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by Dave Emke — June 15, 2017 at 4:00 pm 20 Comments

Students who will be graduating from South Lakes High School next week walked familiar halls this morning to provide inspiration to the community’s youth.

In a new tradition, seniors were able to visit their elementary school alma maters and celebrate with the kids there. Schools documented via social media the occasion, which was described as a moving experience for all involved.

“This is the first year for this Graduate Walk but it went so beautifully that we hope to make it a yearly tradition,” said Emily Burrell, spokesperson for South Lakes High School. “It was an emotional experience for the soon-to-be graduates and their elementary teachers. And the elementary students were thrilled to celebrate the graduates. They even made signs in the South Lakes colors. There were tears of joy all around.”

Students who did not attend an elementary school in Reston were allowed to choose which school they visited, Burrell said.

South Lakes High School’s seniors will graduate during a ceremony Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Eagle Bank Arena on the campus of George Mason University.

Photos courtesy South Lakes High School

by Brooke Giles — June 15, 2017 at 2:45 pm 0

As the school year comes to a close, activities are in full swing at Terraset Elementary School.

Friday, from 4:30-6:30 p.m., the school will hold its first farmers market.

The event will showcase students’ work throughout the year. On display will be a student-designed storefront garage sale featuring gently used toys, books, clothing, and recycled and repurposed items. The school’s Hydroponics Team will be selling the plants they’ve been cultivating throughout the year and members of the Green Team will sell room sprays, healthful fruit drinks and combined essential oils that they’ve made.

The underground, green school focuses on getting kids outside and learning about their environment. The students created their own business plan to organize the event.

“The event is run by the children, it’s not all the adults. I’m really proud of them,” said Jann Canestra, the outdoor learning coordinator.

Canestra runs the school’s Green Hour, where every child goes outside for an hour each day. She says the kids are enthusiastic about getting outside the classroom.

Principal Lindsay Trout will be on the grill for the event, which is open to both students and community members. The school is located at 11411 Ridge Heights Road.

Photo courtesy Fairfax County Public Schools

by Brooke Giles — June 15, 2017 at 1:15 pm 2 Comments

The school year in Fairfax County isn’t quite over yet, but schools are already looking forward to the generosity of the community to help equip students next year.

John Torre, Fairfax County Public Schools spokesperson, said schools involved in the Cornerstones Back to School Drive look forward to being able to provide backpacks and other supplies to any students that need them.

Cornerstones provides services for lower income families in the southwestern Fairfax County. The backpack drive is part of a partnership with Kids R First to provide the supplies to Reston-Herndon area students who qualify for free and reduced meals at school.

“The number of backpacks requested does not always match directly with the number of students in the free and reduced-price meals program because backpacks typically last for more than one year,” Torre said. “Students do have the option to not accept the donated item. The staff member may ask for a few extras to keep on hand for new students or as replacements for a worn-out item.”

Cornerstones community resource associate Nate King said that even though the official drive doesn’t start until August, donations are already coming in.

“It’s going really well, we have probably 50 backpacks already donated out of what we need,” said King.

Cornerstones is still waiting to get a quote from the schools to determine the exact number of backpacks they’ll need for this year, although they believe it will match last year’s number, 3,500.

“The basic idea behind the backpack program is that if a student needs one, they get one,” Torre said. “Of course, [that] depends on the generosity of the donors.”

In addition to backpacks, Cornerstones is accepting donations for underwear for elementary school aged kids and Payless ShoeSource gift card donations of $25.

Those interested in donating can register online or order bags online and have them shipped to the Cornerstones (11150 Sunset Hills Road, Suite 210) directly from Amazon for free.

For more information about the drive, call King at 571-323-9569 or email [email protected].

by Dave Emke — June 9, 2017 at 1:30 pm 0

Dr. Scott Brabrand began his time at Fairfax County Public Schools in a Herndon High School classroom in 1994.

