Three years ago, Sarah Wu, a speech pathologist for Chicago public schools, didn’t have time to pack her own lunch. Not thinking anything of it, she left home, drove to work, taught her students and when the lunch bell rang, she walked down the hall towards the cafeteria. As she read the menu options, Wu was not impressed. Soggy bagels, tater tots, mushy over-microwaved frozen pizzas. Feeling the gurgle in her own stomach, she was thinking more about the 90 percent of kids who qualify for free lunch and consider these options to be the best they’ll get all day. These lunches are provided by the National School Lunch program which feeds students in more than 101,000 public and non-profit private schools and residential child care institutions across the country. The government claims that it provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to more than 31 million children each and every school day. Are those meals truly healthful? Wu went home angry and started a blog, Fed Up With Lunch, in which she ate in her cafeteria every day for a year and wrote about the meals. At the same time, First Lady Michelle Obama was beginning her Let’s Move campaign and chef Jamie Oliver was beginning his television show, Food Revolution, bringing national attention to the problems in our school cafeterias today. In the U.S., 12.5 million children are obese. Could Congress be to blame since it has claimed pizza as a vegetable and have tried removing the potato from the program all together? Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) fought to keep the vegetable on the menu and won. “Here is the federal government trying to teach people to eat whole foods, to eat locally grown foods -- there are all these farm-to-school programs to teach children where food comes from -- and to try to get them to eat it in a way that is not processed heavily and [removing the potato] is contrary to all of that,” she said. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) fought alongside Collins on the issue. “Can you imagine not having a potato in the school lunch program?" Snowe asked. "I don’t understand it.” Andrea Northup, director and founder of D.C. Farm to School Network, a coalition of stakeholders working to incorporate more healthful, local foods into D.C. school meals, has revolutionized the food in school cafeterias across the Washington area. She says that despite the potato fiasco, there has been a huge positive shift in the cafeteria thanks to programs like her own. “We’ve gone from prepackaged airplane style meals, Frosted Flakes and Otis Spunkmeyer, to minimally processed meals prepared from whole ingredients.” The Farm to School Network connects students with where their food comes from, provides health, food and environmental education opportunities and supports the local food economy. The network, which began four years ago in D.C. serves two-thirds of all school-aged children in the city. Each of the 63 schools -- participating and serving meals approved by the Healthy Schools Act, a local law that went into effect in 2010 which sets nutrition and serving standards for D.C. schools participating in the federal school meal program -- receives supplemental funding from the local government. Northup does face daily challenges. One example involves getting the kids to eat these foods. “There are a lot of issues now where the kids are not familiar with a roasted sweet potato when they are used to eating french fries or sauteed broccoli when they’re used to green beans in a can," she said. "School menus now look more like a restaurant than what you particularly think school meals would be. If you looked up the menus, you’d be flabbergasted at the words you’d see like 'chipotle roasted,' 'lemon sauteed,' as you think of these words when you think of restaurant meals. It is really impressive what the institution and community support of all of us has been able to do.” Another drawback is funding. Northup has been fortunate enough to have incredible partners, such as Sweetgreen, a salad and frozen yogurt restaurant establishment, which contributes financially as well as works with the children on salad-making classes in the schools. Northrup adds that it is up to D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson to decide whether funding D.C. Farm to School and feeding the children locally and sustainably is worth the check. “You’re getting what you pay for when you invest in healthier school meals," Northup says. "Even slightly higher costs in the short term, in my opinion, pay off in terms of higher attentiveness of the children, better outcomes for the children, higher productivity in school and in life. We are preventing these more costly diseases materializing in the future by investing now. It is something that doesn’t resonate well with someone like the chancellor who is in charge of balancing the books now, and you can’t blame her for that." Northup says that because of the Healthy Schools Act, the law which was just recently passed by the D.C. Council, providing funding incentives and institutional support to schools that serve healthful food, Farm to School has gone from a “Huh, what’s that?” notion to a household name. Farm to School programs are popping up all over the nation, some larger and some smaller than the program established in D.C. While many boggle with how to pay for the newer food choices, the menu seems to be pleasing. Susan Wu, the blogger who took matters into her own hands to fix the lunches her students were eating, is thrilled with the changes taking place in schools across the country and believes that the more involved communities are, the more successful the outcome will be. Wu says she can’t imagine kids going back to what they used to eat and has even made a menu of the future on her blog to show how food is evolving for student lunches, available at [fedupwithlunch.com](http://fedupwithlunch.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/beforeafter.png) For Northup, the real bottom-line choice is this: “Are we willing to look long-term and look strategically at food service because we see that it is very important to health and success of our children, or are we not?”
