It wasn’t easy having a famous sister, and that’s why Mia Humphrey chose art over science.

The T.C. Williams High School graduate spent years pouring her soul into her red composition notebooks, and last fall released her first album “Project Red Notebook“. Put together, the songs read like a diary.

Two years ago Humphrey’s sister Ana won a $250,000 scholarship for her work in locating planets in distant solar systems. Ana is now at Harvard.

“It was a little hard,” the 18-year-old Humphrey said. “I was a sophomore and my sister was a senior when she started doing all of the crazy science stuff. But we do actually get along very well. We really don’t fight over much things except, like, we share a room, so we go to bed at different times and she’ll be in the room really late and I’ll be trying to sleep. Stuff like that.”

That coming-of-age message is something the younger Humphrey repeats throughout her work, like in her song Summer 17, which Humphrey sang at her high school graduation earlier this month.

Humphrey started writing music in middle school, and for years would play her latest collections of songs for her friends.

“I would say my songs are very heavily focused on lyrics and the music is kind of an afterthought,” she said.

She says that she will continue playing music this fall at Brown University, but will be majoring in modern culture and media studies to pursue a film career.

“Writing is like my therapy,” Humphrey said. “I feel so clouded if I’m not writing and getting out the emotions. Sometimes it’s not through writing music, but maybe it’s poetry and just writing in a journal, but I prefer the songwriting. I don’t know if there’s really a world where I’m not songwriting in the future, at least in some capacity.”

She cites Taylor Swift as her major artistic influence, as well as the 2012 coming of age film The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

“There’s this one scene where they go and they’re going through a tunnel in the car, and ‘Heroes‘ by David Bowie is blasting and they stand up in the car and they’re going through a tunnel and the lights are flashing,” Humphrey said of the movie. “I remember when I saw that scene I was going on a road trip somewhere. It was dark and I was just watching the movie on an iPad and I just like felt so many emotions at one time.  I was overwhelmed, and now I want to be able to make something to make people feel  just like that.”

Courtesy ACPS

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It was a surprising week in Alexandria.

Our top story by far was on the venomous rattlesnake found in Old Town on Sunday. The timber snake, which also goes by the name American Viper, was discovered in the 400 block of Gibbon Street — a few blocks from the waterfront. It didn’t bite anyone, and was apprehended by the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria’s Animal Services team and later moved to a wildlife facility in Northern Virginia.

This Saturday, June 19,  is also Juneteenth, and the new federal holiday recognizes the end of slavery in the U.S. The City recognized Juneteenth on Friday, and most government offices and facilities were closed. This weekend, the Alexandria Black History Museum is partnering with Washington Revels Jubilee Voices — a group that preserves local Black traditions through a cappella music, dramatic performances and dance — for a virtual Juneteenth Celebration.

Meanwhile, in-person dramatic and musical performances are being planned for July. The Little Theatre of Alexandria is expanding capacity with their new lineup of shows, and the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra will resume in-person performing in a reduced program at the City’s birthday celebration on the waterfront on July 10.

In other good news, a pair of T.C. Williams High School Titans raised more than $4,800 to attend the Outdoor Nationals at the University of Oregon on July 1.

In this week’s poll, we asked readers how they think the millions of first allocation of American Rescue Plan Act funds should be spent, as City Council will conduct a public hearing on how to spend it on Saturday. After a rash of flooding incidents last year, a majority of the respondents want the funds prioritized for waterway maintenance.

This Sunday is also Father’s Day, and a number of Alexandria businesses are offering unique specials.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. JUST IN: Rarity as American Viper Rattlesnake found in Old Town
  2. Captain Sean Casey wins Democratic primary and is running unopposed for Sheriff in November
  3. Woman assaulted by mob and pepper-sprayed in Old Town North
  4. Man dies of apparent overdose at coworking office in Old Town
  5. T.C. Williams High School’s final graduating class walks the stage
  6. Alexandria Fire Department rescues woman from stalled car, Flash Flood Watch in effect
  7. City launches Duke Street transit overhaul process
  8. For Taco Bamba owner, newly announced Landmark location is a homecoming
  9. Shortened Alexandria Birthday celebration is still on for July 10
  10. Here’s what to do when you find dead birds amid recent epidemic
  11. Java Grill closed until further notice in Old Town

Have a safe weekend! 

Courtesy AWLA/Twitter 

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A pair of Alexandria track and field athletes are asking for help to get to The Outdoor Nationals next month.

T.C. Williams Titans David Coles and Joshua Peterson will compete in the Triple Jump on July 1 at the Hayward Field at the University of Oregon, which is also where the U.S. Olympic track and field trials are being conducted this month.

