When I woke up on the first morning of the Conservative Political Action Conference on Feb. 9, I didn’t know what to expect. I got ready, remembered to pack my student ID, put on my blue sweater, and ran out the door. When walking into the site of the convention, the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, I quickly realized I had grabbed the wrong colored clothing item. Everyone was wearing red. It was like this throughout the entire weekend. I spotted red skirts, dresses, ties, fingernails, and shoes. Each day, supporters sported buttons of their favorite conservative leaders. They held signs for who they believe should win the 2012 election. They passed out pamphlets and brochures, asked people to sign petitions and promised to give away free sunglasses and chapsticks if anyone stopped to talk to them for just a brief moment about their far-right political views. Bloggers, reporters and conservatives flooded the hotel lobby. Booths upon booths displayed water bottles, stickers and pens in support of the right to bear arms, pro-life campaigns and the end of Obamacare. I walked in to the hotel each day ready to be approached by ideas and views which I wasn’t sure if I was for or against. Do I agree with how Republicans want to help our economy? Do I like the way they want to deal with Social Security and Medicare in the future? I walked into the hotel feeling bombarded by the strong conservative beliefs of others. There were men in fat-suit costumes that represented big government, there were men dressed in Colonial garb, ranting about our Founding Fathers. There were also the political leaders themselves demanding that the right side was the best side. Former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain called liberals stupid people in his speech. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, “Conservatives are more fun because we’re always right.” Former Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann said, “Obama’s miscalculations are changing history.” Former Governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, called birth control pills a direct violation of our first amendment. Rick Santorum, a Republican presidential candidate, predicted that Obama’s health care plan “will crush economic freedom.” At times, these ideas and thoughts from our leaders were so harsh, negative and opinionated that I never once stopped tweeting, constantly hashtagging CPAC. I never once stopped snapping photos, capturing smiles, glares, standing ovations and OccupyDC protesters outside. I never once stopped recording the speeches of guest speakers. I never once stopped thinking about what the Democrats would say in response to these Republicans. I never once stopped trying to figure out where I stood. Each day that I walked out of the conference and out of the hotel feeling more and more educated about our country’s political divide, I questioned which side of the line I belonged -- and if it would ever be okay just to stand right in the middle. [gallery ids="100498,118107" nav="thumbs"]
When it comes to educating the nation’s children, the talk always comes back, boomeranglike, to the almighty dollar — funding from the state, from the federal government, funding per student and household, funding for teachers and administrators. The volatile combination that makes up the education debate — that is, students and how best to budget their scholastic upbringing — sparks some of the most heated name calling and bluster in the public forum. Snips over the District’s public school budget have kept the newspapers working hard lately (as evinced the city council’s recent spat with DCPS Chancellor Michelle Rhee) but what you won’t hear about is the daily challenge for some schools to foot their own bill, that is, without help from taxpayers. Enter the world of private education. While the phrase conjures images of blazers and bookish upper-crusters, many private and parochial schools — which nationally are responsible for educating around 10 percent of students — operate on a lean budget, and aside from non-profit tax breaks and D.C.’s now-frozen voucher program, receive no public funding from the government. The business of keeping cash flowing freely, then, is a big one, and most of the nation’s private institutions have whole departments devoted to it. Their job is to think of ways to drum up the dollars when tuition revenue won’t quite pay all the bills. And while most private schools are happy to accept donations from the general public, advancement departments usually have a few target markets in mind, with alumni and parents naturally serving as primary benefactors. Most schools set a fundraising benchmark in the form of an