Following the daily news coming out of our Nation’s Capital is enough to leave anyone despondent. The backing away from long-sought freedoms against discrimination and oppression to a seeming lack of concern about the health of our planet and its people to a rise in hateful speech and behavior punctuated by the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few at the expense of the many contribute to the feeling of desperation on the part of many who share values very different than those holding positions of power today. Add to the very real concerns about the direction of our country the plight of millions around the world and one can become very depressed.
I remind myself regularly that it is important to remember that behind all the dark clouds there is a sunny side. While my examples of the sunny side will be from our community over the last couple of days, the sunshine of care and compassion shines in different ways and intensities throughout the world every day We sometimes have to clean the lenses through which we view our community and the world to gain a clearer perspective of where we are and where we are headed.
Just last weekend Jane and I spent an evening with the caring and compassionate people in our community who raise money and work through FISH (Friendly, Immediate, Sympathetic Help) to help those who are down on their luck pay their utility bills and rent, fill prescriptions, and learn to manage their finances. A golf tournament this week with Kids R First along with the volunteer help of many will provide funding to ensure that thousands of children in our region start school with book bags filled with needed school supplies. Students in South Lakes High School (SLHS) who do not have enough to eat at their homes can get food through the SLHS Food Pantry on school days and for the weekends.
Days in a homeless shelter can no doubt seem bleak despite the best efforts of volunteers to make them seem otherwise, but nothing can replace the burst of sunshine that comes from Cornerstones and all its supporters who work mightily to end homelessness in our community. I spent an evening recently with the volunteers of Britepaths who are doing the same kind of work in other areas of our region bringing hope to many.
I spend time monthly with volunteers from Moms Demand Action, Brady Campaign, and other groups working to end gun violence. Their commonsense approach to the public health crisis of gun violence will pay off. I continue to be impressed with the determination and hard work of the Herndon-Reston Indivisibles who are devoted to the election of caring candidates to office and to bring focus on bad public policies.
I am honored to be in public office to observe and participate in the hard work of citizens who bring sunshine where it is needed. I have listed just a few examples. Join with us and pull back the shades to let the sunshine in. Let me know at [email protected] if you are looking for ways to become involved.
A force behind more than 150 performances at South Lakes High School’s Theatre Arts program is leaving the program. Maria Harris, the program’s theatre arts director, plans to retire after 30 years of coaching students, putting on productions, and watching the program grow over the last three decades.
Harris is now turning toward what she calls her final act: her own acting career and production company, Rising Star Productions, and spending more time with her family and aging parents.
“It’s been a good career, but it’s not over yet,” Harris said. She commutes two hours daily from her home in Loudoun County to SLHS.
After teaching for a few years in Michigan — where she was born — and two other Fairfax County schools, Harris landed a full time job at SLHS. She’s worked as the performing arts chair and taught speech, english, theatre and film — watching the program grow from two shows required per year to an around-the-year program. The job has given her the opportunity to travel with her students — including the prestigious American High School Theatre Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland where the school was selected to represent Virginia. Her students have also won two state championships in the Virginia High School League’s film competition.
Over the years, she said she has most enjoyed watching her students grow. “I’ve really enjoyed my time here at SLHS. I love, love, love my kids and I’m going to miss them the most.” Before shows, she assembles her students into a big circle and leads them through breathing exercises, passing a squeeze of good wishes down the chain of linked hands until they reach her.
Ryleigh Line, one of her students, told Reston Now that Harris has helped many students realize their full potential.
“The most important thing that she does for us is support us and she pushes us to be the best we can be by having high expectations and constructive feedback for us after every assignment and production,” Line said. “The South Lakes community will miss Mrs. Harris very much and are forever thankful for her.”
For Harris, who calls herself a “Motown girl,” the arts were ingrained in her lifestyle since she was five. She received her bachelor’s degree in education from Wayne State University.
While she was working in the school’s program, she launched Rising Star Productions in Reston in order to fill the lack of “cultural theatre” in the community. For years, she worked with her team to bring African American Theatre to Reston Community Center. She has appeared in films including Broadcast News and Accidental Tourist. Her stages roles include Addapearle in The Wiz, Bloody Mary in South Pacific, Asaka in Once on This Island, and Myrna Thorn in Ruthless! The Musical.
“I wish my students the very best, whether they take their careers into theater or whatever they endeavor to do.”