But they need help getting to Oregon, and have launched a GoFundMe campaign.

“If you are familiar with the financial side of traveling for sports then you know that things can be very costly,” Coles wrote on the fundraiser page. “We are asking our friends, family, and supporters to please help Josh and I compete in Oregon so we can achieve the dream of competing at the National Level.”

The pair are almost there, having raised $3,575 of their $4,000 goal. They said that the funds will cover their flights, Uber rides, rooms and meals.

“This is a meet we have dreamed of competing and winning in ever since we started taking this sport seriously,” Coles said. “Last year the event was suspended due to covid so we have never gotten the chance to experience a real high school nationals outdoor event.”

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The final graduating class of T.C. Williams High School celebrated their final Titan victory Saturday morning, as 888 graduates were handed diplomas at Chinquapin Park.

Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr., said that the students have witnessed a profoundly difficult period, including COVID deaths, social unrest following the murder of George Floyd and the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

“Remember to stand up for your beliefs, but do it with civility and civil discourse,” Hutchings said. “It takes time to build dialogue while understanding our differences. We can still be bold and we can still be courageous, while practicing kindness as the hallmark of our advocacy.”

With the pandemic winding down, the graduates were asked to look at the bigger picture.

“Always remember, the greatest tragedy is not death, but life without purpose,” said T.C. Black Student Union President Fina Osei-Owusu, who quoted both Myles Munroe and Mark Twain. “Because the two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why. Every single one of you has been equipped with passion and created with a purpose… Your essential element is your purpose, and the very reason why you exist. It is what you’re here to fulfill. So, I asked all of you to look within.”

Graduate Mia Humphrey also sang to the audience her song, ‘Summer 17‘, which she wrote in quarantine last year.

“It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come together,” Humphrey said.

This year, equity reared its lens on T.C., which is the largest high school in Virginia. The school is known around the world for the 2000 movie Remember the Titans, which focused on its 1971 state championship-winning varsity football team that found greatness by working through racial adversity. However, the school’s namesake, former ACPS Superintendent Thomas Chambliss Williams, was an ardent segregationist.

“What gives me hope is you,” school Principal Peter Balas told the sea of graduates in red, white and blue caps and gowns. “You have the voice and the means to change this world. You are Titans, and Titans rise up and take action. You’ve righted the wrongs of history and I know you won’t stop there.”

T.C. Williams High School graduated its first class in 1967, and will change its name to Alexandria City High School on July 1.

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Athlete on the T.C. Williams Swim and Dive Team (photo via T.C. Williams High School/Facebook)

Despite the unanimous vote of approval to install a new pool at the Alexandria City High School’s Minnie Howard campus, even the most positive of voices on City Council last night were lukewarm about how they got there.

The Council voted 7-0 in favor of setting aside $12 million in funding, down from $19 million proposed earlier, with Alexandria City Public Schools diverting some funding from a solar panel project.

Like a parent scolding his child for reckless spending, City Manager Mark Jinks warned that the pool proposal is coming in after the budget has already been approved.

“This is a project that is not in the CIP (Capital Improvement Program),” Jinks told Council. “When the School Board made its request, we all acknowledged that pool capacity needs to be expanded… my proposal is to renovate Chinquapin, change the depth of the pool, and shorten it slightly for the right competitive length.”

Jinks said this would allow the city government and ACPS to determine, at a later date, whether to put a pool in somewhere else with greater access — considering the proposed school would be just a few blocks away from the existing Chinquapin Park Recreation Center and Aquatics Facility (3210 King Street), the only other indoor aquatics center in the city.

Jinks also warned that diverting up-front funding from the solar panel projects and opting instead towards privatized sources of funding is a short term budget trick that doesn’t save money in the long term, because the business investing in those solar panels up-front will want that money back from output in the future.

“This is using money that was supposed to be used to buy solar panels and put that into the pot,” Jinks said. “It won’t save us money long-term. It’s a budget tactic that works in the short-term but doesn’t help long-term.”

ACPS would also, Jinks said, face an additional annual operating cost of $1-1.5 million and likely up to $5,000 in capital maintenance expenses. While some pools make some of that cost back in fees and being rented out for private events, Jinks says that complicates the idea that this pool is being funded with equity in mind.

Ultimately, the timing of Chinquapin’s announced closure for cleaning– from June 26-Sept. 6 — helped sway some on the City Council toward funding another pool. City Council member john Chapman said angry public emails have flooded in after the closure was announced.