Brabrand, who on Thursday was confirmed as FCPS’ new superintendent, worked five years as a social-studies teacher at HHS before moving into administration. According to FCPS, during that time Brabrand “founded a Model United Nations Club at the school, mentored new teachers and proposed a new teacher education initiative, and redesigned the county’s U.S. and Virginia government Program of Studies to align with new state and national standards.”

Brabrand then became an assistant principal at Herndon High and an associate principal at Lake Braddock Secondary School before being named principal at Fairfax High School in 2005. He was promoted to FCPS cluster assistant superintendent in 2009 before leaving to become superintendent of Lynchburg City Schools, where he has been for the past five years. He was named Region V Superintendent of the Year by the Virginia Association of School Superintendents this year.

“Dr. Brabrand brings a wealth of experience in education and a broad perspective to the job of superintendent,” said Sandy Evans, Fairfax County school board chair. “His collaborative leadership style and his knowledge of Fairfax County schools will be strong assets for him as the new superintendent. We look forward to working with him as we move forward to improve salaries for our teachers and ensure our students are prepared for college and beyond when they graduate.”

Brabrand has a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service; a master’s degree in education from George Washington University; and completed his doctorate in educational administration as part of Virginia Tech’s Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Program.

Brabrand’s tenure in the position will begin July 10 and he’s been contracted through the 2020-21 school year. His starting salary is $290,000, FCPS spokesperson John Torre confirmed.

Former FCPS Superintendent Dr. Karen Garza left the post in December, just months after getting a four-year contract extension. Dr. Steven Lockard has served as interim superintendent.

Photo courtesy Fairfax County Public Schools

by Kalina Newman — June 8, 2017 at 4:00 pm 3 Comments

For some athletes at South Lakes High School, the student-athlete lifestyle won’t end at graduation.

From ten different sports, 29 varsity athletes from the South Lakes Seahawks will play in college.

Playing baseball, Noah Luckenbaugh will continue his career at the College of Holy Cross in Massachusetts. Dillon Suzuki will play at the United States Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut, where he will also wrestle.

Marcus Cherry will play basketball at the Massanutten Military Academy in Virginia.

College football players will include Andrew Funaki at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and David Kroll at the University of Delaware.

There will be four South Lakes lacrosse players playing in college. Matt Hughes will play at Mercer University in Georgia; Taylor Newman-Farr will play at St. Joseph’s in Pennsylvania; Chris Sherbert will play at Virginia Wesleyan University; and JC Sipher will play at Denison University in Ohio.

Soccer players include Abby Alexa for Davis & Elkins in West Virginia; Jared Brewer for Penn State-Harrisburg; Conor Gill for Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania; Jenna Hirshfeld for Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts; and Jacob Schuh for Bridgewater College in Virginia.

Jazmyn Stokes will play softball for Bucknell University in Pennsylvania.

Five swim and dive athletes will continue their careers in college. Megan Carney will swim at University of Mary Washington in Virginia; Gianmichel D’Allesandro will swim at UNC-Wilmington; Ben Gryski will swim at the University of Massachusetts; Emily Landeryou will swim at the United States Military Academy in New York; and Paige Sogandares will swim at the College of Wooster in Ohio.

The sport with the most SLHS athletes moving on to college is track and field, with six. Naomi Brindley will run at Radford University in Virginia; Erin Gray will run at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia; Devyn Jones will run for the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado; Timiebi Ogobri will run at The Citadel in South Carolina; Dimarcus Vilcheck will run for Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina; and Arianna Spencer will run at Linn University in Florida.

Two SLHS volleyball players will play in college. Kristin Allgaier will play at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania and Charlotte Vollmers will play at Hollins University in Virginia.

In addition:

Photo via South Lakes HS Athletics on Twitter

by Kalina Newman — June 8, 2017 at 11:30 am 0

The potential for a nursery school at St. John Neumann Church looks a lot more likely.

On May 17, the Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals approved a special permit amendment that will allow the addition of the nursery school. Located at 11900 Lawyers Road, the projected nursery and pre-school would be one of several in the Reston area.

The Rev. Joseph T. Brennan made the official announcement in the church bulletin last week.

