Reston, VA

Pet of the Week: Aslan

Meet Aslan, an affectionate senior kitty with a resting grumpy face.

Here’s what his friends at Fancy Cats Rescue Team have to say about him:

Aslan is a senior with a sweet heart and a loving purr.

He has a default grumpy face, but don’t let that fool you. He purrs so loud the vet has trouble hearing his heart beat. He will accept pets and head rubs all day long.

He is marked special needs as he is in the beginnings of renal failure, but we are still hoping to find this angel a forever home for his final years with dignity and lots of attention and love. He deserves it!

Are you and Aslan a match?

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Pet of the Week: Tilda

Meet Tilda, a 5-year-old pit bull mix available for adoption locally.

Here’s what her friends at HART (Homeless Animals Rescue Team) have to say about her:

Tilda is a very sweet, friendly, affectionate dog that loves attention, physical contact and being petted and just wants to be loved.

She loves going for long walks and playing fetch in the backyard and is also happy to simply relax and nap near her human when working on the computer or snuggle up while watching TV in the evening. She loves her foster mom and follows her around the house. She also enjoys playing with toys and other dogs and watching the work outside from the window.

Tilda is still adjusting to all the changes that have happened in her life. She is intelligent and capable of learning quickly but needs a confident leader who will set boundaries and provide consistent training. She has learned to do “sit” and “down” with both verbal and hand signals. Her ideal home would be a low-key home where someone is home with her much of the day (even post-COVID).

Tilda likes to play with the other dog in her foster home, but we think she would also do well as an only dog in the home. She is friendly with kids, but due to her exuberance and tendency to jump up on people, she would be too much for most small kids.

Are you and Tilda a match?

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This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Northern Virginia that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

By John V. Berry, Esq.

With the new Biden Administration beginning in January, 2021 it is important to look at the issue of who can qualify to hold a position in the new Administration.

For several years (e.g. Bush 1, Clinton, Bush 2, Obama) there has been a consistent security clearance process in place for individuals to hold White House positions. Our Law Firm has represented individuals in the White House in the security clearance process.

Clearance Review for White House Position

For White House appointments, they will be required to undergo a security clearance review. For these types of positions, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been designated to conduct security clearance investigations. The individual will be asked to complete a SF-86 form (also known as e-QIP) to begin their clearance review. Once the initial forms are completed and reviewed, the individual will be interviewed by FBI investigators and a security clearance investigation will begin.

An applicant can expect a full and complete investigation by the FBI. Friends and relatives of an applicant will be interviewed, foreign contacts will be reviewed and background information will be examined. The FBI’s goal in investigating an applicant for a White House position is to attempt to determine whether they might be susceptible to any sort of influence or blackmail that might cause them to disclose classified information.

The applicant’s full background investigation will then be given to the personnel security division of the Executive Office of the President (EOP), which handles security clearance decisions. These are career officials that oversee the security clearance process. Once received, they will review the FBI investigation and make their determination as to whether or not a security clearance should be granted. The EOP decision will generally be controlling absent further action by the President.

Decision on Security Clearances for White House Employees or Appointees

While a President retains the ultimate say as to whether or not to grant an individual’s security clearance, they have usually deferred (for the most part) to clearance recommendations. There is a good reason for this. Most presidents do not want to be seen as showing favoritism towards an individual with security risks for important appointments.

For this level of appointment, if an individual’s clearance is denied, they are unlikely to be able to hold their position. In contrast to other federal agencies, White House appointees have less access to due process in contesting security clearance determinations.

While politics can play a role in allowing an appointee the ability to respond to negative clearance concerns with mitigating information, there is less of an entitlement to due process given that White House appointees serve at the pleasure of the President. This is different than the situation with career employees of the EOP that are able to respond to security clearance concerns and receive the ability to respond to adverse clearance determinations.

Conclusion

We represent individuals in security clearance matters. We can be contacted at www.berrylegal.com or by telephone at (703) 668-0070 to schedule a meeting to go over individual issues and potential representation.

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By Nicola Caul Shelley, Synergy Design & Construction

The basement. One of the most underutilized spaces in many homes, basements are often used as nothing more than storage areas.

You’re not sure what’s hiding under those big bags full of toys and clothes, but you’ll get around to donating it all… one day. And those plastic containers you need to move every year to get to the holiday decorations? They’re packed full of “must-keep” items like that comforter set you didn’t want to part with (but never use) and the extra cushions for your old patio set. The suitcases from your last pre-COVID vacation are also down there. Somewhere. 

