People and Places = week of February 26, 2021 | Articles | fairfaxtimes.com – Fairfaxtimes.com

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RCC’s aquatics center renovation earns regional public works award






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The new aquatic center includes a lap pool with beach entry and water play features and adjacent teaching and exercise pool.




Reston Community Center is proud to announce the recent renovation of the Terry L. Smith Aquatics Center has earned top honors for the Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services (DPWES) in the 2021 American Public Works Association’s (APWA) Mid-Atlantic Region awards.

The renovated natatorium earned Project of the Year recognition for structures costing $5 – $25 million. RCC’s project reached substantial completion and reopened to the public in January 2020 after a three-year process that included extensive community feedback sessions and a one-year closure for construction.

“The RCC Board of Governors engaged with our community over many months to explore how to meet Reston swimmers’ needs as effectively as possible,” said RCC Board Chair Beverly Cosham. “The concept design that resulted has proven its validity in the popularity of the new pools as people experience them, even in the context of the pandemic.”

The $5.5 million project was paid for with RCC’s capital reserves. The renovations included demolition of the outdated 40-year-old pool. In its place are two new pools: a 25-yard lap pool with beach entry and water play features, and an adjacent warm-water teaching and exercise pool. Other renovations include a new roof, all new equipment systems for water filtration and air-handling, updated and more effective storm water management, and improvements to the locker rooms. The facility also features a custom mosaic artwork by artist Valerie Theberge, who has several other public art installations in Reston.

DPWES worked together with RCC, which remained open for patrons in other programs throughout the renovation, to assure the success of the effort. Project managers worked closely with RRMM/Lukmire Architects, Branch Builds and their subcontractors to design and construct the new facility. The award was one of eight DPWES projects that earned Mid-Atlantic regional awards, and the project will be submitted for national consideration, according to RCC Executive Director Leila Gordon.

“We couldn’t have hoped for a more dedicated team from DPWES to oversee this effort and bring it to a successful conclusion,” said Gordon. “They led the project through many challenges and assured it met the highest standards for safety and quality at each step. We are extremely pleased they have been recognized by APWA for the result.”

Branch Builds was selected by DPWES after a pre-bid qualifying process and review of construction bids from those firms that elected to submit them. The Virginia-based contractor has won awards for its design-build and renovation of schools, libraries (including the Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library) and other public facilities. Fairfax County DPWES’ Building Design and Construction Division provided overall project direction and oversight on behalf of RCC.

Criteria established for Project of the Year consideration included good construction management, safety performance and overall safety program, community relations, environmental protection, unusual accomplishments under adverse conditions, exceptional efforts and innovations, and sustainability.

The renovation result of two pools rather than one has allowed RCC to serve more patrons, and aquatics programs. The lap swim registrations have been redesigned to expand access with new content and event options now possible with the attractive pools and features. 

Alexandria resident named to TIME 100Next list






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Brian Hooks




TIME has recognized Stand Together’s work to support innovative solutions that bridge divides on critical issues by naming Stand Together Chairman and CEO Brian Hooks to the 2021 TIME100 Next list.

Dr. Priscilla Chan, co-founder and co-CEO of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, wrote in the announcement for TIME that despite the immense challenges facing the country, what gives her hope are:

“Leaders like Brian Hooks and organizations like Stand Together—the philanthropic nonprofit he leads—who recognize that rebuilding our justice system, among the many other issues they tackle, starts with rethinking the way we work. They see that scalable progress is only possible when we partner with others and build bridges across every imaginable divide.”

“It sends a message to anyone who’s trying to move mountains in tough, often divided spaces, that we’re our best selves and get to our best outcomes when we work together,” said Chan.

An expansion of the TIME100 list of the most influential people in the world, TIME100 Next highlights 100 rising leaders who are shaping the future of business, entertainment, sports, politics, health, science, activism, and more.