annual fund, which aims to reach a certain dollar amount by the end of the school’s fiscal year. Annual funds are easy to donate to, are trackable — many schools keep a running tally on their websites — and can be tailored to commemorate a significant individual or date, say, the school’s centennial. They’re lucrative, too: Gonzaga College High School and St. Albans School report around 10 percent of their operating budget comes from annual fund revenue. In only 15 years, Woodley Park’s Maret School has increased its annual fund earnings from $250,000 to $1.6 million. Figures at other schools are smaller, but across the board annual fund revenue is cited as a gap-bridger when tuition, as it often does, only covers 80 to 85 percent of operating costs. But advancement departments don’t just serve as liaisons for deep-pocketed alums. Most are composed of talented fundraisers with a knack for making donations worth the benefactor’s while. That means events — auctions, galas, golf showdowns and the like — which form a nicely symbiotic arrangement to earn money while fostering a lively social scene within the school community. Think of Washington’s storied gala scene on a smaller scale — and with higher-caliber small talk. St. Albans, for example, is home to an active parents association that conducts the annual Christmas House Tour of five stately homes in Cleveland Park. The houses are typically owned by alumni or relatives of students, and through ticket and sponsorship proceeds, the tour has raised an average of $350,000 annually since 2004. The yearly effort is contributed to the school’s Centennial Campaign, which is aiming for a hefty $80 million goal by the end of the year. Sidwell Friends, the prestigious Quaker school with the Obama family bragging rights, recently passed — a year ahead of schedule — the $56 million benchmark for its Call Us Friends campaign, begun in 2002. The project was a grassroots effort by the school and over 150 volunteers (parents and students alike) to fund a new athletic center and fill out financial aid coffers for needy students. The school’s annual auction and book club also directly benefit the Dollars for Scholars program, which has proved so successful that Sidwell Friends averages a guarantee of two-thirds tuition for its aid recipients — generous, given the school’s $30,000 price tag. Many schools also maintain a long-term planned giving program, in which a lump sum is contractually placed in trust and supplies annual payment to an agreed-upon party. Georgetown Visitation’s Charitable Gift Annuity arranges for annuities to be paid to the donor for the duration of their life; afterward the original gift is bequeathed to the school. Opposite that is a Charitable Lead Trust, in which the school receives annuities for a slated amount of time before the gift is returned to the donor. Gonzaga, National Cathedral School and Maret School all conduct similar programs. Talk about a step up from the bake sale.
-Ah, summertime — the apogee of every kid’s year. The quarter-long punctuation of an existence measured in semesters and three-day weekends. The annual big kahuna of all vacations. Adults living in Washington think of it as something of a dreadful time. You still go to work, you pay bills, you race around — just the same as any other season, only sweatier, and perhaps with a twinge of bitter animus that you, too, could once clear your schedule from Memorial to Labor Day, and you thought it endless. But that is the great allure of summer: that children, who in many ways are always wise beyond their years, somehow convince themselves with astonishing zeal that it will never end, which is maybe what makes the experience so formative and special. With the innocence of youth in mind, we’ve selected some of our favorite summer camps around the city and region. They have a funny way of making these hot three months fly by, but you can be sure the memories will endure. Audubon Naturalist Society www.audubonnaturalist.org, 301-652-9188 Where: Headquartered in Chevy Chase, MD; the Society operates two other camps in Leesburg and Clifton, VA. When: The first programs begin June 21 and extend through mid-August. Full-day (9-4) or half day programs are available, depending on the child’s age and schedule. Overnight trips are available for older students. How much: Classes start at $165. Offering unique programs for children aged 4 to 15, Audubon’s camps are designed to foster environmental awareness among the nation’s youth. They feature direct experiences with our natural world through hands-on activities, games, crafts, experiments, and explorations. Campers can expect to spend most of their time outdoors, but every camp has an indoor