If this sounds like you, it’s time to make a change. A basement remodel can easily give you extra usable square footage, improved storage solutions and add value to your home. Even better, unfinished basements are like a blank canvas with lots of potential, and with the right creativity and vision, they can be turned into beautiful but functional spaces. 

But how much does it cost to remodel a basement? Well, like most things in life, that depends! A few factors to think about that impact cost: 

  • Is your basement currently finished or unfinished? 
  • Are there any load-bearing columns or other structures that need to be taken in account? 
  • Is there a lot of ductwork that needs to be added or concealed? 
  • Are there existing plumbing lines or rough-ins for that “must-have” guest bathroom or bar sink you want? 
  • What level of finish do you want? Flooring, drywall, bar/office cabinets, tile, bathroom fixtures, interior doors, stairs, new washer/dryer… you can see how the costs start to add up, especially if you want a spa-like guest bathroom or “wow” bar area with gorgeous high-end cabinets and a state-of-the-art wine fridge and pellet ice maker.
  • Are you willing to do some of the work and manage the project yourself using a general contractor, or do you want a professionally managed full-service type of experience? 

There are many ways you can go about your basement remodel.

Step No. 1 of a basement remodel is figuring out WHO you need — not just WHAT you need. A more cost-effective way may be to use a general contractor (GC), but you will have to take on more responsibility for managing the project and making design choices and (sometimes) buying the materials yourself.

Synergy Design & Construction is a full service design-build firm, meaning we manage the project for you, design it and build it — all using our in-house team of experts. Although using a home remodeling company like Synergy might be more expensive than a general contractor, most of our clients want the peace of mind of working with a company that does all the heavy lifting for them and who manages the whole project from start to finish.

So, what is a reasonable cost for a basement remodel?

Independent surveys often show basement remodels start at the $50,000 to $75,000 range, depending on what it is you’re trying to do. Of course, throwing up walls and laying down carpet can cost less, but many of our clients are willing to invest more to make their dream space a reality. Let’s face it: With no end in sight for a return to the pre-COVID day-to-day “normal,” we’d rather you get exactly what you want. Our promise to you is that we’ll always be realistic with you in terms of what it costs for a quality basement remodel and deliver a project that’s on time and on budget. 

Let’s take a look at one of our recent basement remodels. Our client had been dreaming of a home remodel for a long time and knew it was time to do something about the unfinished basement. As in many homes, it was only being used for storage, and they were ready to finally put it to work. So, with a ‘can-do’ attitude, they set about the task of decluttering in preparation for the remodel, which would see their basement go from storage zone to a multi-purpose family-friendly recreation room, office/guest bedroom and guest bathroom — and even have enough room for discreetly hidden HVAC and storage space. 

Although the COVID-19 pandemic began just before construction started, the timing for this remodel turned out to be perfect. Trusting us to complete their home remodel safely, they knew it was now a “must have” to proceed given the extended periods of time spent at home during lockdown with virtual schooling and working from home now a necessity. The family is now ready to kick back, relax and spend quality time together in their lovely new spaces.

Ready to find out what it might take to take your basement from storage unit to multi-purpose family-friendly space? Get in touch!

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At The Kensington Reston, our promise is to love and care for your family as we do our own.

Our leadership dreamed of building residences where they’d want their own parents to live. So they did, right in the heart of Reston. We can’t wait to introduce you to the vibrant lifestyle, uncompromising care and profound devotion to family that comes with residency at The Kensington Reston.

The Kensington Reston is a senior living community like no other in the area. Our tastefully elegant assisted living and memory care community will feature best-in-class care giving and a full spectrum of clinical support to the seniors you love — in surroundings customized for their comfort and safety.

We offer two separate neighborhoods of memory care, enabling us to address the challenges unique to specific phases of disease progression. Couples are welcome, even if the care needs of one half of the couple are not the same as the other.

We are grateful for the chance to care for your family and look forward to being part of your community. We plan to officially open our doors in early 2021, but we welcome you now for a sneak preview at our Information Center, located at 1850 Centennial Park Drive, Suite 130, Reston, VA 20191. 

Please call us at (571) 494-8100 or email us at [email protected] to schedule your tour today!

Visit our website at www.KensingtonReston.com.

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The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact every aspect of modern-day life, from the way consumers buy their groceries to how employees connect to corporate systems. Learning is no exception.