“I want to share an update on the potential of a preschool at St. John Neumann. On Wednesday, May 17, 2017 the Board of Zoning Appeals for the County of Fairfax, Virginia approved the proposal to permit the addition of a nursery school. This is a significant step towards the possibility of a pre-school opening in the Fall of 2018. Please stay tuned as we continue to work out the next steps and examine the feasibility of this endeavor.”

A parish survey that was conducted last year indicated an interest in pursuing the school.

by Dave Emke — June 7, 2017 at 11:15 am 0

Students who attend Herndon High School will be seeing some big changes in the fall — including more outdoor classrooms and fewer parking spaces.

Construction to expand the school is scheduled to begin during the late fall or early winter. The first phase — which will add an additional wing to the rear of the building and an addition to the front of the building where the new library, main office, and administrative and counseling offices will be situated — is expected to take about two years.

According to information distributed by the school earlier this week, they are already preparing for that first phase of construction, including by adding 46 new duplex and quad trailers that will be used to house displaced classrooms. There were already 27 trailers on campus to accommodate overall student growth, meaning the total number of trailers next school year will represent “more outdoor classrooms than indoor ones.” An outdoor restroom facility is also being brought in.

“Though construction will not actually be in full swing until December or January, staff will be packing up for the big move at the end of this school year. Our goal is to minimize disruptions throughout the next school year, so students will start the school year in the assigned trailers,” the school says in the statement. “While we cannot promise some immediate room changes will not happen occasionally throughout the renovation, we are working to reduce the impact of these changes as much as we can.”

The parking situation at the school will also be seriously impacted by the construction work, the school says. The number of available parking spaces for students will be slashed by three-quarters, from 377 to 90. A lottery system will accommodate student parking requests, with applications available beginning next week.

“Seniors will be chosen first based on parking availability on the school campus before this school year ends,” the statement reads. “In August, a second lottery will take place based on additional spaces acquired through our [community partnerships]. Juniors will be selected once all seniors have a space.”

Students are also reminded in the statement that parking on neighborhood streets is off-limits unless special arrangements have been made by the school. In addition, the school says, carpooling will be “strongly recommended” for athletic events, concerts and other major school activities.

The full renovation of the school, which is to include 138,558 square feet of additions and modifications that will expand the school to 431,000 square feet with a capacity for 2,500 students, will include:

  • Phase 1: Add an additional wing to the rear of the building. Add an addition to the front of the building where the new library, main office, and administrative and counseling offices will be situated.
  • Phase 2: Renovate locker rooms, art rooms and Gourmet Foods room. Expand the main gym and renovate the auxiliary gym.
  • Phase 3: Create new wrestling/gymnastics room, renovate music rooms and the auditorium. Update baseball and softball structures.
  • Phase 4: Modify the cafeteria, creating a “food court” design, renovate the stadium press box and complete tennis courts.

The addition was approved as part of the Fairfax County Public Schools Fiscal Year 2017-2021 Capital Improvement Program.

Rendering via Fairfax County Public Schools

by Dave Emke — May 23, 2017 at 2:45 pm 1 Comment

Cornerstones is once again gearing up to collect thousands of backpacks to give out to students at local schools.

The annual drive is a partnership between Cornerstones and Kids R First. Nate King, community resource associate for Cornerstones, said the program collected about 3,500 backpacks last year and is aiming for the same number this year.

“We generally get a really good turnout,” King said. “It’s a combination of individuals, religious groups and businesses that help us out.”

Anyone wishing to participate in the drive is asked to register online to let Cornerstones know how many backpacks they or their group will be donating. Backpacks are being collected for elementary, middle school and high school students, with the high schoolers being the age of the greatest need.

Backpacks can be delivered to Cornerstones (11150 Sunset Hills Road, Suite 210) the week of Aug. 7-11. Volunteers will sort them out by schools, colors and sizes in the week that follows, and they will be distributed to the schools the week after that.