Photo via Maria Harris
Farmers and Makers Market Kicks Off Today — Local farmers and artisans will sell a mix of items in Reston Town Center today. The market is open Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through November. [Reston Town Center]
County Weighs More Housing for Amazon Workers — “Fairfax County officials are weighing new steps to beef up their investments in affordable housing programs, with the promise of even more ambitious spending next year. The Board of Supervisors’ budget committee signed off on the changes at an April 26 meeting, ensuring they’d be included when officials vote on a full spending plan for fiscal year 2020 next month.” [Washington Business Journal]
South Lakes High School Sophomores Learn About Careers — Around 50 career professionals came to the high school to talk to sophomore about education, training, and career experiences. The event was coordinated by the career center and local parents. [Fairfax County Public Schools]
County Guide: It’s Snake Season — “Fairfax County is home to an array of snake species, most of which are non-venomous and pose no threat to people. Among the most frequently observed resident snakes are the Eastern rat snake, Eastern garter snake, Dekay’s brown snake, Northern water snake and Northern ring-necked snake; common and important predators in our ecosystems. These snakes, and others, are beneficial and provide a valuable service in our communities in the way of pest control.” [Fairfax County Government]
Photo via Charlotte Geary
Google eyes Reston Station — Google is considering leasing a block of office space near the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station. The Mountain View, a California-based company, is in talks to lease about 100,000 square feet from Comstock Cos. at 1900 Reston Metro Plaza, the building designed by architect Helmut Jahn. [Washington Business Journal]
If you’re coming to the football game — At South Lakes High School’s football game, don’t forget to bring a donation for the school’s food pantry. They’re looking for cereal, toothpaste, deodorant, canned veggies, applesauce, and/or beans. [SLHS Food Pantry via Twitter]
An artful run and a run in the arts — Three runners who also happen to be artists will show off their work beginning today at Reston Community Center. The exhibit ends on Nov. 5. [Reston Community Center]
Photo by Bako Glonti
The food pantry at South Lakes High School is moving beyond the typical scope of community pantries that give students in need a chance to discreetely shop for food and toiletries. In the coming weeks, the pantry, which currently caters to students in the SLHS pyramid and is run by the school’s Parent Teacher Student Association, will begin offering cooking skills classes.
The after-school cooking workshops will give students a chance to learn more about healthy eating. Through eight sessions during the school year on Wednesday afternoons, students will learn how to make one recipe using healthy ingredients and meal kits that do not rely on processed ingredients, according to Roberta Gosling, one of the founders of the pantry. The initiative is made possible by a $7,000 grant from the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation.
The idea began to take root when Alana Pudner, a Girl Scout, approached pantry organizers with a three-meal pack she prepared to earn her Silver Award. Students began ordering the meal kit, which includes ingredients for veggie chili, lentil stew, and a tuna pasta casserole, as part of their weekly orders.
“To take that further, we also looked at some of the broader trends and felt that if we could help students learn to cook healthy, budget-friendly recipes that it would equip a broad group of people with life skills and take students a step closer to nutritious choices,” Gosling said.
Recipes will contain ingredients available in the pantry and through SNAP and WIC benefits. At the end of each session, students will get bags with recipes and ingredients, including a kitchen starter kit with basic tools like a cutting board, measuring cup, a pan, and spices used in multiple cuisines. Although the classes are open to all students at the school, organizers plan to market the class through the pantry to reach students most in need. Each session will accommodate about 20 students.
Organizers are also making an effort to focus on foods from around the world. Shopping lists are available in English, Spanish and Arabic and participants will get a chance to try different cuisines in the classes.
Roughly 30 percent of all SLHS students experience food insecurity, according to pantry organizers and volunteers. Every Thursday, students in need turn in their shopping list for the week. Volunteers pack shopping bags and distribute them to students as they head out on Fridays. Students can also shop at the pantry on Thursdays from 3-6 p.m. and on Friday from noon to 3 p.m. The pantry is also open in the summer on Thursdays from 3-6 p.m.
Since April 2017, the pantry has filled more than 2,500 orders and weekly order averages are also increasing.
Now, pantry organizers and volunteers are looking for new ways to make the initiative more sustainable and comprehensive. On September 30, the school’s PTSA will partner with Lake Anne Brew House to present the “Do It Your Way 0.5K.” All proceeds from the event, which is set for 4-6 p.m. at Lake Anne Brew House, will go to the food pantry.
The pantry is led by Gosling, Abbe Pascal, Andy Sigle, Amy Shaw, and Sherri Pudner. Items in high demand include rice, beans, jelly, canned fruit, shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste, and toothbrushes. Monetary donations are also accepted online.