classroom to use as a home base. Levine School Music and Arts Day Camp www.levineschool.org, 202-686-8000 Where: Campuses in D.C. (2801 Upton St., Van Ness), Bethesda’s Strathmore Center and Arlington (Ballston). When: Full-day (9:30-3:30) and half-day (9:30-1:30) programs available from June 28-July 16 and July 19-August 6. How much: $1044 for full-day students, $720 half-day. Levine’s summer camp has a loyal following, with many campers returning each year. Levine nurtures the total musical child in a supportive and stimulating environment. Through singing, dancing, playing instruments and sharing artistic experiences, children develop skills for creative expression and aesthetic awareness that will last their entire lives. TIC Summer Camp www.ticcamp.com, 703-241-5542 Where: GWU’s satellite campus at 2100 Foxhall Road. Classes also available in Bethesda and McLean. When: 8:30 to 3, five days per week. Four sessions are operated throughout the summer, the first beginning June 21. Each lasts about a week and a half. How much: $800 per session. Total nerd camp this isn’t: from the beginning, campers are divided into two age groups, juniors (6th grade and younger) and seniors (7th grade and older). Each day, one group takes technology courses geared for kids, while the other is immersed in an athletic program; after lunch the groups switch places, so that each camper gets three hours of technology instruction and three hours of sports each day. Camp Arena Stage www.arenastage.org/camp, 202-554-9066 Where: Georgetown Visitation School, 1524 35th St. When: 9-4, five days a week. The camp offers a four-week intensive session beginning June 28 and a two-week half session beginning July 26. How much: $1600 for full session, $900 half Camp Arena Stage empowers young people to express themselves more fully through art by encouraging them to make art that speaks with their own voices. Campers create their own schedules, choosing from a host of classes in theater, music, dance, media and visual art. They can try unfamiliar art forms and/or pursue current artistic interests: it’s up to them. Camp Shakespeare www.shakespearetheatre.org, 202-547-5688 Where: STC’s rehearsal studios, 516 Eighth St. S.E. When: 10-5 daily, sessions begin June 21. How much: $695. And yes, the T-shirt’s included. This two-week day camp aims to enhance the understanding of Shakespeare’s language through the exploration of movement, text, improvisation and performance. Young people ages 9-18 will analyze and interpret Shakespeare’s text, create dynamic characters with their bodies, voices, and imaginations and explore the art of stage combat. Camp will culminate with a performance for friends and family onstage at the Lansburgh Theatre. Georgetown Day School’s Hopper Day Camp www.gds.org, 202-274-1683 Where: GDS’ lower school, 4530 MacArthur Blvd. When: Week-long sessions from 8:30 to 3, beginning June 21. Half-day options available. How much: $395 per week, ages pre-K to 11. For the youngsters. Start the day with 4 classes (arts, sports, drama, science, cooking & more) & spend the afternoons on water play, talent shows, field trips, Olympics and more. Each group of 5-10 campers will travel with a junior counselor; experienced teachers will lead each class. Sheridan School’s Shenandoah Summer Camp www.mountaincampus.org, 540-743-6603 Where: Sheridan Mountain Campus, Luray, VA. When: All-day sessions beginning early July. Most last five days, but older students may opt for two-week programs. How much: Sessions start at $565. High school-level “Ironman” programs run around $1300. For the adventurer in every family, Sheridan’s classic outdoor camp centers on community building, mastering outdoor skills and back-to-nature basics. You also can’t get a more idyllic setting: the 130-acre campus borders the Shenandoah River and Shenandoah National Park near Luray (not to mention its famous caverns). Campers will have their pick of opportunities to view wildlife and woods, and certainly make a few friendships along the way. Georgetown University Summer Day Camp at Yates Field House yates.georgetown.edu Where: Located right on Georgetown University at Yates Field House and Kehoe Field When: Six weeks offered with the first program beginning June 21 and the last program beginning July 26. Camp hours are from 9am to 4pm. After care is available until 4:30pm. How Much: Weekly tuition for Yates members is $275. Non-Yates members $375. Register online. Yates Summer Day Camp is celebrating their 30th year as a comprehensive day-long camp at Yates Field House and Kehoe Field. Campers ages 6-10 years enjoy activities such as arts and crafts, indoor and outdoor games, swimming, movies, talent shows and much more.