In addition to backpacks, Cornerstones is also requesting donations of new underwear for elementary school-age children, and Payless ShoeSource gift card donations of $25.

Donations go to all schools in the greater Reston-Herndon area, King said.

For more information about the drive, call King at 571-323-9569 or email [email protected].

by Dave Emke — May 22, 2017 at 11:30 am 1 Comment

Ten graduating South Lakes High School seniors recently became the first honorees of a new scholarship fund that could give them up to $16,000 over a four-year college career.

The Reston Scholarship Fund of the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia awarded $4,000 scholarships to each of the students during a ceremony Saturday at Reston Town Center. The Fund plans to award the same amount in each of three subsequent years the student remains in college and continues to demonstrate need and merit.

Twenty-nine students applied for the scholarship, said Elizabeth Blankespoor on behalf of the Fund.

“We hope that as word spreads and we get more donations, the number of scholarships will increase in future years,” she said. “It is our firm belief that money should not stand between our students and a good education.”

Students honored with the scholarship funding, and the schools they will attend in the fall, are:

  • Daniel Ennis, University of Minnesota
  • Omer Gorashi, University of Maryland
  • Amna Kayani, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Dounia Lazreq, George Washington University
  • Emmeline Mejia, Bridgewater College
  • Joelle Nkwantchoa Toundji, Christopher Newport University
  • Razan Salih, Virginia Tech University
  • Rabiya Sharieff, New York University
  • Aditya Sorot, University of Virginia
  • Qianyi Yang, James Madison University

Speakers at Saturday’s award ceremony included Del. Ken Plum (D-Fairfax); Kim Retzer, SLHS principal; Cheryl Simon, widow of Robert Simon; and Gil Blankespoor on behalf of the Fund.

Students’ GPAs, financial need, essays and recommendations were all considered in the process of the six-member selection committee. The students will also be awarded certificates during South Lakes’ annual Seniors Award Ceremony on June 8.

Gil and Elizabeth Blankespoor founded RSF in 2016 when they received 501(c)(3) status. They joined forces with the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia this year.

The Fund relies entirely on donations to make the scholarships possible. Donations, which are tax-deductible and used fully for the scholarships, can be made online at CF for Nova’s website or by mail to Reston Scholarship Fund — CF of Nova, 2003 Lakeport Way, Reston, VA 20191.

For more information about the scholarship, email [email protected] or call 703-620-6061.

Photos by Elizabeth Blankespoor/Reston Scholarship Fund

by Dave Emke — May 18, 2017 at 1:30 pm 1 Comment

Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon in July 1969.

Now, 48 years later, he again has walked the halls of a school bearing his name in Reston.

The 87-year-old visited Buzz Aldrin Elementary School last week while he was in the area to attend the annual Humans to Mars Summit. At the school, Aldrin presented for students his thoughts and hopes for future travel to the Red Planet. He also gave them a large map of the planet.

Aldrin last visited the school for its 20th anniversary in 2015. In the school’s early years, he visited each year. He now comes more sporadically, maybe every two or three years, school representative Lesley Aschenbach said.

“Hopefully, kids get to see him twice in their career here,” she said.

After the recent presentation, Aldrin gathered on the Mars map with representatives from each grade level while a videographer recorded testimonials from the students on their thoughts about space exploration and what travel to Mars would mean for mankind. The students’ discussion will be used as part of an emerging program for Aldrin’s ShareSpace Foundation.

In addition, Aldrin Elementary School STEAM resource teacher Jackie Wheeler, school-based technology specialist Eve Davies and Principal Shane Wolfe printed a special bracelet for Aldrin on a 3D printer during his visit.

by RestonNow.com — May 10, 2017 at 3:15 pm 2 Comments

Reston’s Langston Hughes Middle School (11401 Ridge Heights Road) is getting ready to take the stage for opening night of its production of the musical “Willy Wonka Jr.” on Thursday.

“Magic and mystery abound as Charlie Bucket experiences a delicious adventure on his golden-ticket tour of Willy Wonka’s mysterious chocolate factory,” organizers say.

