Reston, VA

Wednesday Morning Notes

Reston Ice Rink Offers New Safety Guidelines — “The ice rink at Reston Town Center has been a must stop during the holidays for the past 30 years. This year things will look the same, but with new safety guidelines in place because of COVID-19.”  [WJLA]

PassionFish in Bethesda Closes — The popular seafood permanent closed its Bethesda location on Nov.  15, but the Reston Town Center location will remain open.  [Montgomery County Media]

South Lakes Culinary Students Offer To-go Meals — “Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, culinary students along with their chief, Cynthia, came up with the idea to offer To-Go services to the school’s faculty and staff who are working remotely. Organizers said they have to sell the food the students make to raise money for the program.” [Local DVM]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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South Lakes High School’s annual Tag Day band fundraiser will officially be held virtually this year as a result of the pandemic. 

The fundraiser helps pay for musical instruction, instruments, student scholarships, uniforms and more, according to a press release from Melissa Gifford, the President of Band Boosters. Tag Day is the nonprofit’s largest SLHS fundraiser each year.

“Even though band classes are virtual right now, our staff and students are working hard on new music, and they can’t wait to play for the community!” said Gifford. 

The funds are currently being allocated to support students now and upon their eventual return to in-person learning. To support virtual learning, Band Boosters are looking to bring in additional help in the online classroom to increase the individual attention given to each student. 

Fundraising proceeds will also go towards purchasing new sheet music for smaller performing groups for an eventual return to in-person school, and to help purchase and repair instruments, according to Gifford. 

“Most people aren’t aware that many of our students use or even share school-owned instruments,” she said. “Obviously it’s important that we are able to provide a working instrument for every student at home, and sharing is now a thing of the past.”

The nonprofit has set up a crowdsourcing campaign, with information on the website about the band program and how proceeds are being used. Those interested in donating can donate online or by check payable to SLHS Band Boosters (South Lakes Band Boosters, PO Box 8561, Reston VA 20195-8561). 

“Each ear we are overwhelmed by the support of our community,” said Shannen Setlik, the Tag Day Coordinator. “We are especially grateful this year, during these difficult times.” 

Photo courtesy of Melissa Gifford

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Another season of the coronavirus pandemic has brought on the second semester of remote and hybrid education. And for students without desks, the switch means they must look for alternative school setups.

Alisa Harriot, Lisa Merkel and Tracy Converse, three local Reston and Herndon community members, brainstormed a solution to the alternative setups: they and a hefty group with over one hundred members would find, build, or recycle desks to deliver to the students. 

On Sept. 11, after discovering a group of families in need of desks, the women decided to start a desk collection to benefit these families. They each posted on their individual Facebook pages asking if their circle of friends had any desks to donate. Immediately, the project took off. 

The posts prompted a major community effort to help support these families in need, from people at home building desks from scratch to the donation of surplus desks from the schools in the county.

In addition to an outpour of desks, the women were able to partner with local food pantries to aid with the distribution. They were also given a storage unit at South Lakes High School to help hold a larger number of desks. 

“It’s been a really quick-moving and exciting project that takes a lot of people and a lot of help from the community,” said Harriot. “We have yet to be in a position where we didn’t find that help.”

The story that mobilized the women was that of a local girl who, with the onset of virtual learning, didn’t have anywhere sufficient to set up a workspace and as a result, had to flip a toilet seat into a modified desk. After hearing this girl’s story, they launched into action to help other students in similar situations. 

“If you want to see a bunch of community members activate, you let them know that there’s a little girl somewhere using a toilet as a desk,” said Harriot. 

As of last week, 107 desks have been delivered to students in need. The project has gained the support and participation of about 147 volunteers from the Reston and Herndon communities in the last month. 

They are currently looking to work with The CORE Foundation to become one of their core causes to begin taking financial donations for the project, according to Harriot. Harriot also is thinking about continuing the effort even after school resumes in-person. 

“At a time where everything seems so divisive and uncertain, it’s been really nice to see a bunch of people … all of a sudden working together and doing great things,” said Merkel.

Those interested in donating desks can drop them off at their storage pod at South Lakes High School (11400 South Lakes Drive). Individuals in need of a desk are encouraged to reach out to their school counselor, who will work with them to find the best way to pick them up. For more information, email [email protected]

Photo courtesy of Alisa Harriot

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The South Lakes High School PTSA is once again organizing the “Do It Your Way 0.5K,” an annual fundraiser that supports the school’s food pantry.

This year, the event will go virtual. Participants can pick up race packets at the Lake Anne Brew House in order to complete “650 steps anywhere,” according to organizers.

The packet includes a portable Donut station and a pantry-branded mask. Other goodies include a race bib and a thank you from event sponsors. The first 250 registrants will receive special gifts, according to organizers.

