Last week, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, announced a $5 million donation to a non-profit right here in Arlington.
The announcement came via a Facebook post to Zuckerberg’s 32.7 million followers which has reached 153,072 likes and counting.
The organization in question, TheDream.US, is a scholarship fund designed to help undocumented immigrants realize their dreams of going to college in the United States. The brainchild of Don Graham, CEO of Graham Holdings Company and former publisher of the Washington Post, the non-profit has made its home in Graham’s Rosslyn offices for the past two years.
Through his work with other education-based charities in the area, Graham says he learned that there were many such undocumented students in the D.C. metro area, particularly in Northern Virginia.
These students are commonly called DREAMers after the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act that has been proposed several times since 2001 but has yet to pass in Congress. DREAMers are unable to receive federal aid to continue their education. In most states they are also not eligible for in-state tuition, which can make going to college prohibitively expensive.
“Certainly in Arlington County, almost every high school student has classmates who are DREAMers, and they quickly come to understand the unique cruelty of the situation of these students,” Graham told ARLnow.com. “They can be the valedictorian, they can be the president of the class. All the other low-income students in the class get U.S. government assistance in going on to higher education, and these students cannot.”
Graham says his organization was empowered to tackle this issue head-on after President Barack Obama announced Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in 2012. DACA allowed undocumented immigrants who had come to the United States when they were children to obtain a Social Security number, a driver’s license and temporary legal status, renewable after two years.
In the summer of 2013, Graham, program director Gaby Pacheco and Henry Muñoz III gathered people together and proposed the idea of a scholarship program to enable those who had obtained DACA status to go to college. Amanda Bennett and Carlos Gutierrez joined Graham and Muñoz in founding TheDream.US, which officially launched on Feb. 4, 2014.
TheDream.US currently partners with about 60 colleges across the U.S. Pacheco says they look for schools located in areas with high concentrations of undocumented students, where you can get a good education for around $25,000 (the scholarship amount offered by the non-profit). In Virginia, TheDream.US partners with Northern Virginia Community College and George Mason University.
The fund currently has $81 million, including donations in the millions from Graham, Zuckerberg, Bill Ackman and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. TheDream.US also allows donors to specify where they want their money to go: for example, Zuckerberg’s $5 million donation was earmarked for students in the San Francisco Bay Area. Pacheco believes this ability to ask that their money be set aside for their own region attracts donors to the organization.
“People love to be able to help out in their own community,” she said. “Many affluent people have foundations in their names or their family names, so we target them and say, ‘look, we can bring a scholarship program to your area.'”
Graham says that as of now, the organization expects to see at least 3,000 students graduate college, but that he “would like to raise more money and make it at least 5,000, and possibly go from there.”
Another part of the organization’s mission is to tell these students’ stories. TheDream.US is doing this through their stories project, which spotlights the lives of notable DREAM scholars. Interns Julia Leibowitz and Sadhana Singh (a current DREAMer) are working on the project this summer in the Rosslyn office.
“For us, it’s really about leveling the field for these young people to go to college,” said Pacheco. “We’re going to allow our numbers to speak for themselves, and show that we are helping meet the gap for people needed in various fields.”
Arlington Public Schools has joined several popular social media websites in an effort to better communicate with the community at large.
In an effort to increase communications and strengthen ties with Arlington Public Schools families and the community, APS has developed a social media presence. The Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts will go live on Mon, Jan. 14.
These new communication channels will provide the APS community with more ways to receive information about current events, capital improvements, the budget, boundaries and other initiatives, as well as all the news and events going on throughout APS.
Voter Turnout Just Missed Record — A record number of voters turned out in Arlington for the Nov. 6 election, but the turnout just missed the record for percentage of active voters who cast ballots. In the end, 84.6 percent of active voters in Arlington cast ballots, just shy of the 84.9 percent active voter turnout for the 1992 general election. [Sun Gazette]
County to Hold Recycling Chat Today — Arlington County officials will be holding an online chat about residential recycling today. The “Ask the Expert” chat will be conducted via Facebook from noon to 1:00 p.m. [Facebook]
JBG Installs EV Chargers — Property owner JBG has installed a number of electric vehicle charges at its Arlington properties. The company says charging stations have been installed at the Hilton Crystal City (2399 Jefferson Davis Highway) and at the Rosslyn Gateway buildings (1911/1901 N. Lynn Street). The charging stations, part of the Blink charger network, offer priority parking to electric vehicle owners, according to a press release.
Rosslyn will be playing host to two Social Media Week events tonight.
The week celebrates social media — think: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. — and “its role as a catalyst in driving cultural, economic, political and social change in developed and emerging markets.” This is the first year that the D.C. area formally hosted events for Social Media Week, which now counts 21 cities worldwide as participants.
Rosslyn’s Social Media Week events will take place at Artisphere (1101 Wilson Blvd) starting at 8:00 tonight. First up is is e-Geaux (beta), an interactive theater event that finds comedy and some cautionary tales in social media. e-Geaux — pronounced “ego” — has been profiled on NPR, DCist.com and elsewhere. Tickets to the show, at Artisphere’s Dome Theater, cost $15.
After the e-Geaux performance is Tweet Slam. Starting at 9:30 p.m., in the Artisphere “town hall” area, poetry will meet Twitter in a contest to come up with the most creative Tweet. Per the event description:
Calling all slam poets, haiku masters and creative tweeps! What poetic wisdom can you impart in 140 characters or less? Come perform your lyrical Tweets in a slam judged by local social media stars and you can win $140 and bragging rights.
Among the judges will be poet Holly Bass and NBC4’s Angie Goff. Admission is free. Drinks are discounted to $2 with an e-Geaux ticket stub.
The Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network is asking Arlingtonians to help them win a new van.
A-SPAN is one of 500 finalists in the Toyota 100 Cars for Good contest, which is awarding a new vehicle to 100 charitable organizations over the course of 100 days. Each day, the public can vote for one of five nonprofits via Toyota’s Facebook page.
Today, A-SPAN is up against organizations like a Florida arts center, an Illinois animal shelter, a Connecticut HIV/AID clinic and the large, nationwide service organization City Year.
“We are very excited to participate in this contest and have the chance to win a new van for outreach. We are placing more people into housing than ever before, but the first step for each of these formerly homeless people was an A-SPAN outreach staff person finding and building a connection with them,” A-SPAN Executive Director Kathleen Sibert said in a statement. “A new van will help us with this, please encourage all of your friends to vote too!”
A-SPAN has also released a video (after the jump) explaining how a van would help the organization. Vote for them here.
As it turns out, Semenko is a fan of parties, ironic t-shirts and Bill Clinton masks. He has just over 400 Facebook friends, although that number is steadily decreasing as his former friends dissociate themselves from him.
The Wall Street Journal didn’t stop at Facebook. It accessed Semenko’s page on a Russian social networking website.
In 2008 a friend of Semenko said on the site, apparently as a joke, “Hi to our valiant spy deep behind the nasty Americans’ lines. Remember the teachings of Mao: destroy the filthy imperialist economy from within!!”
Photo via Gawker.