Alexandria, VA

The Scholarship Fund of Alexandria has done it again. On Saturday, the nonprofit raised more than $450,000 for college-bound Alexandria students at its annual gala, which was held virtually for the second year in a row.

The gala was held this year at Jack Taylor’s Alexandria Toyota, which also raffled off a $25,000 Toyota RAV-4 to T.C. Williams High School biology teacher Jennifer Darque. More than 400 dinners and deals were also auctioned off in the event, which was attended in-person by Mayor Justin Wilson and his wife, Alex Crawford-Batt, who received a SFA scholarship when she was a student.

“The need for scholarships in this community is great,” said SFA Director Beth Lovain. “Each year we have to turn kids away because we simply do not have the funds to help all of our students in need, especially this year with the economic fallout from COVID wreaking havoc on families that already struggle financially. But what I want to convey most is my overwhelming pride in our 2021 scholarship recipients. They are truly Generation Resilient. Through all of the adversity and through all of the challenges of COVID and 2020, they have remained poised and focused, their college dreams will not be pushed aside”

The Scholarship Fund awarded $525,000 in scholarships to 180 students from the class of 2021. Last year, SFA awarded $507,000  to 181 students, and the nonprofit has given $17 million to more than 5,000 students since its founding in 1986.

“I couldn’t be more grateful,” said T.C. senior Mikias Elias after receiving the $40,000 SFA Collis Warner Scholarship. “This scholarship brings great relief to my family knowing that college won’t be a financial struggle for us.”

Elias was recently accepted into the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech.

“This scholarship will make my education at Virginia Tech possible,” he said. “On behalf of the Class of 2021 Scholarship awardees, I’d also like to say we are all relieved to know that we have financial support, and we are so proud that you believe in us.”

Photo via Scholarship Fund of Alexandria/Twitter

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Sara Abbas was momentarily speechless.

Earlier this month, officials with the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria faked her out on a scheduled Zoom interview.

After she answered a few basic questions, they announced that she just won the first-ever $40,000 Titans In Tech Scholarship. The next thing she knew the call was joined by Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr., T.C Williams principal Peter Balas, SFA Director Beth Lovain and her mentor Brett Sirois, a 2007 Titan alum and creator of the scholarship.

It was a surprising moment, and that’s when Abbas stood up and walked away from the camera to tell her family the good news.

“I was so shocked,” Abbas told ALXnow. “They’d already made their decision.”

Hutchings received the scholarship when he attended T.C. in 1995.

“Sara, this scholarship helped pave the way for my success and I know it will do that for you,” Hutchings said. “As a woman and a person of color entering the computer science world and looking to help students of color who follow behind you, I can see that you are on the way to change the world, that you are going to make a difference.”

Balas said that the scholarship will be a game-changer for Abbas.

“This scholarship is going to be a game-changer for you and your family,” he said. “And I can see that you are going to be a game-changer, too.”

There has been a 25% increase in applications for Scholarship Fund of Alexandria awards, and $525,000 is being given out to 180 seniors this year at its 35th anniversary spring gala on April 24. The Scholarship Fund has awarded $16.5 million to nearly 5,000 Alexandria students over the last 35 years.

“As a TC Alum and Alexandria native, I wanted to find a way to give back to the community that helped me get to where I am today,” Sirois said. “This scholarship was created to help a student like Sara jumpstart their career in technology and I’m happy to play a small part in her future success. Sara has worked so hard to get so far already, I have no doubt that the sky is the limit for her.”

Abbas will study computer science at Virginia Tech this fall. She said she wants to help children learn coding.

“I’m really honored to have been awarded the Titans In Tech scholarship,” Abbas said. “It’s very meaningful, not only financially but emotionally as well because it strengthened my belief in myself. There’s no doubt that we’ll be able to accomplish my professional goals.”

In her scholarship essay, she wrote about the digital divide between the haves and have nots in society.

“I was writing how the link between technology and power, and how we need to care about making communities a more equitable place, and need to make computer science education available to everyone, since students of color are disadvantaged youth,” she said. “I’m really hoping to work in the middle schools in the surrounding Blacksburg area.”

Photo via Scholarship Fund of Alexandria

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All proceeds from the Alexandria Drive-In go to charity, and on Thursday (March 4) the nonprofit cut a check for $20,700 to the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria.