One of the best parts of living in Georgetown is the array of secret lives glimpsed through windows, down pathways, and even underground. In the basements of two churches on the east side of Georgetown bubbles a life of intense industry and social tumult, hurt feelings and life-long friendships. And that goes for the one-year-olds and their parents. Open an ugly brown metal door and step into a world of bright floor mats, busy babies and equally engaged parents and caregivers. This is Blue Igloo, a playgroup for kids ranging from six months to three years. The schedule here runs from “transportation toys and tumbling,” at 9 a.m., to “songs, bubbles, puppets,” an hour later. It all wraps up by lunch, after story time and clean up. Blue Igloo was founded in 2000 in a rebuff to Georgetown’s other playgroup, the 35-year-old Intown. Like the papal schism, the creation of a new gathering place for the pre-pre-school sent waves through a certain section of Georgetown. Which one is better? Where are my friends going? Will all the cool people go to Intown while I am stuck at Blue Igloo? Or vice versa? But as the population that rides in strollers continues to boom, there are plenty of applicants for both playgroups, and, to the outsider, the two groups seem to be almost exactly the same. Blue Igloo is now the morning home to 55 kids and their caregivers. It is mostly moms, though the occasional dad comes by for an hour or two. It is a French, Spanish, English and sign language immersion program, according to the director, Sabria Lounes. And the children learn key skills, even if they don’t necessarily learn them in French. “The kids learn to sit, for snack they sit, and they get into a routine. I have to write recommendation letters for kids for the next schools, and these things matter,” says Lounes, who has been running Blue Igloo since its creation. Gavin, who is two and a half, “gets to interact with other kids, he loves to come here, he loves the singing, he loves the snack most of all,” according to Myrtle Perry, Gavin’s nanny. She says she, too, loves Blue Igloo. “I talk to everybody, all the mothers and the nannies, I look forward to coming here every day.” Two blocks away at Intown, the scene is much the same. One and 2-year-olds buzz around doing animal puzzles and playing with plastic cars. 45 families are enrolled at Intown and, like Blue Igloo, Intown often has a waiting list of families eager to get in. Get over the admissions hurdle and you get an emphasis on child-centered learning. “We’re focused, right now, on sensory materials,” says Mandy Sheffer, Intown’s director. “Soft and hard, finger paints, there’s a lot that goes on behind what we do with the kids every day.” “It is nice to come to a space where the play and structure is thought-out,” says Jacqueline Bourgeois, the mother of 15-month-old Ferdinand. “At home, I don’t know how to do that. I am learning as much as he is.” And therein lies the real success of Georgetown’s busy playgroups. They are places for moms. Moms need the companionship and learning time offered by Intown and Blue Igloo as much as their kids do. They learn when should a kid quit using a pacifier and what other parents feed their kids. They find potty training tricks, tips for getting along with others, and how to create tight bonds. Nobody needs to get out of the house more than a new mother with a little kid. This is a place to go. “I’ve made my closest friends here and it has been a wonderful place for us both to come and socialize,” Intown’s Elizabeth Taylor, the mother of Mac, 16 months, says. “Parents get to talk to other parents,” agrees Annie Lou Berman at Blue Igloo. “We’ve made really great friends here,” she adds, as 2-year-old Teddy scuttles up to see her. “We’re all in the same life stage,” nods Karina Homme, mother of Sebastian, who is 20 months old. There is a certain type of family called to these pre-pre-schools. One mother refers to her playgroup as “the cocktail party set.” Most are from Georgetown, though a few come from as far away as Alexandria. About half the moms work, though on a recent day the nannies outnumbered the parents at both places. The parents have to pony up between $3,000 and $4,000 for block building and snack eating. And Georgetown’s playgroups mostly funnel into the private pre-schools, and from there into the private elementary schools. Of course, there are occasional storms in the world of the bouncy-bounce. Two-year-olds won’t share. Parents try to ditch their “duty days” (dates on which they are required to show up and help out) by sending their nannies instead. And the playgroup admission committees sometimes mess up by letting in imperious parents who can’t seem to get along with anyone, or parents who insist that their bodyguards accompany field trips, or the one child who bites: a serious no-no in little kid land. And then there are the scary parents who really do seem to think Intown leads to Princeton. But they are few. For most of them, Georgetown’s playgroups lead to a sense of community, fast friends, and, most importantly, a place to go on a rainy October morning.