High School students are recipients of 2021 Student Peace Awards






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The Elder Outreach Club of South County High made several connections with residents of Heatherwood Retirement Community in Burke. They based their communications on the winter holidays, donating 67 letters and drawings to spread holiday cheer. A recent writing campaign was based on Valentine’s Day and consisted of 87 letters with well wishes and Valentine wishes. The residents were excited to hear from the students and expressed their appreciation.




Students from 24 Fairfax County public schools have been named recipients of the 2021 Student Peace Awards of Fairfax County, designed to recognize young people who work as peacemakers. Recipients will be recognized at a virtual reception in March.

The Student Peace Awards of Fairfax County were begun in 2006 to encourage people to think more about peace as both a means and an end, and to recognize young people who work as peacemakers. Every year, the high schools in Fairfax County are asked to select one junior or senior, or a group of students, whose work has promoted peace. The project is organized by volunteers and funded by donations from 17 secular and religious sponsoring organizations.

The 2021 recipients are:

Jimmy Le, Annandale High School  A founder of the Annandale Equity Team—a group of students and staff who are working to reexamine procedures, create equitable opportunities for all students, and establish an anti-racist, inclusive, and transformative culture at Annandale High School. 

Active Minds Club, Centreville High School seniors Gabrielle Martis, Anna McNulty, and Lydia Kim are officers of the Centreville High School chapter, an organization dedicated to mental health awareness and education for young adults. During the pandemic, the club instituted a pen pal system to enable members to build community among themselves and to safely engage with each other. 

The Teen Town Hall Project, Chantilly High School Nayana Celine Xavier led a group of seven Chantilly students to establish a virtual town hall to explore the concerns of underrepresented students. The group held a Zoom call in which they fielded questions on race, culture, ethnicity, and gender issues and the program has expanded to cover issues concerning Asian-Americans, students with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ students, as well as the attack on the U.S. Capitol.  

Yenee Berta, Edison High School Founder of the philanthropic organization Soles of Love, she collected and donated shoes and clothes for an Ethiopian school. As the Equity Team leader of the Edison Student Ambassador Club, she welcomes new students and helps to develop cultural activities for the school. She also helped with Salvation Army holiday collections, food drives, mask drives, and fundraising for literacy and poverty-focused nonprofits. 

Darwin Otchere, Fairfax High School  A member of the City of Fairfax School Board Superintendent’s Advisory Team that proposed and helped implement the name change for Lanier Middle School to Katherine Johnson Middle School, Otchere is a leader on inclusion and student diversity issues. 

Betty Solomon, Hayfield Secondary School is an active member of the youth-led One Day Seyoum Organization, whose goals are to end human rights abuses in Eritrea and support Eritrean refugees. 

Aamirah “Molly” Malik, Herndon High School as part of a group of students, she gave gifts through Heifer International of a cow and chickens to a family in Africa in honor of their geography teacher. The animals have enabled the family to become self-sustaining entrepreneurs through the sale of milk and eggs. She is a member of When We All Vote, registering people to vote and taking an organizational role. 

Equity Team, Justice High School is the first Equity Team in FCPS to include both students and teachers and is now a model for the district. The Justice team sponsored an art show featuring work representing micro-aggressions the artists had experienced, and are devoted to educating the community on antiracism, inviting speakers to honor the school’s recent name-change, supporting the LGBTQ+ community, and sharing ideas of how to advance equity and antiracism. 

Shreya Papneja, Langley High School established the nonprofit CHAPS – Children’s Health Awareness Program in Schools to help enable school children to make health-conscious decisions. The organization has provided information to students and parents about health and nutrition. During the COVID pandemic, the program raised over $5,000 for the charity Real Food for Kids through outreach and a GoFundMe account. 

Megan Long, Lewis High School is a dancer who helps to direct Love Your Body Week at Lewis, dedicated to creating body-positive dance environments for everyone. Students learn and speak about beauty regardless of shape and size, watch videos of dancers of all ages and size, and discuss the importance of body positivity and the use of dance to achieve it. 

