Del. Ken Plum: Two Ladies Named Alice

Del. Ken Plum/File photoMrs. Alice Foltz was my sixth and seventh grade teacher as well as being principal of Grove Hill Elementary School near Shenandoah, Va. She passed away in 2005 at the age of 99.

Mrs. Alice, as she was called to prevent confusion with another Mrs. Foltz who was the fourth grade teacher, was a great source of inspiration to me. She along with many other warm and caring teachers inspired me to become a teacher.

The first half to full hour of Mrs. Alice’s classroom day was always a study hall during which homework assignments and work sheets could be completed while she did her work as principal. As one who completed his assignments quickly, I could have gotten into real problems had Mrs. Foltz not had the foresight to make me the “cafeteria manager.”

My duties in this assigned job were to go to the other six classrooms in the school and pick up the lunch orders and payments for the day. I would total up the number of students who had purchased milk only and the number of students who purchased lunch that included milk, check to make sure the monies collected were correct, and tell the cook, Mrs. Rodabush (who incidentally used the government surplus cheese to make the best macaroni and cheese I have ever eaten), the number of lunches she needed to fix.

It was a rather simple and routine job, but for me it was the greatest thing that could happen. I was trusted to go throughout the school on my own and was given a significant duty. I may have learned more from my school job about confidence, trustworthiness, and responsibility than I did in the classroom. Mrs. Alice knew exactly what I needed!

Imagine my surprise when about a decade ago I met another Alice Foltz! This one was in Centreville and was not related to the Alice Foltz of my youth. My new Alice Foltz is the inspiration and leader behind the Centreville Labor Resource Center that provides counseling and assistance to day laborers in the area.

At a time when a government-supported worker center was closed in 2007 in a nearby community and a tough anti-immigrant ordinance was passed in the next county, Alice as she is called by anyone who knows her, was able to convene a series of open community dialogues to discuss the impact of immigration in Centreville. The success of the Centreville Immigration Forum led to the establishment of a non-profit, non-government center where immigrants can learn English, acquire job-seeking skills, and be matched with private employers who are seeking day laborers.

Alice is a soft-spoken, persistent and strong leader who has accomplished in her community what government programs could not do and what other communities had unsuccessfully attempted. Too bad political leaders have not learned from her approach.

Alice Foltz has my greatest admiration. I am blessed to have known both of them!

Ken Plum represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates

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