Anyone who walks the historic streets of our capital city will undoubtedly have a few unexplainable stories to share…even if one of them only involves tripping on one of those wayward bricks and stumbling away with a forehead raspberry. Smacked heads or not, strange stuff happens in old D.C. neighborhoods and the spook quotient naturally spikes around Halloween. One Washingtonian especially versed in good D.C. ghost stories is Cindy Hays, executive director of the Congressional Cemetery on E Street, SE. In fact, she relishes the graveyard’s best tales from the crypt. “One of our ‘residents’ has apparently been seen in town,” she says. She’s speaking of Robert “Beau” Hickman, who died in 1873 and lived in the old National Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. “When he died penniless, his drinking buddies decided he deserved better than the Potter’s Field where he had just been buried, and went to retrieve him,” says Hays. According to legend, upon returning to the cemetery to collect their friend and give him a proper burial, Hickman’s posse came face-to-face with a group of grave robbers who were collecting bodies for medical experiments, a common, “no questions asked” practice at the time. Despite saving their friend’s remains from an undignified second purpose, the friends were spooked and ready to exit the cemetery as soon as possible. They quickly dug a grave for Hickman and ran out to soothe themselves with a drink. However, it seems they were followed by their grateful (though deceased) companion. “Beau, it seems, missed the good times too much to stay put for long, and began to haunt their card games at the old hotel. After the National was torn down, Beau was often seen standing at the corner at 6th & Penn looking for his old friends.” Apparently, the cash-poor but spirited man managed to be stylish, even in the afterlife. “He’s been spotted in modern times, looking as dapper as ever,” says Hays. “He is easily recognized by his beaver hat, cane, and diamond stick-pin.” Hickman is one of the ‘residents’ who will be making a comeback for the cemetery’s Halloween “Ghosts and Goblets” event. The cemetery has hired actors to dress in costume and lurk by the graves of the people they are portraying. Those with tickets to the event will go on a torch light tour of the headstones, where the actors will be ready with spine-tingling stories of dirt, death and drama. “We’re calling it the ‘Sinners and Scoundrels’ tour,” says Hays. It’s going to be pretty scary to visit the actual burial sites of these people at dusk while hearing their stories.” Begged for more salacious details of the Congressional dwellers, Hays delves into the tale of Mary Hall, a famed nineteenth century Capitol Hill madam with a penchant for leaving her mark. “Her story came to light when the Smithsonian began construction on the new American Indian Museum,” says Hays. “As the foundation was dug, archeologists found a surprising number of champagne bottles and gilt dinnerware shards.” Evidently, capitalism was good to Hall in the capital city. Having managed a thriving booty business for years, she had some extra funds to plan for the inevitable. She bought 18 plots at the cemetery in 1867 for her family and friends. Hays says when she first toured the cemetery years ago, she found the graves of Hall’s mother and sister marked with a lovely, twelve-foot-tall angel statue. “I found a long, dirty pink silk scarf around the neck of the angel. Thinking it unsightly, I had it removed immediately.” But the change in décor didn’t sit well with someone roaming the grounds. Hays found a new scarf draped around the angel’s neck a month later. “How did this happen?” Hays still wonders. “To get to that neck would require a ladder. We don’t allow driving in the cemetery, and there are families walking their dogs all hours of the day and night.” Chilling, sure. But a cemetery director gets used to the natural—and the supernatural. Sure enough, Hays’ most startling story came at the most inconvenient time: while planning a high-profile funeral. “An event manager had been hired by the family to plan an extravaganza,” she remembers. “He was describing in great detail what he wanted to do as we walked out of the chapel. The afternoon air was totally still, not a breeze to be felt. As we turned the corner, all of the drawings and loose papers flew from his hands into the air. Some were propelled as far as half a block away.” Hays imagines a spirit was none too pleased by the conversation. “Whoever she was, she was obviously not happy about what she was hearing that was being planned in her cemetery!” Hoping to avoid another paranormal protest, the funeral planning was simplified. “The extravaganza was significantly toned down and we had a very dignified service, with no more outbursts.” There are plenty of stories at the Congressional Cemetery and visitors can get their fill at the Halloween party Oct. 29. A skeleton key scavenger hunt and a demonstration of the chapel’s immense organ are on the schedule, along with, uh, spirits and a buffet. Tickets are $75 a person and can be purchased on the cemetery’s website at CongressionalCemetery.org. [gallery ids="100329,108537,108540" nav="thumbs"]
In D.C., it seems that no one can hold just one occupation. Slashes abound in everyone’s job titles, as in: “I’m a CEO/mother/philanthropist,” or “I’m a doctor/writer/foremost WWII expert.” This says something not only about the current job market, in which competition is the name of the game, but about the kind of people who live here. Washingtonians are diverse people with a myriad of interests and even more varied careers. In the District, one career path can carry a person through multiple fields, from one occupation to the next, making continuing education all the more important. Whether or not you decide to obtain you Master’s or Doctorate, the benefits of continuing your education throughout your life are enormous: the qualifications you receive can help to keep you competitive in the job market; you can learn more about an area of interest that you’ve been curious about; you can receive certification in a new field, expanding your career opportunities. The District’s universities offer its residents hundreds of educational opportunities, from certification programs to individual classes open to