Since the outbreak, online learning has become more central to people’s lives. And many plan to continue the trend: More than half of American adults who expect to need more education or training post-pandemic say they would do it online, according to an August 2020 survey by the Strada Education Network.

Yet not all online education is created equal — and IT pros looking to invest in a program should compare and contrast options carefully.

Whether pursuing a full-time master’s degree to deepen IT expertise or seeking a certificate to boost content knowledge in a specific area, there are many reasons why Virginia Tech’s 100% online Master of Information Technology program (VT-MIT) is a superior choice for IT leaders.

The U.S. News & World Report’s Best Online Programs report ranks Virginia Tech’s MIT degree the nation’s fourth best. The program blends coursework and offers twelve areas of specialized study for a diverse education.

Courses are taught by world-class faculty experienced in translating a robust academic experience to an effective online format. For nearly 20 years, the VT-MIT program has relied on a two-tiered system of master faculty and distance learning instructors who together deliver a superior online classroom experience that encourages peer-to-peer support, faculty-to-student mentoring and real-time engagement, making VT-MIT a leader in the online education space long before COVID-19 forced other programs to go virtual.

Students can also expect to reap these advantages:

  • Increased Flexibility  Students can choose their own timeline and toggle between full- and part-time schedules, depending on employment status and current workload.
  • Greater Convenience –– A combination of synchronous and asynchronous online classes allows students to learn anywhere, anytime — ideal for remote workers unsure of when they may return to the office.
  • Enhanced Value Students can earn a VT-MIT degree at a universal tuition rate (no residency required) from a well-respected public institution.

Today’s IT professionals must act fast to keep pace with a rapidly evolving IT environment. Experience and specialized IT skills are critical to making the right technology decisions, at the right time. With the flexibility of an online VT-MIT degree or graduate certificate, IT leaders can strike the perfect balance: earn a respected credential that will help them confront the technological challenges of the 21st century while accommodating new realities.

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Meet Huey, an adult male tuxedo cat available for adoption locally.

Here’s what his friends at Little Buddies Adoption and Humane Society have to say about him:

Huey is a very sweet and caring cat. Once he gets to know you, he will climb up into your lap. He loves to be near his human family and sleep right next to you.

He is also very playful and especially loves to play with his laser light. He also likes to play with his small teddy bear toy, which he throws in the air and chases. He loves to play in water.

He also enjoys being rubbed on top of his head and will sit there with his eyes closed for as long as you pet him there. He loves long pets from his head to the end of his tail.

Huey is about a year old.

Are you and Huey a match?

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As the COVID-19 pandemic extends, many professionals are taking this time to prepare for the future by investing in graduate education. And there might not be a better time to do so.

Whether it’s the increased flexibility in classroom formats, frozen tuition rates, relaxed admission requirements, or reduced interest rates on student loans, there are plenty of reasons why students feel like this time period is a unique opportunity for them to build the skills and professional network they need to advance their career.

While fall classes have already started, there are still options for individuals who want to take advantage of graduate study opportunities before next year’s back-to-school season. Virginia Tech’s local Evening MBA program offers a spring entry term with classes starting January 19.

The Evening MBA is a top 20 nationally ranked program designed with maximum flexibility for working professionals.

Students choose their own course load each semester, so those dealing with job uncertainty or working parents with new childcare demands can find the right workload for them and even easily switch between full- and part-time status.

While classes typically take place in-person on weekday evenings at Virginia Tech’s conveniently located Falls Church center, the current environment shifted instruction mode to primarily online, with some classes still offering an in-person option.

The flexible program format contributed to what associate director of MBA recruiting Rebecca McGill described as a “significant increase in applications and enrollments for the fall term.” She added that many also chose this time to apply because they can “take advantage of relaxed GMAT/GRE test score requirements that have never been offered before.”

For spring applicants, the Evening MBA reduced the number of years of work experience required for a test score waiver from ten years to five.

McGill expects the increased application trend to continue for the spring term “as more and more individuals use this time to invest in themselves and their future.”

Applications for the spring semester are due December 1. Learn more at evening.mba.vt.edu.

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This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Northern Virginia that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

By John V. Berry, Esq.

As many have heard, as of July 1, 2020, the new Virginia Human Rights Act began to provide new protections from discrimination for employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity. A lesser-known form of discrimination was also prohibited as of that date, which prohibits race discrimination based on hairstyle. Governor Northam signed the VHRA into law on March 4, 2020.