A whopping 87 students make up the cast and crew of the production, based on the classic Roald Dahl novel, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

Performances are $10 and will begin at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 11-13. A matinee will also be offered at 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 13. Tickets can be purchased at the school during lunch hour or at the door.

The long list of students, parents and staff involved with the show include:

DIRECTOR: Cheryl Dewenter

MUSICAL DIRECTOR: Sarah Milhoan

CHOREOGRAPHER: Grace Yakobisin

Cast: Mikhail Goldenberg, Griffin van Hilst, Noah Rice, Avi Holzman, Matthew Guerber, Violet Sather, Chase Thompson, Hannah Carter, Keaton Lazar, Ireland DiBacco, Sophia Feldman, Lindsay Kaine, Audrey Webb, Luke Miller, Mia Milosevic, Leah Blum, Crystal Uehara, Eddie Schoenborn, Michael Constant, Sami Burgess, Manmeet Singh, Karina Yakubisin, Sophia Young, Rebecca Yakobson, Xela Jones, Gretel Brown, Megan Luczko, Rita Ajit, Isabella Piazza, Maya Berry, Katie Falcone, Claire Callaway, Anissa Benjalloun, Laura Echeverri, Olivia Purvis, Evie Errett, Nora Thomas, Mikayla Kirr, Ana Ortiz, Claire Wilson-Black, Amy McGowan, Katia Vivanco, Caroline Dana, Iris Hughes, Adam Johnson, Robert Long, Erin Sanchez, Parker Tremaine, Alexis Jefferyes, Zea Nims, Jaelyn Gilmore

Crew: Thalia Tran, Audrey Moore, Katherine Simpson, Virag Murphy, Alaina Cordts, Angel Brito, Lily Mutzig, Moriah Smith, Hannah McLachlin, Mina Tunley, Gabriella Dettra, Jillian Schmid, Anna Sepulveda, Shannon Gallagher, Raquel Davis, Tyler Cachine, Alexander Parish, Michael Panatier, Elizabeth Beausoleil, Nicole Cheban, Christine Morris, Kendra Griessel, Harley Newman, Gwyneth Wagner, Mishal Khattak, Alexandra Perez, Tammy Guidry, Rhea Braganza, Emily Marik, Astrid Pena, Maxine Prudhomme, Erica Strauss, Jenna Klein, Jasmine Reed, Marina Jansen, Chloe Baker, Ethan Boswell

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by RestonNow.com — April 26, 2017 at 2:45 pm 1 Comment

South Lakes High School Theatre will present its spring musical, “Beauty and the Beast,” beginning Friday night.

More than 100 actors, singers, musicians and technical crew from the South Lakes Performing Arts Department will be featured in the show. Maria L. Harris is the director.

Performances will be Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m.; Saturday at 2 p.m.; and at 7 p.m. next Thursday through Saturday. Tickets are $8-$10 presale and $10-$12 at the door.

In addition, there will be two Disney-themed special events related to the show: a “Princess Tea” to meet the cast following Saturday’s matinee and a “Prince’s Ball” following the Friday, May 5 show. Tickets to each event are $5.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the South Lakes Theatre Arts Department’s website or call 703-715-4589.

Videos courtesy South Lakes High School Theatre

by Dave Emke — April 24, 2017 at 11:30 am 2 Comments

For 23 students from South Lakes High School, spring break was a chance to travel to an exotic place — and also to help make the world a better place.

The students traveled to Ecuador during this month’s break to participate in a Fairfax County Public Schools service learning trip. Working with nonprofit organization Me to We, the students helped build classrooms in an indigenous community.

The SLHS students made up nearly half of the 48 total FCPS students on the trip. They were accompanied by SLHS Spanish teachers Sandra Rebello, Ana Viamonte and Kirsten Hope.

The students spent two days doing construction work at a school in the remote Amazon Basin village of Kanambu.

“Students who attend this school come from many communities and many have to walk over 6 hours to get to school,” Rebello said. “Students who live far away will stay at the school for the week and return home every Friday.”