those with curious minds. In Georgetown’s back yard, Georgetown University is a prime example of all that continuing education programs have to offer. At GU, the School of Continuing Studies offers numerous certificates to supplement the degree or degrees you already might have, including Budget and Finance, Business Administration, Business and Professional English, Corporate Executive Leadership, Digital Media Management, Diversity Strategy, Financial Planning, Forensic Accounting, Franchise Management, Government Executive Leadership, International Business Management, International Migration Studies, Leadership Coaching, Litigation Technology/Legal Project Management, Marketing, Nonprofit Management, Organizational Consulting and Change Leadership, Project Management, Social Media for Government, Strategy and Performance Management and Paralegal Studies. Of course, the school also offers full Master of Professional Studies programs, and many of the people who get their Master’s are working and going to school part time, according to Maggie Moore, Communications Officer at the University. However, if attaining your Master’s isn’t part of your game plan, Georgetown provides at least one certificate in the department of each Master’s program called an Advanced Professional Certificate. For instance, you can obtain an Advanced Professional Certificate in Journalism through the Master of Professional Studies in Journalism department; similarly, you can get certificates in either Diversity and Inclusion Management, International Human Resources Management or Strategic Human Capital Management through the Human Resources Management program. Georgetown also has more unconventional learning programs such as Mom Congress, hosted in partnership with Parenting magazine, which gives parents the opportunity to hear from education experts while sharing their own concerns and ideas. Additionally, the university offers a non-degree program to senior citizens in which those ages 65 and up can audit undergraduate level courses. The School of Continuing Studies can be reached at 202-687-8700. Visit scs.georgetown.edu for more information on these and other programs.
Doesn’t it feel like just yesterday your baby was born? Days were spent taking naps, playing in the mud, jumping in leaves, learning the ABC’s and reading bedtime stories. Money went towards diapers and swing sets, and whatever was left over was placed in savings for college. Eighteen years went by pretty quickly, didn’t they? Are you wishing you had stashed a little more away? Today’s statistics for college graduates aren’t pretty. With just a few weeks left before the class of 2012 tosses its caps, many parents are beginning to panic just as much as their children. Not only are their loans weighing on the family’s shoulders, but those vacant bedrooms may soon be full again. Just when you were getting used to an empty nest, your little birdies may soon be frequenting their old stomping grounds a bit more permanently than you had thought. A recent Time magazine survey found that 85 percent of new college grads move back in with mom and dad (up from 67 percent in 2006). The Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., last month hosted an event, “Why Am I Still Living In My Parent’s Basement?” where Alex Schriver, the national chairman of the College Republican National Committee, said, “18 percent of youth are unemployed, a number that is more than twice the national average, and graduating student-loan debt has reached record-breaking highs of more than $22,000.” $25,250 to be exact, according to a National Public Radio. It cited the outstanding student debt at around $1 trillion. Which part of the country has the highest student debt? Yes, you guessed it. The great and grandiose cherry blossom District of Columbia. CNBC’s special program, “Price of Admission: America’s College Debt Crisis” stated that 67 percent of students leave college with debt and among the highest are of those who attend American University (averaging $36,206 of debt). So, what does this all mean? When students leave college with such a large amount of debt, they may not shoot for the stars to be the next Barbara Walters or Mark Zuckerberg but settle in to a small office position or retail shop just to pay the bills. Founder of the Young Entrepreneur Council, Scott Gerber, said that just 54 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds actually holds jobs right now. He says Generation Y has been labeled lazy, but it isn’t necessarily the only reason why many are crawling back home. “The cards are also stacked against them,” he said. “They are going to college and getting a degree that doesn’t equate to anything. More college grads are unemployed than ever.” Not only are they jobless, but Paul Conway, president of Generation Opportunity, said that 77 percent of today’s youth will also delay a major life decision -- such as buying a house, saving for retirement or getting married -- because of their debts. The lack of jobs after graduation, Conway says, is the reason for this delay. “Graduates are not the first to be hired when the job markets begin to improve,” notes Rick Raymond of the College Parents of America. “We’re seeing a shocking number of people with undergraduates degrees who can’t get work.” Three million young men and women are expected to graduate from college this year, according to a poll by researcher Twentysomething Inc. Time magazine says these graduates will face a double-digit unemployment rate for their generation. Such statistics confront both you and your children. Perhaps it is time to remove the boxes you began storing in their rooms upstairs and continue to be a supporting shoulder for them when they move out of their independent college apartment where dreams and aspirations once ran rampant and move back home under the roof where rules and chores will once again be assigned. My grandfather always says the one thing no one can take away from you is your education. Whether there is a job out there for your child immediately or not, their time in college was not worthless and there will be something to come of it in the future. Allow them to grab the reins, hold on tight and continue to dream, because the mind is a terrible thing to waste.
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.