The Virginia legislature, in amending the VHRA, included a ban on discrimination “because of or on the basis of traits historically associated with race, including hair texture, hair type, and protective hairstyles such as braids, locks, and twists.”

Governor Northam stated, in approving the law: “It’s pretty simple — if we send children home from school because their hair looks a certain way, or otherwise ban certain hairstyles associated with a particular race — that is discrimination… This is not only unacceptable and wrong, it is not what we stand for in Virginia. This bill will make our Commonwealth more equitable and welcoming for all.” The Governor’s press release also cited to comments by Virginia Delegate McQuinn: “A person’s hair is a core part of their identity… Nobody deserves to be discriminated against simply due to the hair type they were born with, or the way in which they choose to wear it. The acceptance of one’s self is the key to accepting others.”

The Commonwealth of Virginia is now the fourth state to ban race-based hairstyle discrimination after California, New Jersey and New York passed similar laws. Colorado is in the process of enacting a similar law presently, and more than 20 other states have similar legislation proposed or pending.

This new legislation is likely to need to a 2-3 year period of adjustment as employers in Virginia start to realize that such forms of discrimination are against the law either through the complaint process or in court. A link to the new Virginia law is located here.

Contact Us

If you are in need of employment law legal representation or advice, please contact our office at 703-668-0070 or through our contact page to schedule a consultation. Please also visit and like us on Facebook or Twitter.

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Your child is invited to an online Halloween Math Escape Room on Friday, October 30 at 4 p.m.

The Russian School of Mathematics has created this online event where kids will solve mystery brainteasers, spooky riddles and eerie puzzles to find out the way to escape from our chilling adventure.

Join us dressed in your favorite costume and invite your friends to get into the holiday spirit together.

Register now for the October 30 event!

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Meet Theo, a male Hound mix puppy available for adoption locally.

His friends at Fancy Cats Rescue Team have much to say about him, but here is what Theo has to say for himself:

Hi, I am Theo! 11 week old puppy. My brothers and I were found without our mama, and ended up at the shelter.

I am only 6 pounds, but I think I am a big dog, and have a lot of confidence and personality. I love to cuddle and be carried, but I love romping through the yard and have a lot of energy!

I am looking for a forever home.

Are you and Theo a match?

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The highly ranked master’s security studies programs at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University have received a $250,000 gift from the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation.

The funds will be used for scholarships for eligible master’s students entering the Schar School in Spring 2021 who are pursuing degrees in a security studies-related program.

“The Diana Davis Spencer Foundation gift is making it possible for many students to attend our high-ranked security studies programs and prepare for careers in intelligence and security policy,” said Schar School Dean Mark J. Rozell. “We are grateful for this new partnership that will advance our shared goal of educating and training future policy professionals in these fields.”

The scholarship gift is intended to develop and prepare future national security professionals and leaders who will study in one of the Schar School’s four master’s programs: Master’s in International Security, Master’s in Biodefense, Master’s in Public Policy with an emphasis in National Security and Public Policy, and the global No. 22-ranked Master’s in Public Administration with a concentration in Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

“We are delighted to support students to attend a top-tier policy and government school which prepares them to be the outstanding professionals who will serve in the national security arena,” said foundation Chief Executive Officer Abby Spencer Moffat in announcing the award.

The scholarships range from $3,000 to $30,000 and will be distributed over the first three semesters of the degree program. Learn more about the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation Scholarship and how to apply.

Curious about where a security-focused degree can take you? Register for our upcoming virtual job talk on October 29 for a rare chance to hear from industry experts on ways to research and build out a policy and security career roadmap from the scope of available opportunities. Panelists will also share their knowledge on skills critical to preparing for professional success.

Former deputy director of the FBI Andrew McCabe, who is now a Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Schar School’s national security program, will also greet prospective students and share his security experience during a Master’s and Certificate Virtual Open House on November 12. Register to attend.

To stay updated on opportunities or information about the Schar School’s graduate programs, please visit our admissions event page or fill out our request form.

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Meet Tala, a black Shepherd mix puppy available for adoption locally.

Here is what her friends at Safe Haven Puppy Rescue have to say about her:

Tala is a happy, friendly little girl who’s just twelve weeks old and 19 pounds.

She was dropped off at the shelter when she was found wandering on the side of the road so we really don’t know who her parents are but if we have to guess we might say German Shepherd! She has been a joy to have with us but she is ready to go to her forever family — we’re confident she will make some adopter a terrific companion.

This beautiful girl is a nice blend of friendly affection and normal puppy playfulness and will bring lots of love to any home.