Photos via Roberta Gosling
In her first indoor high school track meet, sophomore Hannah Waller won the girls’ 55-meter race, setting a school record of 6.94. During trials, Waller broke a record of 7.28 set by Nikayla Hoyte during the 2015 season. Both times qualify Waller for the 6A State Championship. Her time in the final is also the fastest in the nation this season, according to a statement issued by the team.
Waller, junior Nicole Post and sophomores Mary Gregory and Rhema Konadu finished second in the 4×200 meter relay with a time of 1:45:54, qualifying the team for the state meet.
Junior Isabelle Gulgert won both the 1,000 meters and 1,600 meters race, qualifying her for the Liberty District championship meet.
Senior Sean Casey finished with a region championship qualifying time of 4:30:87. Casey, who is the Liberty Conference cross country champion, also qualified for the region meet in the 1,000-meter race, during which he finished fourth.
Other highlights include:
- Senior Ronak Cuthill finished fourth, earning a qualification for the region meet.
- Junior Stevie Jones qualified for the region meet in the preliminaries of the boys’ 55-meter.
- Juniors Sophie Halkett, Jordan Anderson and seniors Reagan Tobias and Aly Rayle won the first running event of the meet, the girls 4×800 meter relay, in 10:17.72.
- The boys 4×800 meter relay team of senior Peter Delmolino and juniors Calvin Warstler, Webb Nims and Alex Lawson finished third (8:45.87).
Photo by Traci Waller
Retired NBA player Grant Hill visited South Lakes High School for his jersey retirement ceremony where he appreciated his Reston roots. The Washington Post published a recap of the ceremony this weekend.
Grant played four teams in his 19-year professional career as a basketball player in the Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Clippers. He was a seven-time NBA Allstar. As an eighth grader, Grant wore a tie to Langston Hughes Middle School in order to match the dress code of South Lakes High School’s basketball team, which had a dress code on game days.
According to the Post, Grant said:
“The last thing on my mind was the NBA or college, I just wanted to play here at South Lakes. That was what I wanted to do,” Hill said. “It was a different time . . . you spent your Friday nights watching high school sports and that was entertainment for a whole community, so I just wanted to play at South Lakes and that was pretty much it.”
No Seahawks basketball player with wear No. 32 again after the retirement ceremony. Local teachers and attendees told the Post the Grant’s presence brought closure to the community.
“Not only athletically but socially as a citizen of Reston, Grant brought a lot to the community with his overall demeanor in everything he does,” said Wendell Byrd, who stepped down as South Lakes coach in 2007. “Grant went away and continued to blossom and tonight he shared with the Reston area that ‘I’m still a Reston kid.’ “
Junior point guard Cameron Savage told the Post that he felt like Grant opened up to the community in a cordial manner.
“For him to come back, it means the world for us,” Savage told the Post. “He had so much success, but he came back and treated us like we’ve known him for 30 years, he treated us like we were his best friends. Tonight was special.”
Photo via the Washington Post
Seniors at South Lakes High School will get a taste of the gray world of ethics tomorrow.
Students are participating in this year’s Ethics Day from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Sheraton Reston. The day, which is led by the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce, is designed to encourage the business community to collaborate with local youth. Chamber members will facilitate and lead discussion with youth involving four complex, real-life scenarios.
The event is marking its 25th anniversary tomorrow. It was launched by Charles Veatch, one of Reston’s key business leaders, in order to help local youth understand the importance of integrity in action. Similar programs happen across Fairfax County and the area.
More than 550 students will participate in the program. Roughly 75 chamber member volunteers will guide students through discussions about real-life scenarios.
Topics that will be discussed include bystander responsibility, unconscious bias, organ transplants and driving. Students will analyze each scenario and reach a conclusion based on the discussion.
For more information, contact the chamber via email or by phone at 703-707-9045.
Photo via Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce
Beckner led the SLHS girls cross country team to its first district championship since 2001 earlier this year. She also helped the team finish third in the regional games and advance to the state championship.
Just last week, Beckner won the state title after finishing second last year. Beckner has also competed in SLHS indoor and outdoor track and field teams. There, she was named an 11-time All-State competition and was also named to the Washington Post All-Met team.
Beckner’s skill is well-documented in the record books of SLHS. In January, Beckner capped off the regular season with a school record in the mile at the Virginia Showcase Invitational indoor track and field meet in Lynchburg. She ran a 4:45.30 mile.
Photo courtesy of SLHS/Valerie Lister
“A girl I had a huge crush on drunk-dialed me,” said Anton, a Herndon resident who graduated from SLHS in 2009.