Local students who traveled there were able to see the boarding accommodations of the school, which Rebello said were “extremely poor,” with no beds. About 400 students attend the school.

In addition to their work on the service project, local students spent a few days in Baños de Agua Santa, a town with 60 waterfalls. They were able to swim in thermal baths, Rebello said. Students also visited the equator and Yunguilla, a sustainable development community in the cloud forest.

“Our Seahawks were amazing and represented our school well,” Rebello said of the trip.

by Dave Emke — April 21, 2017 at 4:00 pm 6 Comments

Reading wasn’t something Gladimi Petit Carnogursky, a seventh-grader at Herndon Middle School, considered fun.

But when his school joined the Learning Ally Great Reading Games this year, he latched on.

“My parents don’t really let me play video games, but I have an iPad,” he said. “So I read a lot on it.”

A lot indeed. Gladimi read over 12,000 pages during the seven-week competition. That wasn’t just the most in his school — it was the most in the entire state of Virginia.

“I like the competition,” he said when asked about his motivation.

So did many other students at HMS, as the school won first place in the Metro DC region in the contest and came in seventh place nationally. Participating students read more than 72,000 pages, totaling about 14.5 million words.

The Great Reading Games is geared toward students who struggle with reading traditional text, because of dyslexia or other reasons. Learning Ally provides audiobook technology that offers more than 82,000 human-narrated books to students, who can download them directly to computers, smartphones and tablets so they can read wherever they are.

Gladimi’s friend Trent Norris, who read the third-most pages at HMS, said he liked being able to have a book anywhere he went. He said his mother encouraged him to keep reading through the seven weeks of the Games.

“I liked to read when I was going somewhere with my mom,” he said. “My sister and my mom would be talking, and I’d decide to listen to music, but then I thought I should read instead.”

At a ceremony at the school Friday morning, the more than 100 participating students were honored for the reading they did, and each received certificates of accomplishment. The students who read the most received prizes as well, with Gladimi taking home the top prize: a set of Beats headphones.

“Think about how much this means to me as a principal,” HMS Principal Justine Klena told students. “You all are reading so much, and that is the foundation of education — this is the reason we’re all here. You are engaging in reading and that means you’re getting smarter every day.”

Margot Axenson-Mumford, who read the fifth-most pages among participating students, said she enjoyed reading the first four Harry Potter books for the first time, and she plans to complete the series as she continues to be an avid reader. Her mother, Theresa, said she is impressed by her daughter’s accomplishment.

“I’m really proud of Margot,” she said. “She’s worked really hard.”

Pictured at top: The top 9 students, from left, were Gladimi Petit Carnogursky, Emma Baker, Trent Norris, Christina Roque, Margot Axenson-Mumford, Fabrizio Abarca, Seleni Aguirre-Echeverria, Charles Marotta and Nathan Emmatty. Pictured at bottom: Trent Norris accepts his accolades from Herndon Middle School teachers.

by Dave Emke — March 16, 2017 at 4:00 pm 2 Comments

Good Beginnings SchoolThe site of a private school in Reston is facing a changing future.

Kensington Senior Development LLC is working with Fairfax County on an application to put an assisted-living facility at 11501 Sunrise Valley Drive, the current home of Good Beginnings School. Miaoling Lin, the school’s administrator, says the site is expected to operate as a school through at least the end of 2018.

The sale of the property to Kensington is contingent upon the plan’s approval by the county, Lin said. Meanwhile, a permit has been filed with Fairfax County for Oak Hill Montessori School to open at the site for a month in April.

“They are in between buildings, and we are shrinking, so we have room for them to use temporarily,” Lin said.

Lin said Good Beginnings will continue to operate at the site through June, after which a school called Mosaic will take over the facility.

Lin said some of the staff of Good Beginnings in Reston will be staying on site with Mosaic and some will be moving to the school’s Loudoun County campus in Stone Ridge. The school has a meeting scheduled for Thursday night to introduce Mosaic to parents interested in staying at the current site after June.

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