“I have never been more inspired with this community coming together as we did with the Alexandria Drive-In,” said Alexandria Drive-In founder Kelly Grant, who is a partner at¬†Alx Community. “Its impact will have a ripple effect on our community for years to come; this check of over $20,000 is just the start. We are proud to help so many young students receive college scholarships and be able to reach their full potential.”

All proceeds from the drive-in, which returns tonight (Friday) with Jurassic Park,  go to Athena Rapid Response Innovation Lab and the Scholarship Fund. The money will provide college scholarships for Class of 2021 graduates from T.C. Williams High School.

“On behalf our student scholars, we are incredibly grateful to the Drive-In and organizing partners¬†ALX Communityand¬†The Garden for selecting SFA as one of the charities that benefited from this past season,” said Rosie Wiedemer, SFA Relationship Manager. ¬†“We are so thankful to Garden COO Allen Brooks, also a Titan alum and former SFA scholarship recipient, and to Kelly Grant, COO of ALX Community for bringing the SFA in as a participating charity so that together we can send more Alexandria students with financial need to college.”

Photo via Scholarship Fund of Alexandria

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Alexandria’s Bridgette Adu-Wadier has a soft spot in her heart for Black female investigative journalists.

At the top of the 17-year-old’s list of favorites are Gwen Ifill, Yamiche Alcindor and Ida B Wells, and this fall she will get her chance to study journalism at Northwestern University.

“We need young people to be investigating, and to be curious, and to be challenging,” Adu-Wadier told ALXnow.

Adu-Wadier, who is an editor for the T.C. Williams High School newspaper Theogony, was recently named one of 1,464 students (out of 18,500 applicants) around the country to be awarded the QuestBridge National College Match Scholarship. She was also recently honored as one of the country’s up-and-coming storytellers by PBS.

A first generation daughter of Ghanaian immigrants, she’s the eldest of four kids, and, while born in New York, has spent most of her life in Alexandria. She attended John Adams Elementary School and Francis C. Hammond Middle School.

ALXnow: How did you get the scholarship? Did you write a good essay? 

Adu-Wadier: I do believe I wrote a really good essay, I spent a lot of time. Just trying to make it reflect me and my personal journey and how I developed my writing and how I blossomed as a writer. I talked a lot about how I started out doing a lot of creative writing and writing short stories and how I kind of wanted to tell stories and write about things that I observed in the world and elevate the voices of my generation.

It’s a four year scholarship, which I’m really excited about. It covers tuition, it covers room and board, transportation, my textbooks and my living expenses. Questbridge is just a really comprehensive scholarship and I’m really grateful to have that, especially given that, in school, I can just focus on my degree.

ALXnow: What inspired you to be a journalist? 

Adu-Wadier: It’s really been inspiring to see so many journalists challenge modern institutions throughout (the last) four years… In my view, this is kind of a reiteration of the Watergate era in many ways, especially given a lot of the 2018 impeachment trial proceedings and a lot of the journalism that was coming out about the transparency of the federal government.

I did a lot of work for my school TV media program, and I would interview students on video as well, and it was just really eye opening seeing that my generation notices a lot of things and they take on a lot of what’s going on a lot more than adults understand. The peers I’ve interviewed are just really frustrated that adults don’t get that they’re not too young to understand and have a voice on a lot of issues that are going on, and to be curious and to want to investigate. We need young people to be investigating and to be curious and to be challenging.

ALXnow: What’s it been like doing all of your reporting and schoolwork and applications from home during the pandemic?

Adu-Wadier: I’ve had story deadlines on the same day as my college applications and that was a big mess. There’s been a lot of things that have been interesting that I’ve had to adapt to, and, having a noisy house and trying to do interviews from my closet since it’s the only quiet place.

ALXnow: What kind of stories do you envision yourself telling down the road?

Adu-Wadier: I really like doing stories on education to report on. People don’t really invest that much in public education, and I have that personal experience in public education and the policies and legislation passed, as well as talking to students about their high school and college admissions experiences. A lot of those stories are really under told.

Soon, I’ll be reporting on college administrators and what they’re doing, and I’m really excited to do that. Another thing that I’m really really excited to report on is just civil rights… And just seeing how societal inequities affect different racial demographics, especially regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and how Blacks and Hispanics are disproportionately impacted by exposure to the virus. That’s really fascinating.