Packets will be available for pickup on Friday, Oct. 16 from 4-6 p.m and on Saturday, Oct. 17 from 10 a.m. to noon.

Aspen Jewelry Design is also offering a raffle for a “VOTE” necklace. Tickets are available for $5 each or 5 tickets for $20.

Participants can register online as a student $10), adult ($25), and a family up to five ($60).

Last year’s event brought nearly 200 participants to Lake Anne Plaza for a rainy event. More than $18,000 was raised at the fundraiser.

Organizers hope to top that number this year, especially as needs grow every week to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pantry provides food to an average of 150 SLHS pyramid families per week.

Photo by Holly Vanderhoof

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The Closet of the Greater Herndon Area, Inc. has awarded 22 local high school students $45,000 worth of college scholarships. The students span across five high schools in the community, according to a statement released by the organization. 

“We are so proud of these youth and their families and are happy to continue supporting this important educational need in our community,”  said Gene Wiley, The Closet’s board president

According to the statement, The Closet thrift shop has awarded more than $500,000 in college scholarships to more than 500 students since 1974. They have also distributed almost $3 million in direct cash grants to local service groups.

A breakdown of the awardees is below:

  • From Herndon High School, the recipients are Lucilla Antwie, Karen Ayala-Bonilla, Caleb Calderwood, Sean Frias, Maryum Khan and Judith Velasquez.
  • From Mountain View High School, the recipients are Doris Alvarado, Abonesh Tadese and Tenzin Tsering.
  • From Oakton High School, the recipients are Olohi Anteyi, Monica Alexandra Castellanos and Maria S. Rivera.
  • From Park View High School, the recipients are Ebanneh Atabe, Charlotte Edwards, Kimberly Fuentes-Galvez, Kimberly Molina Rivas, Kaitlyn Smith, and Melana Washington.
  • From South Lakes High School, the recipients are Rhema Ebna Konadu, Nicol Katherin Salinas Perez, Daniel Mebratu Tolessa and Nia Jordan Winston.

 

The thrift shop is a non-profit group based on faith-based congregations. They hold a small staff, with volunteers helping out the store as well.

Those looking to donate can drop off clothing and small household items on Monday through Sunday from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. Additionally, those interested in volunteering can contact the store owner, Patricia Rhodes, at 703-437-7652.

Photo courtesy of The Closet of the Greater Herndon Area, Inc. 

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A South Lakes High School graduate decided to create an organization called Student Impact, attracting the attention of teachers around the East Coast looking for extra student opportunities.

Student Impact hosts writing contests, book drives for underprivileged kids, peer support groups and leadership programs, according to founder Ana Stanisavljev.

The program launched in April and is now introducing a new tutoring program next Tuesday, Stanisavljev said.

Though there will be a fee for most tutoring opportunities, Stanisavljev said that she is asking volunteers to also donate a few hours of their time a month to help students whose families cannot pay.

The program has gained traction outside of the Northern Virginia area. New Jersey public schools noticed the program and tweeted about it, letting students know about the upcoming writing contest.

The writing contest asks middle school and high school students to write a collection of stories between 500-1,000 words for young kids. Cash prizes will be given to finalists, and the deadline for submission is Friday, June 5.

This summer, Student Impact is gearing up for a high school leadership program that will help students build valuable skills, according to Stanisavljev.

“It’ll give them the opportunity to engage with their communities and actually have an impact,” she said.

Around 70 people are already involved in the program. People who are interested in volunteering can sign up online.

Though everyone is “involved on different levels,” according to Stanisavljev, she said people from college-age and up can apply to be in a tutor or mentor position.

“We are constantly coming up with new projects and initiatives to create resources for students and teachers, so stay tuned for even more opportunities,” Stanisavljev said.

Stanisavljev said she started the program as an immediate response to the needs of students and teachers struggling with distance learning but hopes it continues to grow depending on the needs of students.

Stanisavljev is currently studying business at the University of Virginia. She said that she wanted to launch this program to give back to her home community of Reston.

Photo courtesy Ana Stanisavljev

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Silver Line Summer Shutdown Town Hall is Today — Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik and Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn will hold a town hall today (Thursday) from 6:30-7:30 p.m. via Webex. Representatives from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and the Fairfax County Department of Transportation will also attend the virtual meeting. [Webex]

Summer Camps Cancelled — The Fairfax County Park Authority has canceled all of its summer camps due to guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health officials. [FCPA]

Local Junior Collects Cards for Senior Living Home Residents — “South Lakes High junior Mary started a campaign in her community to collect letters and cards for residents in a senior living home. She posted her request on social media and collected the letters in a bin outside on her front porch. Since the residents aren’t permitted visitors, she thought they might appreciate the mail.” [Fairfax County Public Schools]

Next Reston Comprehensive Plan Task Force Meeting Announced — The task force will continue its second virtual meeting on Tuesday, May 26 from 7-9 p.m. Items on the agenda include the history of planning in Reston and elements of comprehensive planning. [Fairfax County Government]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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To help fill the South Lakes High School Food Pantry, Lake Anne Brew House (11401 North Shore Drive) is hosting a luau themed food drive over Memorial Day Weekend.