As the old adage goes, “Those who can’t do, teach.” However, this is not quite the case for Tyler Herman, the 23-year-old theatre instructor of Washington’s acclaimed magnet school, School Without Walls. Referred to by students and faculty as “Walls,” the institution is well recognized as the best public high school in the District, and one of the best in the region. Established in 1971, SWW is of a certain Montessorian ilk, helping students to expand their education beyond the classroom “Walls” and turn the nation’s capital into an equal player in their intellectual cultivation. With a student body of less than 500, the students are afforded plenty of individual attention to help shape their futures. Backed by new principal Richard Trogisch and Chancellor Michelle Rhee, the school has recently been restructuring itself to achieve higher academic standards in an ever-expanding, open-ended classroom environment. The new building, in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood, forgoes lockers to keep the school looking less like an institution, and more like a welcoming environment for children to learn. SWW has a partnership with The George Washington University to provide classes free of charge for qualifying juniors and seniors. The newly established GW Early College Program offers students the opportunity to achieve an Associates Degree in Liberal Arts while they’re still in high school, granting them access to all the educational amenities that GW has to offer. The school’s Gilder Lehrman Initiative funds historic field trips around the region with visiting historians serving as guest lecturers and seminar leaders. The list of student electives — of which they are free to take plenty — rivals some colleges, and there are mandatory internships within the city for graduating seniors. Yet, as of last November, there was no theatre department. Enter Herman. A recent graduate of Cornell, Herman came back to the area, having grown up in Silver Spring. With a degree in theatre and dance, and a minor in music, he didn’t have much intention to teach upon graduation. “I wanted to be an artist,” he says. Picking up small work in a number of local theatres, he began instructing youth theatre programs part-time at Round House Theatre and other local high schools. “I had heard a lot of horror stories about public schools,” says Herman. “Students are unruly and uninterested.” But when Walls approached him to take on a position in their theatre program’s maiden voyage, he was surprised at what he found. “A 99 percent graduation rate, and a 95 percent college-bound rate,” he exclaims. “These kids are smart. And they want to learn.” Still, Herman maintained that he didn’t want to simply be a teacher. He laid out his objective in starting the theatre program as a working actor. “I’m big on creating work,” he says. “I am a working actor in this town, so I want to bring it around to the community, create a mindset of not just fun, but a career.” Herman’s mission is to use the school’s fresh program as a way to reach out to the community, producing relevant work with as much input from the students as possible. The productions are not just for the public, but are inspired from within the public. As SWW’s first main-stage production, Herman chose Molière’s “The Miser,” a satirical comedy about a rich moneylender and his children who wish to escape his penny-pinching household (allude away, my fellow metropolitans). However, the copy Herman had was a translation from the 1950s (Molière was French), which, according to Herman, “Felt stuffy, not very timely or relevant.” So Herman, fluent in French, took it upon himself to re-translate the show, change a few characters around, put in a song and dance break, and fill in plot holes from the original script. The style of theatre is actor driven, the leads played their own instruments, most being members of the high school band. Herman even decided to have the students play their own songs, which they began improvising onstage, creating a different theatre experience every night. In many sections of the new text, Herman would merely write down framework and recommendations, then had the students “Create their own moment.” “They made the show their own by crafting the characters they were creating, making it genuinely funny for them and the audience every night. Taking ownership of the theatre … I come in with my ideas, and they take it and do their own thing, and sometimes it’s even better. So, encouraging that creativity has become a huge part of the process.” He wants his students to tell their own stories. “I don’t want to create high school-level work,” he says. “I want to create real work that’s done by high school students.” Herman is now looking to get certified as a teacher — no teaching degree, just to be clear, but a vocation degree. As far as his own work is concerned, he is working through the summer with Young Playwrites Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Arena Stage, and Round House Theatre. He will soon be appearing in “In Faction of Fools” with Welders Theatre Company. A year out of school, and Herman is entrenched in theatre. He is beginning the framework of a winter festival at SWW with work primarily written by his students. A Shakespeare drama in the fall, a musical in the spring, all while working on his own theatre projects outside the classroom. If the old adage had come about with Herman in mind, it would surely read a little differently: “Those who teach, do.”