“I do understand and do believe the city has a number of other priorities,” Chapman said. “If we are forced to push, we will push a pool out of the way like we have before. Whether revenues are down or another project that will require our more immediate attention… I’ve seen that be done. That’s what’s leaning me to support a pool. It’s not that this is the perfect thing. I’m not overly excited for the late addition… but I don’t see another tangible alternative to say ‘we’re not going to do one at Minnie Howard, but instead of that we’re going to do this.'”

Jinks said funding for the pool would come in large part from issuing general obligation bunds for a set amount of money, with the City putting its foot down and saying that’s as much as it will provide.

The move was met with praise from ACPS leadership.

“I am truly overjoyed and thankful with the unanimous vote from City Council to provide funding for the aquatics facility at the Minnie Howard Campus,” School Board member Jacinta Greene told ALXnow. “For far too long Alexandria’s aquatics facilities have not met the needs of our ACPS student athletes or the overall community. Now our swim teams will be able to practice and compete in their own regulation size pool and the community can benefit from an additional pool for aquatics activities.”

Photo via T.C. Williams High School/Facebook

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The Scholarship Fund of Alexandria gave away a record $525,000 in college scholarships this year to 183 graduating seniors from T.C. Williams High School.

The nonprofit made the announcement this week after conducting a virtual ceremony to congratulate the awardees.

“We are so very proud of the next generation of nurses, doctors, business leaders, computer scientists, biologists, and professors who are heading off to college this fall thanks to the generosity of this community,”said SFA Executive Director Beth Lovain. “What I want to convey most is that in a year wrought with challenges, our Class of 2021 SFA Scholars have not only endured, but they have triumphed. They are truly ‘Generation Resilient.’ Through all of the adversity and through all of the challenges of COVID and 2021 they have remained poised and focused; their college dreams would not be pushed aside.”

SFA will also award $550,000 in renewal scholarships to help previous recipients from the 2018, 2019 and 2020 graduates who are now in college.

“I am so grateful and so honored to have been awarded a scholarship and I’m so proud of each and every one of you for being awarded one as well,” said Karam Burjas, T.C. senior class president. “I also want to give a big thank you to all of the donors and people who supported the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria this past year; without your gracious support none of this would’ve been possible.”

The nonprofit has awarded $17 million in scholarships since it was founded in 1986. Last year, SFA awarded $504,000 in scholarships to 181 graduating seniors, in addition to the $550,000 in renewal scholarships.

Photo via ACPS/Facebook

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Morning Notes

T.C. Williams High School graduation is this Saturday — “We’re counting down to #Titans2021 Graduation on June 12 by highlighting @tcwtitans seniors every day! Stay tuned to meet our first grad!” [Twitter]

Woman shot and car stolen in Alexandria area of Fairfax County — “A woman was shot and seriously wounded in a carjacking in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County Sunday night in Virginia, and the suspect made off with her Mercedes, police said. Fairfax County police said the carjacking happened just before 10:30 p.m. Sunday in the 3100 block of Franconia Road in Alexandria. That’s near the intersection with Telegraph Road and Jefferson Manor Park.” [WTOP]

City Arts District in Old Town North Takes Public Art to the Streets — “The Alexandria Office of the Arts has turned its attention north to the new City Arts District. A call went out this spring for art proposals to decorate the storm drain covers and surrounding cement aprons at up to 24 locations on the streets of Old Town North. Similar projects in London and San Francisco have been praised by the public.” [Zebra]

Racial equity forum on June 9 and 10 — “ACT for Alexandria will host a virtual IMPACT Racial Equity Forum June 9&10. The event provides an opportunity to learn, connect & commit to an equitable Alexandria. City Leaders will speak at the event. For more information & registration follow link.” [Twitter]

Today’s weather — “Cloudy early. Scattered thunderstorms developing later in the day. High 89F. Winds WSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 50%… Scattered thunderstorms in the evening, with mostly cloudy skies overnight. Low 71F. Winds SW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 40%.” [Weather.com]

New job: Pet sitter — “Passionately Pets, a local In-Home Pet Sitting and Dog Walking Company, is currently hiring exceptional pet sitters and dog walkers to join our wonderful team. This position is fun and rewarding as you get to enjoy the outdoors, get exercise and be loved by amazing local dogs, cats and other companion animals!” [Indeed]

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Last year, T.C. Williams High School senior Nikki Harris broke an exclusive, significant story. Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. was sending one of his children to an in-person private school at a time when ACPS was heavily in the midst of hybrid learning.

It was a shining example of the kind of independent, investigative journalism at Theogony, the high school’s student newspaper.

Harris and a team of five other student journalists will be taking the lead at the news organization next school year — a transitional period both for the newspaper and the school it covers.