People are encouraged to bring items to the brewhouse from May 21 through 24. The location will be accepting donations on Thursday and Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m., according to the event page.

Requested items include canned goods, nonperishable things like beans and rice or toiletries and personal care products.

Food and donations will go to vulnerable members of the community, the event page said, adding that customers are also encouraged to pick up to-go food and drink since a portion of the proceeds will also go towards the cause.

Image courtesy Lake Anne Brewhouse

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The public artwork titled “Spectrum” on Lake Thoreau Spillway will stay in place a little longer than originally planned at the request of local residents.

The piece was commissioned by Marco Rando, an art teacher at South Lakes High School along with his students and is a part of a  rotating annual project. Each updated piece of art usually stays up from July until the beginning of December, according to Anne Delaney the executive Director for Public Art Reston.

Now, the piece will be on display until the end of June, according to Delaney, who added that they plan to take down the piece before July 4 so it isn’t damaged by fireworks.

For now, Delaney said Rando hopes the artwork will help keep residents in good spirits despite the COVID19 pandemic.

“Spectrum” marks the sixth piece of art created by Rando and his team of students and the project is supported by Public Art Reston, which aims to engage the public and help foster a sense of community, the website said.

A petition led by residents earlier this year requested that the art project remain on the spillway for longer than originally planned.

“After two years of creating sculptures with strong conceptual origins that featured minimalist color palettes, STEAM decided to change direction and create a sculpture that prioritized an exploration of aesthetic elements over a representation of a tangible theme,” Public Art Reston’s website said about the piece.

Photo courtesy Public Art Reston

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High School can be a difficult time for many teens, but three high school students living in Reston began their sharing experiences through a podcast in hopes of empowering others.

The Epic Theory” began under three South Lakes High School Juniors named Anastasia Vlasova, Esha Pathi and Hannah Giusti in July of 2019. Since then, the students have produced 15 episodes of the podcast that are available for free on Spotify and other apps, according to the website.

The podcast is “focused on self-growth, venturing outside of our comfort zones, finding passion and uplifting the global community,” the students wrote in an email to Reston Now.

What began as a “curiosity-driven summer project” turned into so much more as the girls said they began to attract international followers.

In the last several months, the team built a relationship with the CORE Foundation, a non-profit that helps social entrepreneurs achieve their goals. The group is helping to boost the podcast, according to the girls.

“In addition to recording our authentic, existential conversations, we have hosted a “Dream Big” event at a local elementary school, during which we interacted with sixth graders and encouraged them to pursue their dreams,” the girls said. “We explained to them the power of brainstorming solutions in pursuit of their dreams, as they will inevitably experience obstacles.”

During the event, the trio said they helped the kids embrace optimism about their future and the power of their individual voices.

The girls were actually planning yet another upcoming “dream big” event but unfortunately had to cancel it due to concerns over COVID-19.

“But we are still moving forward with recording podcast episodes and solidifying our status as a non-profit,” the girls said about the forced cancelation. “We are using this time to brainstorm, update our website, share social media content, and record podcast episodes.”

In the latest episode of “The Epic Theory,” Vlasova hosted the podcast by herself since the girls decided to voluntarily self-quarantine. She spoke about what it means to “live your best life” during quarantine and shared tips about how to feel fulfilled during this time.

“The whole idea of stagnancy really freaks me out, and that’s why I am so motivated and eager to learn and try new things,” Vlasova said, adding that she tries to never plateau in her quest for knowledge. To avoid boredom during this time, she said she is always reading new articles or researching cool ideas.

“As news of COVID-19 is occupying most of today’s media coverage, we would love a chance to shine light on what we, as teenagers, are doing to positively contribute to the world,” the students said.

Image via The Epic Theory/Instagram

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Voting Underway for Reston Association Election — The last day to vote is April 3 for RA’s 2020 election for the Board of Directors. Voting information is available online. [Reston Association]

Charges Pending for Home Burglary — A burglary was reported on the 1600 block of Hiddenbrook Drive on Feb. 29 at around 3:44 a.m. The homeowners said they were awakened by the sound of knocking on their front door. Two juveniles were located a short distance away. Charges are pending. [Fairfax County Police Department]

South Lakes Girls Finish Second — “Senior Hannah Waller finished her final season on the South Lakes High School girls indoor track team as a state champion, finishing first in the 55 meters with a winning time of 6.95. This effort helped to lift the South Lakes girls indoor track team to its third consecutive second place finish Feb. 28-29, at the 6A State Championships, at the Boo Williams Sportsplex.” [Reston Patch]

Photo by Marjorie Copson

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After the mysterious horse beheading at Lake Anne Plaza back in September, the artist of the wooden sculpture said that he is in the process of building a replacement.