If conventional wisdom and all the pundits are correct, studying journalism or communications in university these days renders you nuts or divorced from reality. After all, if the media is dying, as so many seem to say, how will any student get a job when they graduate? Or, at least, how will they get a job that they can survive on? And pity the poor college educators who are valiantly striving to make sure they are educating their students to compete in tomorrow’s media. That is virtually mission impossible when new media trends grows old over the course of a single semester. Twitter goes from hot to old-hat. Facebook surpasses Google in hits. Blogs rapidly morph into old media. I had a recent conversation with a former student who works in new media for NPR. She told me that I now need to teach a new form of writing: “writing to the swipe.” The reality is that mobile news requires yet another nuance in how tomorrow’s journalists are going to have to cater to both old demands (no, print is not dead yet) and new ones from technologies not yet even invented. Which all makes DC a new frontline in media education for so many of those who will make tomorrow’s media. New York may have Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart and a wealth of magazines, but DC has the news. And politics. And documentaries. Local journalism. New online news enterprises. Non-profits now putting out their own content. The government. And DC has the interns. Welcome to journalism education circa 2011, where the turnover in media is so rapid that a 25-year-old at the new media meteor known as Politico considers himself one of the old guard. The tradition of working your journalistic way up the ladder has largely disintegrated. For many, there is no ladder any more – just a large boulder to try and hop on. And many media companies are using internships today, even more than in the past, as a preferred recruiting tool for good jobs, often new jobs with a future. “Some places may still have students push paper and get coffee, but the ones that understand what internships can be use it strategically to identify talent. For new media companies it also helps us understand the mentality and ideas of the next generation,” says Brittany Cooper, Director for Recruitment and Corporate Culture for New Media Strategies, one of the fastest growing social media marketing companies in the world. With one estimate that there are as many as 40,000 interns a year in DC (although in many areas besides media) and many more on the way, DC has become the world’s capital for experiential education, a bridge between traditional media education and the work place, and the passport to that first real job. Tucker Carlson, of Crossfire/MSNBC/Dancing with the Stars fame, and founder of the newest new media news organization The Daily Caller, admits he was never an intern himself. However, he says, “depending on the office they're in, they're apt to learn a lot. Maybe more than in class. Interns have been great for us, not necessarily for the work they do, but because we watch them carefully and hire the smart, hardworking ones. We've hired a bunch so far. “ The price for this entrée is that, unfortunately, most DC media internships are unpaid, today often out of financial exigencies but previously out of competition among applicants for these opportunities. The Labor Department’s rules governing internships date back to the 1930’s; they frown on unpaid internships, although there is an ambiguous exemption for internships with academic purposes. But it is a catch-22 where federal regulations would otherwise prevent the very goal of experiential learning and the kind of job creation that students might not otherwise get. The smartest students often find the best opportunities in less obvious choices. Sirius/XM Radio offers one of the best internship programs in the country, with a program that ensures students get the training and support they need. Nature’s Best Magazine, a private version of National Geographic, offers its interns a magazine experience that will define a career. This very newspaper and its effervescent publisher Sonya Bernhardt have nurtured a decade’s worth of young journalists who have gone on to media success. Ross Herosian is the Manager of College Programs and HR projects at Sirius/XM, and a former intern himself. “What traditional collegiate academia provides,” he says, “is a very strong base foundation, skills and practices that are ever present, no matter how much media changes. We can build on that and find and nurture the best talent. Today we have a good number of employees who are former interns, who are now mentoring themselves. From my perspective, it is completing the circle and a strong part of our culture.” So then, perhaps college journalism programs should not even try to keep up with a media evolving so fast that their professional columnists can’t keep up. Instead, no matter how much it changes, the media will always need from their interns what Universities do best: a solid foundation of a well-rounded education. That is something no internship, no matter how good, can provide.
