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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.

by RestonNow.com — March 13, 2017 at 5:00 pm 1 Comment

Edlin School students - chemistry competition

Three students from Reston’s Edlin School swept the top honors at a recent regional chemistry competition.

Rubaiya Emran took first place in the Fairfax/Arlington You Be The Chemist challenge for the second straight year. Her classmates Sydney Gu and Jennifer Cramer took second and third place, respectively. Tommy Qu also represented Edlin at the event, which was held March 4 at Marymount University in Arlington.

“Thanks to the hard work and dedication of our students and parent volunteers, our Edlin community has a lot to celebrate,” said Ryan Epp, the school’s science department director. “These events required months of preparation, organization and tireless effort from our students, parents and volunteers.”

The nationwide, interactive academic competition for students in grades 5-8 is sponsored by the Chemical Education Foundation. Its goal is to promote the real-world applications of scientific education and chemistry concepts.

All three girls will move on to compete at the state level April 29 in Richmond.

Pictured from left are Sydney Gu, Jennifer Cramer and Rubaiya Emran. Photo courtesy Edlin School.

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

Several local high school students will be heading to California next month after qualifying for the international DECA competition with their performances at the state competition last weekend.

South Lakes High School DECA chapterDECA is an international association of teachers and students in marketing, management and entrepreneurship. Competitions are held across the world each year to allow students to show their skills in those fields and more.

Twenty-nine students from South Lakes High School participated in the state competition March 3-5 in Virginia Beach. Five individual students and three teams of students earned spots at the international competition in Anaheim, April 26-29.

Winning students were as follows:

  • Sara Bhadra, freshman, Job Interview (third place)
  • Kristine Paulikonis, sophomore, Principles of Hospitality and Tourism (state finalist)
  • Vincent Giordano, freshman, Selling (state finalist)
  • Isabelle Wnek, junior, Restaurant and Food Service Management (role play finalist)
  • Allison McCue and Kimberly Yeatmen, sophomores, Hospitality Services Team Decision-Making (second place)
  • Emily Taylor, Olivia Heatherly and Claire Thomas, seniors, Hospitality and Tourism Operations Research (second place)
  • Peter Steidler and Liam Lawrence, sophomores, Business Law and Ethics Team Decision-Making (role play finalist)

South Lakes High School DECA chapterIn addition, Alex Loukili, a junior, was recognized as the top chartered association performer in the first round of the 2016-17 Virtual Business Challenge in Accounting, a collaborative effort between DECA-Marketing and FBLA’s Business Accounting students.

The South Lakes High School DECA chapter was also honored with the Annual Report Preferred Award, and SLHS marketing instructor and DECA sponsor Darlene Ricks earned the conference’s Outstanding DECA Advisor Award.

Photos courtesy South Lakes High School DECA chapter

by RestonNow.com — March 8, 2017 at 4:00 pm 1 Comment

South Lakes High School Student Showcase

South Lakes High School is buzzing as it prepares for the Seahawk Student Showcase event, set for Friday at 7 p.m. at the school.

Representatives of the SLHS Student Government Association say the student body is excited for the show.

“I went to the showcase last year and was blown away by all of the amazing acts,” said student Isabel Edgerton. “I’m excited to see all the talent that South Lakes has to offer.”

Performances including singing, dancing, guitar-playing, acting and more are lined up to be part of the show. A panel of judges including Fairfax County Public Schools board member Ryan McElveen will rate the acts and award prizes for the top performances.

The show is open to the public, with tickets at the door costing $5. Advance tickets are currently being sold to students for $3.

For more information, visit South Lakes High School online.

Image courtesy South Lakes High School SGA

by RestonNow.com — March 2, 2017 at 1:30 pm 2 Comments

Unified Prevention Coalition of Fairfax CountyParents worried about how to handle situations in which their teens may be involved are invited to participate in an informational event next week at South Lakes High School.

The Unified Prevention Coalition of Fairfax County will present “Saturday Night in the Suburbs” on Wednesday, March 8 at 7 p.m. in the school’s lecture hall. The event will feature a panel of high school seniors talking about drug and alcohol use, teen parties, parent supervision, social media, and teen-parent communication and resiliency.

Jennifer Lewis-Cooper of the Unified Prevention Coalition will facilitate.

“Parents find this to be somewhat eye-opening,” Lewis-Cooper has said about the event. “We will not ask the panel specific names, dates, places of events or put them on the spot — their job is not to ‘snitch’ on others, but to educate parents to understand what teens are dealing with and help parents to set better limits.”

Parents of middle school and high school students are encouraged to attend, and only adults will be admitted. Exhibit tables with information and local resource materials will be available.