The new horse is almost complete and will be available for public viewing shortly, artist Marco Rando said, confirming that natural decay caused the damages.

The name for the upcoming piece is “Intent, The Wooden Horse” and includes pieces from the previous version for the sake of nostalgia — including the head, Rando said.

“The horse is a metaphor for the energy and work required to bring an idea into existence, and the heart is the symbol for creative passion fueling intent,” he said.

Rando, who currently works at South Lakes High School, said he received assistance throughout the project from his students, who helped to conceptualize the design and will create graphics for the horse’s heart.

“These students are in my STEAM Studio Art & Design classes. They have been given a real-world assignment to design, create and fabricate a public work of art for Boston Properties and Reston Town Center,” Rando said. “The students have collaborated to achieve exceptional work.”

Photos courtesy Marco Rando

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In a collaboration between the Reston Town Center Association and South Lakes High School, students will envision and create a sculpture for display in Reston Town Center.

SLHS art teacher Marco Rando — who has also led a number of art projects in the area — will work with art students on the project. The project will be delivered this spring during the town center’s 30th anniversary year, according to a press release.

“This is a unique opportunity for us to bring project-based learning into the classroom in a very powerful way, and we hope its success this first year will lay the groundwork for a long-term continuation of this wonderful partnership between SLHS and Reston Town Center,” said SLHS Principal Kimberly Retzer.

RTCA and project sponsors reviewed students’ proposals for the project and selected a “lenticular” sculpture that could present four different murals, according to RTCA. The association, Boston Properties, and professionals in design and art, will review two maquettes created by students.

Rando said the approval project will allow students to get a glimpse of the approval process for artwork.

This is part of the challenge and learning experience for our students, to interact with and respond to the multiple professional interests that would typically be required to get a project like this approved at a dynamic place like Reston Town Center,” Rando stated

In addition to the support of RTC, Boston Properties is providing the school’s funding for the project while the Hyatt Regency at Reston Town Center is offering the location at Hyatt Park and power at no cost. Power Services, Inc. will complete all electrical and lighting work at no charge while KCS Landscape Management will transport the sculpture to the site for free.

RTCA’s executive director, Robert Goudie, said the project is the product of partnerships created by Public Ar Reston, Reston Association, and the school.

Thanks to our incredible partners – Boston Properties, Hyatt, Power Services, and KCS, who are covering the school budget and more – we can bring that model into the classroom and deliver a community project that furthers an important part of RTCA’s mission:  enriching our downtown through the arts.”

Photo by vantagehill/Flickr

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As the number of local students who vape soars,  Fairfax County Public Schools doubling down on how to decrease the use of e-cigarettes.

In September, Fairfax County Public Schools pursued more stringent measures if a student was caught vaping on campus.  Additionally, the school board also classified vaping as a prohibited activity in the school system’s student rights and responsibilities handbook last year.

Lucy Caldwell, the school system’s communication director, said that FCPS also works with the Fairfax County Health Department to develop a toolkit for students to provide educational information about the health impacts of e-cigarettes.

Stemming the rise of e-cigarettes — which some see as a safe alternative to smoking — is a nationwide challenge. The number of youth who are e-cigarette users jumped by 1.5 million between 2017 and 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No change was found in the use of other tobacco products during this time.

A recent survey administered by FCPS found that one in five students vaped recently.

South Lakes High School held four parent sessions through the Parent Teacher Student Administration or administration-sponsored meetings to help parents partner with the school on addressing this issue, according to SLHS Principal Kim Retzer.

The school also has a substance abuse prevention specialization who provides support for students and resources for parents, Retzer told Reston Now.

“South Lakes deals with students vaping as do other high schools in the area,” she said.

At Herndon High School, Principal Liz Noto says that the school is working with FCPS’s Student Safety and Wellness Office to educate the student body about the issue. Like other schools, HHS also finds ways for students seeking to quit vaping.

Photo via Unsplash/Tbel Abuseridze

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The South Lakes High School homecoming parade is scheduled for today (Friday).

The parade, which is set for 5-6 p.m., will feature student organizations, class councils, clubs, team, community groups, elementary schools, and the school’s marching band, The Spirit of Reston. 

This year’s theme is “A Seahawk in Hollywood.”

The parade begins at 5 p.m. from Hunters Woods Shopping Center. It will continue north on Colts Neck Drive, turn east onto South Lakes Drive and finish at SLHS. Expect traffic delays along Colts Neck Road and South Lakes Drive this evening.

The football game against McLean High School begins at 7 p.m. shortly after the parade.

Photo via South Lakes High School

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