The One City Youth Employment Summer Program, a product of the Department of Employment Services, has a tougher twist. Offering a more individualistic work experience, with a heavier focus on youths being matched to appropriate jobs, the number of employees accepted to the program for the coming summer has been scaled down. “We have put cap of 12,000 [students] for this summer to give the young people a more enriching experience,” said Neville Waters, Communication Director of the Department of Employee Services (DOES). The Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) received 12,000 applications in the first three days they were available at the end of February. The deadline closed March 11 when more than 20,000 applications had been received. The SYEP team, including Program Director Gerren Price, has been hosting a number of Eligibility Certification Events at area high schools and the DOES office. The Certification Events are an opportunity for the youth to turn in their eligibility documents. According to Waters, the overwhelming turn out at the events caused the applicant certification hours on the final Saturday, March 19, to be extended. “We wanted to make it as convenient as possible for folks,” said Price. According to Price, the program is going to be “very solid” this year. The program was revamped when Dr. Rochelle Webb was recruited as Employee Services new director. Along with Mayor Gray’s administration, Dr. Webb made reorganizing the program a high priority. In effort to enhance the program, half the number of students would be selected to participate as were accepted in previous years. For the first time in the program’s 32-year history, applicants had to complete a more rigorous application process. After applying, the employee hopefuls had to be certified. This included submitting picture I.D., social security card, proof of residence and a submitted resume or online profile. This is much different than the previous operations, where the students effectively registered and received a paycheck, and which included 22,000 youth employees. The students will now be matched to jobs more suitable to their interests, while learning the actual steps involved in obtaining employment. “For the first time we’re going to be doing a lot of work to make it more of an individual experience,” said Price. The program is open to District youths between the ages of 14 and 21. The hope of Employee Services is that students can gain real work experience and applicable skills throughout the summer. Younger ages experience their first job and learn the basic skills of what is expected. The older students are placed in positions where they can utilize these skills and potentially carry the job beyond the summer. “I feel really positive about the future and what we’re doing,” said Waters. A DC native himself, Waters’ first job was through the SYEP. His summer working with the public school payroll was a valuable experience, which has now come full circle, as he offers a similar experience to the District’s youth 30 years later. According to Waters, a large responsibility for DOES is also to supply a well-trained work force for employers. Employers offering jobs though the program include CVS, Georgetown University, Howard University, Cardinal Bank, Wachovia Bank, Madame Tussaund’s and the DC government.
As it turns out, it is quite possible to give your kids a memorable summer camp experience without shipping them halfway across the country. There are amazing day and stay-away camps right in DC’s back yard. Whether your child is interested in education, is a budding sports fan or a young artist, there are a myriad of fun summer options in the city and the greater DC area for you and your kids to choose from. Beauvoir – Activities of all Types for Little Tykes Many of DC’s private schools offer summer programs for their students and other children from the area. Beauvoir Summer Program at the National Cathedral Elementary School is one such camp for kids ages 3 – 11. Kids are encouraged to play, learn and explore at the camp’s playgrounds, pool and wading pool under the guidance of experienced camp counselors (most of which are professional teachers) and life guards. Although it is a day camp, Beauvoir offers before and after camp programs to accommodate busy parents’ schedules. With schedules centered around titles like “Animal Detectives,” “Wild About Water” and “Fairytale Fantasy,” there are activities for every little critter. For slightly older groups, Beauvoir offers acting and foreign language programs in addition to their swimming classes which are available for all ages. Go to BeauvoirSchool.org for more details and to register. Visitation – All Sports, All Ages Visitation Preparatory School, another local private school, also offers summer programs for young athletes. Every summer, the school partners with TenniStar to bring a team of great coaches to the campus to train kids ages 5 – 15. A total of six camps are available: tennis, soccer, lacrosse, basketball and field hockey. The final program, SportStar, was created by alumni for incoming freshmen and their friends as a place to meet new people through recreational sporting fun. For more information and to register visit Visi.org. To find out more about TenniStar, call 301.530.5472. Georgetown University Summer Programs – Academic Excellence for Students Plenty of local options are also available for high school students. Kids grades nine through 12 can get ahead in their academic careers by enrolling in one of Georgetown University’s summer programs. Word has it they’re even fun, too! Young adults can take an array of programs from Arabic to forensic science, earn college credit and prepare for the SATs with the faculty of the University. Pigment Art Studio Summer Camps – Arts n’ Crafts Afternoons For little artists, morning and afternoon summer camp sessions are