ALXnow: Which journalists do you admire? 

Adu-Wadier: I really appreciate Gwen Ifill and Yamiche Alcindor for everything that they’re doing, and especially on the ocean how she keeps her head out, especially with everything that she went through with the Trump administration and her trying to just do her job and what happened with her. Also, Gwen Ifil,… She comes from a similar background as me in that she was starting off with local newspapers and she experienced a lot of challenges and racism, and then she went on to host Washington Week and co-anchor PBS NewsHour and work with Judy Woodruff. I really really appreciate those two.

I also really look up to Ida B. Wells in how she really challenged institutions and launched this crusade against lynching and how she very much risked her life in doing so.

Overall, I just have a really soft spot for Black female journalists in general, so those are my top three. I also really really like Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward and I try to emulate them and how rigorous and relentless they were and their investigative pieces of Watergate. And, you know, I love All The President’s Men. I read the book, and I watched the movie and I just think it’s admirable what they did and just what they took on and the risks that they were taking and challenging directly.

Photo via ACPS

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Morning Notes

Beyer Refutes Trump’s Claims of Media Spin Over Tax Payments — “No, ‘everyone else’ didn’t write off payments to their children and $70,000 for haircuts so they could live a lavish lifestyle while only paying $750 in taxes. Trump remains the only major party candidate for president in 40 years who refused to release his tax returns.” [Twitter]

ACPS Asks Community to Discuss Future Facilities Projects, School Sites — “As ACPS and the City start looking at the need to rebuild, replace, add to or modernize schools, fire stations, police facilities and more, local officials are¬†asking for feedback on the Joint City-ACPS Facilities Master Plan.” [Alexandria Living]

Alexandria Chefs Compete on ‘Chopped’ Reality Show Tonight — “Alexandria chef-owner Mimi Huynh of modern Vietnamese restaurant¬†Sunday in Saigon¬†at 682 N. St. Asaph Street and chef Chris Edwards of newly opened¬†Hank & Mitzi’s Italian Kitchen, located at 600 Montgomery Street, will appear on¬†Food Network’s “Chopped”¬†tomorrow night.” [Zebra]

Longtime Friends Named National Merit Scholarship Finalists — “When Aiden Crowe, Nikolai Kosinski and Caroline Winakur reached eighth grade at George Washington Middle School, their math ability was such that the trio were literally in a class of their own. Algebra 2 with Sarah Devito became a class of three as teachers sought to individualize learning in the subject area they all excelled at. They have remained good friends ever since. And earlier this month, the T.C. Williams High School seniors discovered they had all been named National Merit Scholarship semi finalists after outstanding results in the PSAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test last October.” [ACPS]

Today’s Weather — “Rain showers in the morning then thundershowers in the afternoon. High 74F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 90%.¬†Rain likely (in the evening). Low 56F. Winds NW at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 90%. Rainfall near a half an inch. Locally heavy rainfall possible.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Marketing Communications Specialist — “To be successful in this position, the Marketing Communications Specialist must demonstrate strong persuasive writing skills, strong digital layout design skills and be an overall expert in digital and social media marketing.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

Beyer Negates Trump’s Coronavirus Claims — “Nearly 194,000 Americans have died in a pandemic Trump lied to the country about. As Dr. Gottlieb points out, the coming cold weather months bring danger of new spread of the virus. Even after seven months of this Trump still has no strategy to keep Americans safe.” [Twitter]

Former Mayor Silberberg Says Taylor Run Restoration Will Hurt Environment — “Recent soil testing from Taylor Run, analyzed by Brookside Laboratories, showed a negligible amount of phosphorous in the soil of the stream bank. Restoration of Taylor Run will therefore have a questionable impact at best on the watershed – but the restoration work will have a devastating impact on the habitat and tree canopy surrounding the stream.” [Alex Times]

Kids Who Volunteer Can Get Scholarship — “Volunteering makes a difference.¬†Prudential Financial¬†and the¬†National Association of Secondary School Principals¬†(NASSP) are recognizing the efforts Virginia youth have made to help in their communities during the pandemic.” [Zebra]

Salon Monte Opens in Old Town — “On the waterfront to cut the ribbon for @MonteDurham‘s Salon Monte! Welcome! (Insert joke about me at a hair salon—> Here)” [Twitter]