The school’s name will change from T.C. Williams High School to Alexandria City High School. While the name change has been getting headlines, Theogony editors — like their peers at the renamed Washington-Liberty High School in Arlington — say the issue has been a bigger deal for adults than the student body.

“At least among people I talk to, very few people interested,” Harris said. “More were [interested] in June 2020, but [now] it’s kind of a distraction from structural issues.”

Ethan Gotsch, an incoming editor of Theogony whose column Titan Underground profiled local musicians, said the name change is just one of the big changes coming to the school.

“We’re also going to have our first Friday night lights and we’re going back to in-person instruction,” he said.

Editors at Theogony said the bigger issues within the student body — more than the name of the school — is the ongoing struggle to close the achievement gaps and the push for punishment reform within the school.

“[Outgoing editor] Bridgette [Adu-Wadier] wrote a lot about the suspension to prison pipeline, especially for students of color, and about whether teachers reflect student body,” Harris said.

Harris said while there was a relatively proportionate number of Black teachers to Black students, that was not at all the case for Latino or Hispanic students, who comprise around 40% of the student body.

Harris said the torch will be passed to the new class of editors to follow up on that and other issues of school equity.

Jacqueline Lutz, another incoming editor for Theogony, said that T.C. students are also frequently tuned in to city-wide issues.

“A lot of times what I’ve found is the issues that T.C. students face are basically local issues as well,” Lutz said. “We always try to find our T.C. angle, but also the local angle as well.”

Last November, Theogony wrote about the Taylor Run controversy, which has since become one of the talking points in the 2021 Mayoral and City Council elections. Gotsch said the local primary is another issue that’s been talked about within the school.

“As students, there is probably a limited amount of things we can do to tackle these issues,” Gotsch said, “but we do write about the Democratic primary.”

Beyond the changes coming to the school, there are also changes incoming for Theogony. The student news organization’s main readership has traditionally been its print edition, distributed through the school, but with the school shut down Theogony had to transition this past year to a more online-focused model. Now, the student news group is looking at how that balance carries over into the 2021-2022 school year.

“We’ve been thinking a lot about how we transitioned entirely to online,” said Harris. “Previously, print was our main source of readership. Now, we’re thinking a lot about how to balance that out or whether we should keep online as our main thing.” Read More

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Some officials say that a last-minute proposal to add a pool to the Alexandria City High School’s Minnie Howard campus is long overdue.

While previously dismissed as prohibitively expensive, the total cost for the addition of the pool isn’t clear yet.

School Board chair Meagan Alderton said Monday night that the regulation-sized pool is long overdue for a school system that still has the hallmarks of racial disparity in its aquatic sports teams.

“We are, indeed, asking the city to provide additional dollars to provide this facility for the Minnie Howard site,” Alderton said at the joint City Council/School Board subcommittee meeting. “I find it hard to think there will be racial equity without investing dollars in communities that have historically been denied access… Consider it reparations for people of Color, because it’s long overdue. It has been so hurtful to watch and this School Board is ready.”

Beyond the actual cost of building the pool, it would cost ACPS $1.2 million in energy credits to keep the school at its Net Zero goals. The current total cost of the School Board’s chosen design for the school is $149.5 million.

The addition of the pool throws a slight wrench into budget process, as the City Council approved the School Board’s budget weeks ago. City Manager Mark Jinks said any proposal for more funding for the addition of a pool to the school would need to be given to the city by June 1.

Photo via ACPS

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The main signs at T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School will be removed in ceremonies with students during the last week of this school year, according to Alexandria City Public Schools.

After years of community work to change the names, they go into effect on July 1. The front signs will be replaced this summer by two new signs reading Alexandria City High School and Naomi L. Brooks Elementary School.

But far more work will have to be done to rebrand both schools, especially T.C., which is the largest public high school in Virginia.

It will cost an estimated $358,000 to rebrand T.C. and $5,245 to rebrand Maury, according to ACPS. Below are additional costs:

Alexandria City High School rebranding cost estimates:

  • $173,607 for new athletic uniforms
  • $66,828 for equipment, including a $12,000 wrestling competition mat and $7,000 for athletic hurdles
  • $46,642 for facility costs, including $16,000 for outdoor benches
  • $30,303 for signage, including banners, flags and scoreboards
  • $7,125 for office supplies

Naomi L. Brooks Elementary School rebranding cost estimates:

  • $4,885 for signage
  • $360 for office supplies

Meanwhile, today is the deadline for voting on conceptual designs for the new Alexandria City High School logo. Four student designs were selected from 80 submissions.

Photo via ACPS/Facebook

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