offered at Pigment Art Studio in Adams Morgan, a group whose mission is to motivate and collaborate with young artists in the community. This program features small class sizes and individual attention, so the spaces fill up quickly! Visit PigmentArtStudio.com to request more information and to register. Camp Rim Rock – Fun in the Sun for Girls Of course, if your kids can’t wait to get out and away from the house this summer, there are plenty of great summer camps located around the outskirts of DC. Camp Rim Rock, two hours outside of the city in West Virginia, is an all-girls summer camp celebrating its 60th year of making memories for girls ages 6 – 16. The camp sits on over 600 acres of hiking and riding trails as well as places for swimming and sports. Rim Rock also offers programs in performance and arts and crafts. Over 100 counselors oversee the activities during the camp’s three, five and seven-week stay-away sessions. Specialty camps in riding and tennis are also available. To find out more, visit CampRimRock.com. Camp Hidden Meadows – Far Off Explorations For very adventurous boys and girls ages 7 –16, an even farther summer camp experience is available at Camp Hidden Meadows in the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia. Campers can choose from an enormous list of daily activities such as horse back riding, rock climbing, woodworking, white water rafting, basketball, yoga, pottery, culinary arts, farming, painting, and the list goes on. This American Camp Association accredited camp offers sessions that are one week long and up, following the philosophy that learning comes easily in a fun, supportive environment. To learn more, go to CampHiddenMeadows.com. [gallery ids="99650,105309,105312" nav="thumbs"]
As citizens around the globe continue to put efforts into preserving the environment, individuals living and working on college campuses are among the leaders of the pack. With energetic and invested students and supportive faculty, many campuses in the D.C area are paving the way for future environmentalists by making their campuses green. The Georgetowner took a look at the environmental efforts at three local universities — Georgetown, American, and George Washington — and compared just how green these well known campuses are. From recycling to transportation, food to solar energy, we found that each of these three schools thrives in some area of environmental preservation. Georgetown University --- Green: Recycling Not So Green: Long Shuttle Routes Georgetown University’s budding recycling program is what makes its green efforts unique. Ever since Recycling Manager Bill Del Vecchio took over the recycling department three years ago, the University’s recycling program has grown immensely. Along with the help of Georgetown’s student environmental advocacy club Eco-Action, Del Vecchio established a recycling outreach program and tracked which areas of campus were most populated to ensure that additional receptacles were placed there. (All the receptacles look the same and are therefore easy to identify.) It appears to be paying off — the recycling rate at Georgetown rose from 12 percent in 2007 to 45 percent in 2010. Cardboard, plastic, batteries and electronics are only a few of the items that Del Vecchio says are recycled. “Since I’ve been at school, our recycling program has expanded and developed beautifully,” Eco-Action president Kristin Ng says. “When I started here, we had to sort out all of our plastics and only certain things could be recycled. Now, after a huge renovation of the system, it’s super easy to recycle anything on campus.” Georgetown received a large grant for recycling in the fall of 2009, at which point the university replaced many of its outside bins with Big Belly Trash Compactors. These solar powered trash compactors are attached to two recycling bins, making recycling a convenient and prevalent option around campus. Recycling bins can also be found in all faculty member offices, and next year the University will place bins in the rooms of all on-campus residence halls and apartments, says former Eco-Action treasurer Jonathan Cohn. In addition to day-to-day recycling, the University encourages students to preserve their unwanted items through its annual move-out drive. This event allows students to donate items around their dorm rooms that would have otherwise thrown out. As a result of the University’s efforts, Georgetown moved up in this year’s Recyclemania, a competition that measures colleges recycling rates over a 10-week period. Georgetown ranked 37 out of 267 colleges and universities in the grand champion category. Though technology has been helpful in improving recycling at Georgetown, Del Vecchio says that student and faculty support is what makes the program top notch. “Faculty, staff, and students all participate in recycling and understand the importance of environmentally sound practices on campus,” he says. Beyond recycling, the University has also made strides in improving sustainability through the installation of energy monitors in every residence hall. These monitors allow students and faculty to see how much energy their hall is using at any given point. The university also built a LEED Silver-certified business school building in the fall of 2009. Despite its many green initiatives, Georgetown still has work to do towards improving sustainability, particularly for campus vehicles. Former Eco-Action member Carter Lavin notes, for instance, that the shuttle bus route to the Dupont Circle Metro stop is unnecessarily long. Because West Georgetown residents complained about the busses constantly passing through the neighborhood and shaking their door frames, all University buses going to Dupont Circle during off-peak hours leave from Reservoir Road and take a left on Wisconsin, which, Lavin says, prolongs the route substantially. --- American University --- Green: Transportation Not So Green: Lack of compost system for food Amid the lists and descriptions on American University’s sustainability Web site lies an overarching slogan declaring that “The American Dream is Green.” Thanks to both the University’s active environmental club Eco Sense and its sustainability department, AU’s green initiatives are continuously expanding. The Sustainable Endowments Institute acknowledged AU’s achievements when they gave the University an “A” for environmentally friendly transportation on its 2010 green report card. AU’s green transportation policies significantly help lessen fuel consumption on and around campus, according to former Eco Sense treasurer Stephen Bronskill. A complimentary shuttle service takes students to and from the nearest Metro stop. “The shuttle is used for the vast majority of students commuting into D.C.,” Bronskill says. AU Sustainability Director Chris O’Brien notes that the University provides several incentives for students and staff to use public transportation, such as payroll deductions for employees who take Metro. “Use of the free campus shuttle has doubled in the past 10 years, showing that more and more people are choosing to take Metro and then our free shuttle to campus rather than drive personal vehicles.” O’Brien says. If traveling by train isn’t an option, students and staff can turn to the on-campus Zipcar service, which enables students to rent a car for specific time slots rather than purchasing and bringing their own car to school, making for fewer cars polluting D.C. streets. In a further effort to keep cars off the road, AU offers a condensed work week option for staff members and 10 complimentary bikes for students to rent. “We have a very impressive and innovative bike lending program that allows students to rent bikes for the day,” Bronskill says. “The plan is so successful that there are plans to double it in size.” But AU’s green ambitions extend far beyond environmentally friendly transportation options. The University’s Climate Action plan lays out four basic strategies that will help the University to become carbon neutral by 2020. Eco Sense President Jennifer Jones also notes that Bon Appetit, the company that supplies the food at AU, frequently uses locally grown organic food and that students run a community garden. Still, she says, there are steps the University could take to become more sustainable, including initiating a compost program for pre- and post-consumer food scraps. Though Jones knows that students and faculty still have work to do in terms of improving green practices, she says she is confident in what the future holds for AU in terms of sustainability. “There is always room for improvement, especially because environmental information is progressing so quickly,” she says. “But between the Department of Sustainability and Eco-Sense, there are a lot of people at AU trying to make us more sustainable.” --- George Washington University --- Green: Food Not So Green: Lack of alternate energy sources For those looking for an environmentally friendly lunch spot, the George Washington University’s dining hall may be the perfect location. The University, which recently received an “A” for environmentally friendly food on their 2010 green report card, strives to serve locally grown, organic foods whenever possible and works to ensure that dining hall products don’t produce excess pollution. The fact that GW spends 160,000 annually on locally grown foods such as apples, tomatoes and onions indicates that purchasing these foods is a major priority. The University’s organic purchases are also plentiful, with a total of 250,000 worth of organic foods bought and served yearly. But GW doesn’t just buy locally grown foods, they also compost them. The University currently composts all pre-consumer food scraps on the Mount Vernon Campus, and will strive to begin post composting next year, according to Sophie Waksow, the stakeholder engagement coordinator with the Office of Sustainability. In an effort to alleviate pollution caused by excess petroleum, the University has decided to place biodegradable plates in certain campus dining halls. The switch, Green GW President Justin Fink notes, was initiated by a group of students and faculty, and is expected to eliminate close to 600 pounds of petroleum-based serviceware from campus. “On campus, our dining services have been become increasingly more environmentally conscious over the years,” Fink said. “This past year, leaders of environmental student organizations and administrators have collaborated with Sodexo, our main food provider, to put in place a program to use biodegradable plates and hopefully flatware as well.” In addition to its green dining options, GW’s buildings are also very environmentally friendly. In September 2009, GW opened South Hall, the first LEED Gold-certified University building in D.C. history. Among its many green attributes are walls with high insulation and bamboo paneling as opposed to hardwood floors, GW Today reported. Student involvement in environmental initiatives is no rarity at GW. There are a total of 12 student environmental groups on campus, many of which have individual Web sites. Though Fink points out at that the university should improve its green efforts by introducing alternate energy sources like solar energy or biodiesel on campus, Waksow says that students’ continued commitment to environmental preservation indicates just how energized the GW student body is as a whole. “While universities have a relatively small physical footprint, we have a large impact on the current dialogue and the next generation of leaders,” she says. “GW has a culture of political and civic engagement: our students exercise their leadership skills in sustainability through their activities outside the classroom and in their careers.” [gallery ids="99187,103289,103297,103294" nav="thumbs"]