Board of Architectural Review Rejects Heritage Development — “If you’ve run out of shows on Netflix and you’re looking for some drama-filled entertainment, head to the city’s webcast archive and watch the Board of Architectural Review’s latest meeting.” [Alex Times]

Today’s Weather — “Cloudy early, becoming mostly sunny in the afternoon. High near 80F. Winds N at 10 to 15 mph. At night,¬†Clear. Low 54F. Winds NNE at 10 to 15 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Account Executive — “CareClix, a Northern Virginia based company and the world leader in the Telemedicine Space is seeking a few select individuals to join our Resellers and Independent Account Executive salesforce. Successful candidates in this position can expect first year commissions of lower middle to high six figures.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

A Quarter of Alexandria Voters Have Requested Mail-In Ballots — “Over a quarter of Alexandria’s registered voters have applied for a ballot by mail for this November’s election (!!!). Ballots will be mailed out beginning next week when in-person early voting also begins. You can apply online today for a mail ballot!” [Twitter]

Seven Alexandria Students Make National Merit Scholarship List — “Students from Alexandria area high schools have been named 2021 National Merit Scholarship semifinalists, taking the first step in securing a scholarship in the competitive program.” [Patch]

Beyer Criticizes Trump for Complaining Over Scandals — “You were recorded admitting you deceived the entire country about the danger of a virus that has killed more Americans than all wars since WWII combined. Can’t lie your way out of this one.” [Twitter]

ACPS Needs Donations for School Supplies — “While this year is considerably different because of the coronavirus pandemic, students still need essential supplies. ACPS is asking for community support. However, instead of donating physical items, they request that interested parties donate funds electronically.” [Zebra]

Alexandria Police Officer Appointed to State Board — “Governor Ralph Northam announced on September 4 that he has appointed Alexandria Police Officer Bennie L. Evans to the Commonwealth of Virginia Criminal Justice Services Board.” [Facebook]

Here’s Seven Things to do in Alexandria This Fall — “Enjoy a cruise aboard the tall ship¬†Providence¬†or set out for the new cat caf√© or coming-soon dog bar. Contemplate new outdoor artwork like the ‘Come Together’ mural in Old Town. Mask up and visit just-opened independent businesses including the D.C. area’s first zero-waste sustainable grocer plus the national eco-conscious brand Patagonia, coming to King Street in September. Twelve new restaurants will tempt you with takeout or outdoor seating. Don your face mask and discover what’s new in Alexandria.” [Visit Alexandria]

Workforce Development Center Offers Job Counseling — “Are you recently unemployed or want to change your career and don’t know where to start? We are now offering free one-on-one Job Search Coaching to help Alexandrians who have experienced job loss during the pandemic.” [Facebook]

Today’s Weather — “Thunderstorms likely during the day. Potential for heavy rainfall. High 83F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 80%.Thunderstorms likely in the evening. Then a chance of scattered thunderstorms later on. Low 73F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 80%.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Scholarship Fund of Alexandria Assistant Director — “The qualified applicant will be eager to support the organization’s effort to help Alexandria high school students obtain college scholarships and college and financial aid advising. This position is full-time, year-round and provides an opportunity to work in a small, dynamic, mission-driven, collegial nonprofit organization.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

City Celebrates 271st Birthday Virtually —¬†My favorite event of each year is gathering with 30,000 of my closest friends to celebrate Alexandria’s birthday.‚Ĩ¬†‚Ä™This year, it is not to be, but join us for our virtual celebration with our Poet Laureate, Alexandria Symphony Orchestra & more.‚Ĩ¬†Happy 271st Alexandria!‚Ĩ”¬†[Facebook]

Beyer Rebukes White House for Statement on Fauci — “From the moment this pandemic started the White House spent more time attacking Trump’s perceived enemies and massaging his fragile ego than they did listening to scientists, developing a testing strategy, figuring out how to safely reopen schools, or strengthening the response.” [Twitter]

Local Clubs Gives $44K in Scholarships — “This year, the Kiwanis Club awarded $44,000 to 17 local students. Kiwanis, a volunteer-run nonprofit organization that supports the youth of Alexandria, sponsors three Key Clubs at Edison, T.C. Williams, and R.E. Lee High Schools.” [Zebra]

Virtual Career Fair on Wednesday — “Employers and job seekers will have the opportunity to network via chat rooms, private chats and video chats. Job seekers will be able to apply and interview for jobs.” [City of Alexandria]