That led to Anton to develop an app, Drunk Mode, in 2014. Drunk Mode accesses your contacts upon request to prevent you from using your phone to send regretful calls and texts.
Anton says about 10,000 people downloaded Drunk Mode in its first year. Drunk Mode was a paid product then ($1 per download), so he was able to put money back into the company to add more features.
Those features now include:
- The ability to group contacts on a “should not call list” (i.e, your boss, your ex-girlfriend, your mom). The app then requires you to answer a set of math problems before making a call.
- A “Find My Drunk” feature that allows you to see where your friends are in real time their social media accounts.
- It quickly syncs with Uber and Lyft to get you a ride.
- It has a trail of “virtual breadcrumbs” to show you where you were the night before.
- If someone is reported missing, their info can be pushed to everyone in a five mile radius.
Anton says he had an offer from a major tech company to sell the app, but instead decided to focus on it as his career. His capstone project from UVA (he graduated in 2014) was on entrepreneurship and how to get the product to the next level.
Ironically, Anton does not drink. He said the ideas to add more safety features to the app came from his friends and their adventures.
“I had friends who were camping in Garrett County Maryland,” he said. “They walked five miles to bar, crashed a bachelorette party, and ended up getting a ride home from a nice lady. The next morning, they did not remember anything. It was like the movie ‘The Hangover.’ “
“They said, ‘you should add an feature that shows where you were.’ So I did. Now it is one of our most popular features.”
But Anton knows there are critics who say, “how about just encouraging people to drink responsibly?”
“People have been telling college students for years not to drink too much,” he said. “But people are going to do what they are going to do. We are selling safety features in the form of a party app. Our goal is to target the [half of all] college students who think they are invincible. We want them to consider it like a virtual best friend.”
Photos: Josh Anton/Credit: Drunk Mode; Drunk Mode via Google Play.
Thank-You Concert Tonight At SLHS — The South Lakes High School Band is performing its annual Tag Day concert on Tuesday, Nov. 24 at 7 p.m. in the SLHS Little Theater. The concert is the band’s way of saying thank you to for all of the support that comes from the Reston community. The performance is free and open to the public.
Thanksgiving Tail Run/Walk — Reston Runners is sponsoring a Thanksgiving Day Trail Run/Walk at Lake Fairfax Park. This event is non competitive and involves no registration. Just show up at the picnic pavilion at 9 a.m. [Reston Runners]
Chanukah Fun At Home Depot — As soon as Thanksgiving ends, it is nearly time for Jews to celebrate Chanukah (which begins Dec. 6). Chabad Reston-Herndon is sponsoring a Chanukah Fun event at Reston’s Home Depot at 1651 Reston Parkway. The free event is from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. and will feature a menorah building workshop, as well as latkes, donuts and chocolate gelt. [Facebook]
Photo: Sunset over Reston, Nov. 22, 2015/Credit: Chase Suddith
SingStrong — the three-day a cappella festival that raises money for the Alzheimer’s Association and local music programs — returns to South Lakes High School this weekend.
The event features some of the best-known a cappella singers, including gospel-pop group Ten, runners up on this season of NBC’s “The Sing-Off”; Blake Lewis, runner up on Season 6 of American Idol; The Funx with Nate Tao, a Reston native and a contestant on last season’s American Idol; Grace McLean, NYC live looper; Kaila Mullady, top-ranked female beatboxer at the this year’s American Beatbox Championships; Classic Sounds, an award winning doo-wop group, among many others.
There will be five concerts at SLHS’ Little Theatre, including shows throughout the day on Saturday, Feb. 22. Visit the SingStrong site for the exact schedule as each show will have a different lineup. Friday’s 7 p.m. show is “ACA-Idol,” an “American Idol”-style competition for pro and college groups.
Saturday’s 7 p.m. Main Event show features several multiple professional a cappella groups, including Blake Lewis, Blue Jupiter, Stiletta, The Funx with Nate Tao and Amy “Bob” Engelhardt. The 9:30 p.m. Saturday show features Ten, Classic Sounds, Grace McLean, Kaila Mullady, and others.
Matinee concerts include Saturday’s finals of the High School Competition, with awards for performance, arranging and composition and Sunday’s show featuring Ten, The Capital Hearings, The Alexandria Harmonizers, The Funx, Kaila Mullady, Grace McLean and more.
Need more? There will be open mic sessions at the Westin Reston Heights each night.
Tickets range from $15 to $35. Discounted passes are available for seniors, students and groups of 10 or more. Parking is free. For more information, visit www.SingStrong.org.