For more information about the event, call 703-938-8723 or email [email protected].

by Dave Emke — February 21, 2017 at 11:30 am 0

St. John Neumann Catholic Community/Courtesy St. John Neumann

St. John Neumann Church (11900 Lawyers Road) is looking toward the prospect of adding a nursery school to its facility as early as 2018.

According to information printed in a recent church bulletin, the preschool would be state-licensed and would be operated under the direction of the Office of Catholic Schools of the Arlington Diocese.

A parish survey that was conducted last year indicated an interest in pursuing the school, according to the Feb. 12 bulletin.

“We are working with the diocesan-appointed attorney and have submitted a Proposed Special Permit Amendment Application to the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning. It is important to emphasize that we are in the early stages and that barring any roadblocks, the soonest the preschool would open is Fall of 2018.”

According to Reston Association’s Land Development Tracker, the special permit amendment application was filed with the county Jan. 27, and it is being reviewed for quality control before acceptance.

Photo courtesy St. John Neumann Catholic Community

by Dave Emke — January 30, 2017 at 11:30 am 30 Comments

South Lakes High School

Fairfax County Public Schools are still growing, but they are not seeing nearly as many new enrollees as they have in recent years.

The district’s 2018-22 Capital Improvement Program, approved last week by the board, predicts an increase in enrollment of about 3,000 students in the next five years — from its current 187,202 to a projected 190,632. In the past decade, Fairfax County had been seeing that number of new enrollees each year.

Fairfax County Public Schools enrollment projections

South Lakes High School had an enrollment of 2,483 students at the beginning of the current school year, which is more than 300 above current capacity. A renovation project at the school is expected to increase capacity to 2,700 by the end of the 2018-19 school year, while enrollment is projected to remain relatively stable through 2021-22.

Area high school enrollment projections/FCPS

Enrollment had previously been expected to soar well above the 2,700 mark; however, in the CIP, Fairfax County Public Schools report a leveling-off due to changing demographics in the area:

“As the county approaches build-out, new housing is forecast to rise numerically in units, but its composition is likely to change. Forecasts of housing in Fairfax County and City of Fairfax include larger numbers and proportions of mid- and high-rise residential developments, which have typically drawn fewer families with school-aged children.”

The school’s ongoing addition project is scheduled to cost $14.5 million. That number breaks down to $8 million in FY2018, $5.8 million in FY 2019 and $300,000 in FY2020. About $500,000 has already gone into the project.

A new high school is proposed in the district’s most recent CIP; however, it is pencilled in for the middle of the next decade (FY2023-FY2027).

From the program proposal:

“Anticipation and completion of the Silver Line Metro has already spurred higher density residential growth along that corridor. This new residential growth, along with potential changes in families residing within existing residential areas adjacent to that corridor, may, in part, result in an increase in students within FCPS schools.”

The new high school, at a cost of $120 million, would be built in the western part of the county to provide relief for existing area high schools such as South Lakes and Herndon, as well as Centreville, Chantilly, Herndon, Oakton and Westfield.

Charts via Fairfax County Public Schools

by Dave Emke — January 26, 2017 at 4:00 pm 2 Comments

A baker’s dozen of Edlin School students took top honors among 24 teams last weekend with their vision for making the world a better place.

The Future City project, according to its website, asks sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students to “imagine, research, design and build cities of the future that showcase their solution to a citywide sustainability issue.” The theme for the 2016-17 competition is the Power of Public Space.

The Edlin School team competed in the Mid-Atlantic Region Competition on Jan. 21 in Baltimore. In it, they took top honors among teams from Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and DC. In addition to the overall first-place award, they also won first place in the project plan and essay categories. They also received a Spirit Award trophy.

“The team assembled during the past summer and worked hard to plan, build and present their vision for this year’s competition,” said Linda Schreibstein, Edlin School director, in a letter.

Edlin School is a private K-8 school located on Sunset Hills Road in Reston.

Team members include the following:

  • SIXTH GRADE: Pari Agarwala, Vinay Ayala, Will Ditmore, Barbara Heine, Katie Heine, Ethan Valentine, Ananya Yarlagadda
  • SEVENTH GRADE: Armaan Ahluwalia, Arjun Giridhar, Ethan Qin
  • EIGHTH GRADE: Logan Hyslop, Shadi Oveissi, Shaan Vardan

Parent coaches and mentors are Vasantha Ayala, Doug Hyslop and Paula Hyslop.

“After the competition is over, student participants are not only prepared to be citizens of today’s complex and technical world, they are poised to become the drivers of tomorrow,” the Future City project website proclaims.

The team now advances to the National Future City Competition, Feb. 18-21 in Washington.

Photos courtesy Indira Ahluwalia

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