Virtual Black Lives Matter on Wednesday — “Virtual Discussion with Councilman Chapman with Alexandria Youth about Black Lives Matter.”¬†[City of Alexandria]

New Job: Bartender — “Fine dining concept searching for a part-time and/or full time bartender.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

Beyer Lauds Supreme Court LGBT Decision — “This is such a big step forward. Employers shouldn’t be able to fire people because of who they are or who they love. After a long and difficult struggle by activists and civil rights organization, an historic decision and a great moment for the country.” [Twitter]

Former Mayor Silberberg Marched in D.C. on Saturday — “All around me, there were poignant reminders of all that had transpired in this location in recent days and weeks — handmade signs attached to the remaining fence and bouquets of flowers. And then that evening, there was breaking news about another tragedy, this time in Atlanta. Heartbreaking.” [Facebook]

Twig Junior Auxiliary Donates $100K to Inova Alexandria Hospital — “The Twig Junior Auxiliary of Inova Alexandria Hospital presented a check for $100,000 to Dr. Rina Bansal for the Inova COVID-19 Emergency Preparedness Fund during a May 22 ceremony held outside the hospital’s entrance.” [Gazette]

Feed The Fight ALX Gives Out 5K Meals to Health Care Workers — “Thank you for your continued support, and please continue to follow us in the coming months on Instagram @FeedtheFightALX. We are so grateful to all of our hospital teams and restaurant partners.” [Facebook]

City Recycles 700 Tons of Glass in First Year of Recycling Program — “The City just hit the 1-year mark for the glass recycling program. In that time, 700 tons of glass (1,410,560 lbs) has been recycled through the purple can glass drop-off program. You crushed it Alexandria!” [Facebook]

‘Mind The Mat’ Owner Gets Creative During Pandemic — “I was trying to be this super-serious fitness instructor on camera, and it was not working.” [Washington Post]

Recreation Centers Opening With Modified Schedule June 20 — “These changes are in place to follow the second phase of reopening. Senior-only hours will be introduced to help protect vulnerable persons on the community while providing an opportunity for exercise.” [Zebra]

Scholarship Fund Honoring Awardees With Individualized Social Media Posts — “We’ll be profiling a student each day this week…as they share their joy and gratitude with the Alexandria Community!” [Facebook]

Center for Alexandria’s Children Receives Face Mask Donation — “We received another donation of 100 adult masks and 100 children’s masks for our Learn & PlayGroup families! We are so grateful to Brooksie & Cas and Jenna Adams for investing so much time and energy into making so many great masks.” [Facebook]

Deal: Rent a Pedego Electric Bike, Get Second Rental Half Off — “Pedego Electric Bikes has the perfect solution for cabin fever. Rent one bike and get the second rental 50% off. Enjoy the outdoors, flowers and sunshine with the safest bikes and equipment from Pedego. This offer will be available until further notice.” [Visit Alexandria]

New Job: HR/Office Manager — “Small but busy security company in need of an experienced HR professional who can really multitask. Candidate should be comfortable screening, interviewing and on-boarding applicants.” [Indeed]

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The Scholarship Fund of Alexandria has set its deadline for renewal scholarships for July 15, and the nonprofit currently needs donations after its annual gala was canceled due to COVID-19.

“The economic impacts our families are going to continue to be felt in the coming days, weeks and months, but we feel like it’s really important to still be there for the kids,” Beth Lovain, executive director of the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria, told ALXnow. “They have hopes and dreams, and the proper education will make a difference in not only their futures, but for the futures of their families.”

Lovain anticipates awarding more than $500,000 in renewal scholarships, which are for students who previously received awards through the fund, and are now in college and need additional assistance.

“We need to make sure that we’re there for them so they can count on the money so that they can graduate in four years,” she said.

The fund awarded¬†181 scholarships for the class of 2020 totaling $507,000. In all, the fund has awarded $16 million in college scholarships to more than 4,750 students since 1986, and the annual gala raises upward of $400,000 every year. As the numbers of students at T.C. increase every year, the number of scholarships has also increased — especially since two-thirds of the students in Alexandria’s public high school are living at or below the poverty level.

Recipients made the following video talking about what it meant for them to get a scholarship.

Photo via ACPS/Facebook

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