Acting Assistant Secretary for Partnership and Engagement within the Office of the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in Washington, DC.  Karinda’s expertise lies in designing and implementing creative engagement processes and programs within both the public and private sectors.  Prior to this role, she was selected as the Office of Partnership and Engagement’s first chief of staff to fully realize the merger of nine offices and campaigns, administering a multi-million-dollar budget. The Office is comprised of the Office for State and Local Law Enforcement, Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, Private Sector Office, Office of Academic Engagement, Faith Initiatives, Faith-Based Security Advisory Council, Committee Management Office, Homeland Security Advisory Council, If You See Something, Say Something®️, Blue Campaign, Loaned Executive Program, and Exemplar.

Acting Assistant Secretary Washington is passionate about community relations, community development, social impact and corporate social responsibility in urban centers. She attributes her success in Washington, DC. to her experiences in Detroit where she was able to work with a number of smaller nonprofits and marry the nonprofit world to the work involved in government.  Her days and nights are filled with balancing numerous immediate crises, while ensuring DHS’ policies are inclusive and equitable. 

“It is a blessing to have this position and to raise the voices of those who have been and continue to be underrepresented.” 

Born and raised in Detroit, Karinda attended DPS schools including Vandenberg Elementary, Mason Elementary, Law Elementary, Nolan Middle School and graduated from Martin Luther King, Jr. Sr. High School (MLK) in 1996 with a Math, Science, And Applied Technology (MSAT) certification! 

From K- second grade her parents were renters and moved every year until 3rd grade when they became first time home buyers.  They still live in the same house today.

“DPS for me was an experience where I could get a top-notch education which prepared me for my collegiate experience at Eastern Michigan University. In addition, I took Latin in high school and was able to go to Italy in my junior year. Ms. Sampson, my Latin teacher, was an archeologist and participating in  a project in Italy. My dad worked at the post office and my mom ran a nonprofit organization. They could not afford to send me on the trip so we raised the funds. Mom and I created and sold broaches and my dad sold katydids. We raised the funds and I went on the trip. It was my first introduction to a global society. I was able to meet other students from other parts of the world. It allowed me to understand that there were opportunities for me and there was something bigger than my life in Detroit. Even though violence and instability were around me, I know for a fact that my experiences at DPS influenced who I was to become.”

Karinda still comes back to Detroit every year to attend the Martin Luther King awards ceremony at MLK High School.

“It is important for me to show the students that no matter what adversity they are facing, they have advocates in Washington and throughout the country who will support them.  DPS has produced so many “rock stars!”  What I am today is based upon the investment of my great DPS teachers, principals, counselors, and experiences. They showed me that I  can write and do STEM. You do not need to be afraid of math, chemistry, and physics. I am very grateful to them for their care in cultivating amazing minds.”

Karinda went on to Eastern Michigan University and received her Bachelor’s Degree in English Written Communication and has a Master’s Degree in Communications, Public Relations and Organizational Communication from Wayne State University. Karinda was also a Senior Executive Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School. 

She is DPS Proud!!!!