Katie Monacella, Madison High School organized a regional hub of the Sunrise Movement, a youth movement to stop climate change. She coordinated a climate strike to express the importance of the climate crisis and, with the group, asked FCPS to establish a Green New Deal, outlining changes the school system could make to become more environmentally sustainable. 

Loredana Munteanu, Marshall High School Originally from Moldavia, Munteanu had a formative experience at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C., that reinforced her commitment to improving diplomatic relations on the international level, as well as within her former country. 

Brittany Peng, McLean High School is the chief executive officer of LeadPeace, a Fairfax County student organization that empowers young people to become community leaders and peacebuilders. Peng currently manages two new initiatives: Lead Talks, a series of monthly speaker events to share the stories of youth leaders, and ArtPEACE, that hosts monthly art challenges and dialogues to foster discussions about social inequity and to promote unity. 

Helena Berhe, Mount Vernon High School founded the Young Democrats Club at her school in response to the polarized atmosphere throughout the U.S. and after seeing how minorities were being belittled, scapegoated, and attacked. 

Kunming Chen, Mountain View High School spreads peace through advocacy and kung fu, sharing his deep respect for life and belief in the value of diverse ideas. On the FCPS district-wide Student Council Association, he provides a voice for ESOL students in an effort to break both language and cultural barriers that impede student success. 

Leah Weiss, Quander Road School is respected for her sound judgment in solving student issues. She is also an accomplished student and a community advocate. She is an active member of the Blossoming Beauties Club, a 2017 Student Peace Award recipient, founded to help girls grow into well-rounded, confident young woman and to work together on school and community projects.  

Diego Dominguez Liberato, Robinson Secondary School had been following racial tensions in the news and was concerned about the tragedies in black communities. He also questioned the morality of looting at some Black Lives Matter protests. He planned a peaceful protest working out logistics, soliciting volunteers, and coordinating with the Fairfax County Police, West Springfield District Station, who offered to block the roads. Although 300 participants were expected, more than 1,000 people appeared and safely marched down Burke Center Parkway.  

Zion Nuby, South County High School As a freshman, Nuby founded the South County Debate Association as a forum for political discussions and peaceful conversation about controversial issues. Following the death of George Floyd, he collaborated with local college students to organize simultaneous demonstrations in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, serving as the lead organizer of a peaceful protest at his school that drew more than 300 participants. 

Diana Ho, South Lakes High School is a mental health advocate, working to get more services in FCPS. As a member of Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE), she spoke in support of VOICE’s budget proposal to Governor Ralph Northam for funding mental health services in schools. 

TJHSST Assistive Technology Club, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology Students in TJ’s Assistive Technology Club (ATC) use their technology skills to provide support for younger students with limited mobility, speech, or hearing abilities. Over more than 12 years, members of the ATC have designed books, enhanced instructional materials, developed games, and implemented specially designed software programs for use with the children’s specialized communication devices. 

Student Equity Coalition of West Potomac, West Potomac High School Formed in June 2020, the group works to bring together students to strive for peace and justice in the community. Four students (Sinna Nick, Maeve Korengold, Kezie Osei, and Amina Iman) approached Principal Tangy Millard about their concerns about inequities, discrimination, and hate speech in the school. 

Sumaya Zahid, West Springfield High School  is the co-founder with her older sister and current president of Spartans for War Victims (SWV) which provides aid and assistance in the form of materials and money to victims of war and raises awareness of the effects of armed conflict. 

Westfield Minds Matter, Westfield High School works to change the school culture regarding mental health. Group members have organized open conversations about mental health to increase help-seeking behavior, promote connections, and increase healthy habits and coping skills. 

Johari Iraan Hemphill, Woodson High School In response to last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, Hemphill organized and led a Runathon, that raised money by obtaining pledges for each mile run. Despite the difficulties of virtual gatherings, $3,000 was raised and donated to the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund. 

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