LEGACY READERS: READING WITH YOUNG LEARNERS!

Lots of education research confirms that children who read below grade level in the 3rd grade have a very hard time ever catching up. And if children can’t read well, they really struggle in school. If they don’t enjoy reading, they tend not to spend the time to learn to read better. Many even drop out of school early and rarely pursue post-secondary education. 

Even though Arlington is a highly educated community overall, we have lots of children in Arlington elementary schools whose reading skills fall behind. The impact may be most significant in families where there are few books at home, where the native language isn’t English, and where parents have little time to read with their children due to job schedules. COVID has obviously exacerbated this challenge.

In the spring of 2022, a few volunteers began a pilot program in partnership with Hoffman-Boston Elementary School.  That pilot was very successful and gave us an opportunity to fine tune the logistics. We’re now planning for the 2022-23 school year and expanding to Drew and Long Branch, in addition to continuing at Hoffman-Boston.

The minimum commitment is 45 minutes one day per week, between 4and 6 PM, simply reading with a student one on one and chatting about the book(s) (and anything else the child wants to discuss!).  There is a formal process for approving volunteers and a short online training class on Safe Schools. School staff provides books and coordinates the schedule for each volunteer.If you’d like more information or just want to sign up, please contact Dan Dixon (202-262-8338 or dandixon97@aol.com).

Keeping “Abreast” of the Turkey Trot

Based on an interview with Mark Riley, member of Christ Church of Arlington and Turkey Trot race director (aka “Chief Turkey”)

With the 17th running of the Arlington 5K Turkey Trot fast approaching, Mark Riley talked turkey on how the race started, how it has changed, and why it is important. While the race now has a max of 4,000 registrants and is a beloved tradition in Arlington, it started as a suggestion by the wife of the former pastor of Christ Church to reach out to the community. She had some prior experience organizing a race; the rest of the church volunteers had a very steep learning curve, but they were game!

The first race in 2006 had 275 runners and disbursed $4,200 to two beneficiaries right here in the neighborhood: Doorways and Bridges to Independence. In recent, “normal” times, with the help of about 100 volunteers and corporate sponsors, the typical net is about $120,000—all gravy!!  The beneficiaries have grown from two to 18. The organizers target non-profits with modest budgets doing important work locally. The goal: inclusion of these organizations in the community as well as inclusion of the people they help (who often don’t feel included). 

Covid was a challenge for the race, especially in 2020. The choices were suspending the race entirely or conducting it virtually. The decision was the latter option and participants “did their own thing,” including one family that sent pictures of themselves at an Atlantic beach jogging in turkey regalia. But the race still took a hit: registrants dropped by 75%. 

Last year the in-person Turkey Trot rebounded with 3,200 registrants but there were other challenges, such as not enough police on the force to support the effort. Cancelation was one option, but organizers decided instead on a “course correction”—literally, which meant running up and down Pershing Drive. No, not terribly exciting but it allowed the race to happen. This year the organizers expect the course to be back to normal, with the same route as in 2019. 

While the Turkey Trot attracts serious runners with 15–16-minute times (that’s a sizzling sub-5 minute mile pace), many participants are there to have fun, with a costume lineup to include a gorilla, dinosaur, flamingo, families of bananas and squirrels, Santa and Mrs. Claus, the Grinch, pilgrims, and, of course, TURKEYS!!!  There are adults who now run it with their kids who once ran it as kids with their parents. 

There are many ways to participate: you can donate, promote, register, sponsor, or volunteer. All are opportunities for organizing community resources, inspiring family fun, and addressing charitable needs. So don’t chicken out:  join in and help the community!

What is a Proscenium and Why Should You Care?

A proscenium is a wall that separates a stage from an auditorium. You may recall that at one point, the Lyon Park Community Center (LPCC) had a stage. During the 2015 renovation, we retained the proscenium at the main hall’s south end. Recently, the light behind the proscenium stopped working. What to do, what to do? That light is inconveniently located, and it was unclear what kind of light bulb or fixture was up there. Concurrently, the Community Center’s funds began to run out.

Enter the inimitable Paul Showalter and a crew of student members of the National Honor Society. When asked to look at the light, which requires either a very tall ladder or some scaffolding, Paul readily agreed. When he heard that almost all January and February 2022 rentals had canceled or rescheduled, he suggested he could make a number of other repairs while the building is empty. Here, you see pictures of Paul and his crew at work. In addition, Paul provided a close‐up of the proscenium and all the trash that’s accumulated up there. Yes, he did find balls and a frisbee.

Those of you with a financial mindset probably zeroed in on the sentence that reads, “Concurrently, the Community Center’s funds began to run out.” Indeed, the LPCC has navigated the global pandemic for approximately two years, but the process has been painful. Fortunately, we had paid off our construction loan and also had a little bit of financial padding. We are now at the point where our financial position is precarious.

For that reason, we need to mount a fundraising campaign. We digress. You can read more information about how you can help on page 11 of the May 2022 LPCA Newsletter. Back to the work party…

These pictures show some (but not all) of the work that Showalter’s Honor Students completed with Paul and his wife Sharon. Those of us with creaky knees and bad backs are grateful that they painted the wainscoting throughout the main hall to cover up all the scuffs and spills that occur all too often. In addition, Paul is fixing or replacing the fixture in the proscenium, and he refinished the counters in the small kitchen and did various and sundry tasks. Our community is grateful for your help Paul and Sharon, and we are extremely grateful to the students who stepped forward to help. These students put the “honor” in National Honor Society!

An Evening with Wilma Jones, Author of My Halls Hill Family: More Than a Neighborhood

On Thursday, May 13, join Lyon Park, Glen Carlyn, and Ashton Heights Citizens’ Associations for an evening with Wilma Jones, a fourth-generation resident of Arlington’s Halls Hill neighborhood and author of My Halls Hill Family: More Than a Neighborhood. Wilma will share stories of growing up in the historically-Black neighborhood of Halls Hill.

Halls Hill was a segregated Black neighborhood that got its start in the mid-1800’s when 327 acres of land was purchased by Basil Hall for a plantation. Following the Civil War, the neighborhood became completely African American, with a population of residents that were descendants of slaves. It was later walled off and fenced in by developers with the permission of Arlington County Government from the early 1900’s until the 1960’s. Wilma’s family has called Halls Hill home for four generations. Her brother, Michael Jones, was one of four 12-year-old Black students to integrate public schools in Virginia in 1959. My Halls Hill Family tells the history of the neighborhood from its inception in 1866, until the County government, in a display of institutional racism common for the time, closed their neighborhood school in 1966.

Wilma is a top performing corporate information technology sales director during the day and is president of her own management consulting firm, Wilma J, LLC where she works with organizations to support development of a healthy and engaged staff. She is also a popular keynote speaker and workshop leader. Wilma is an author of three books, a grant consultant, civic activist, and nonprofit board member. In her volunteer activity she works with organizations supporting underserved communities to impact positive change.

The program, which is part of Lyon Park’s Dialogues on Race and Equity program, will take place on Thursday, May 13, from 7:30 to 9:00 pm.  Ms. Jones will speak for about 45 minutes and answer participants’ questions for the balance of the time.

Any resident of the partnering neighborhoods who wants to take part must register in advance.  A confirmation email along with the Zoom link will be sent immediately afterward.

Those who wish to read Wilma Jones’ book before the program can order it (available in Kindle and paperback editions) at https://amzn.to/3d6Trsr.  (There are also four copies in the Arlington County Library – and several people on the waiting list.)