Are you and Tala a match?

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The apartment community of VY/Reston Heights continues to offer virtual tours of its studio, one, two and three bedroom luxury-living apartments — including hard-to-find two-level lofts — and now offers self-guided tours.

The apartment homes in the six-level building — the ground floor is an exciting mix of retail, services and restaurants — boast 8-feet-8 high ceilings; oversized windows with superb views; kitchens made from quartz, wood and stainless steel; elegant plank flooring; and contemporary barn doors for architectural interest.

The building includes an chic welcoming lobby and a common area social lounge, kitted out with shuffleboard, foosball, a catering kitchen and an oversized flat screen TV. The Sky Lounge includes an outdoor terrace for relaxing and entertaining. In addition to a resort-style swimming pool, the Flex fitness center offers an opportunity to keep fit with cardio equipment, free-weights and a stretching zone.

The pet-friendly building includes an on-site dog park and an indoor pet spa.

The community is part of the larger historic Reston neighborhood, in close proximity to Reston Town Center’s movie theaters, shops, restaurants and within walking distance to the soon-to-open Wegmans across the street, as well as the nearby Reston Town Center Metro Silver Line station. (Golfers will enjoy the access to Reston National Golf Course, just a five-iron from the front door.)

VY/Reston Heights is at 11830 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston. For those who feel like leasing now, this page is ready to welcome you. Details are at VY / Reston Heights or by calling 833-331-6644.

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This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Northern Virginia that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

By John V. Berry, Esq.

It is important to obtain legal advice prior to meeting with security clearance investigators when potential security clearance problems are anticipated.

When individuals have difficulties in the security clearance process or anticipate future problems, the best advice that can be given is to prepare in advance for the meeting. Preparation for the first security clearance meeting can make the difference between a government contractor/federal employee successfully obtaining/retaining a security clearance or being denied one.

Preparing for the Initial Security Clearance Investigator Meeting

One of the most important considerations in meeting with a security clearance investigator for the first time is to adequately prepare for the meeting, especially where there may be potential disqualifying security concerns. We find that most government contractors and federal employees have a general sense of potential security concerns that could arise at the time that they begin to review or complete their e-QIP/SF-86 submissions.

In the most common scenario, an individual is usually alerted to potential problems that may require preparation for the clearance process when they find that they may have to answer “yes” to a certain question and then provide formal disclosures to an uncomfortable question, such as the use of drugs or past financial debts. When these types of issues are anticipated, then one should seek counsel and prepare in advance of a meeting with a security clearance investigator.

Review Relevant Documentation

If a potential security concern exists, it is important to gather as much information and documentation one has on the issue of concern in preparation for the interview.  Such information, if useful, can be provided to security clearance investigators at the start.  At other times, the information can be useful for later in the clearance process, if needed.

For example, suppose an individual knows that they have a large outstanding debt on their credit report. If so, then that information will certainly be important to review prior to a meeting with a security clearance investigator.

Respond to the Questions Asked

In regard to meetings between government contractors/federal employees and security clearance investigators, one other issue that we run across is the tendency of some individuals to provide information not sought by an investigator.

We advise government contractors and federal employees to answer the questions asked by investigators as honestly as possible but stick to the actual questions that are posed. On many occasions, individuals can get sidetracked or provide information that is not relevant to the questions asked by an investigator, which may cause clearance difficulties later or cause frustration for the investigator.

The usual key to a successful interview is to be as responsive as possible to any areas of concern but to make the meeting with the clearance investigator as efficient as possible. Investigators tend to have many cases to review and like to focus on their particular areas of concern. The better an individual can honestly address specific issues raised by an investigator, the better the potential outcome.

When issues arise, it is important to consult with counsel to obtain the best legal advice possible in presenting one’s response to difficult questions.

Follow-up Interviews or Requests by the Investigator

A security clearance investigator may need additional information regarding potential security concerns or need to interview an individual a second time. We typically advise individuals to attempt to anticipate these requests in advance.

For example, if an investigator appears to have questions about one’s psychological issues during an initial interview, it may be helpful to attempt to obtain a letter from a medical professional soon after that shows that the psychological concerns are under control and have been resolved. Doing so in advance can save time and effort later and may resolve issues early should the investigator come back with additional questions.

Contact Us

If you are in need of security clearance legal representation or advice, please contact our office at 703-668-0070 or through our contact page to schedule a consultation. Please also visit and like us on Facebook or Twitter.

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