Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.
On Oct. 6, the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) held its Annual Fundraiser Celebration at the Clarendon Ballroom. The event supported APAH’s mission to develop, preserve, own and advocate for quality affordable housing in Arlington, and to promote opportunity for its residents through partnerships and programs.
At the event, APAH honored Bill Fogarty of Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley & Walsh, P.C. and Mark Silverwood of Silverwood Companies for their contributions to affordable housing in Arlington.
The importance of APAH’s mission was captured in the following remarks delivered by Allyson Suria, who lives in one of APAH’s affordable housing communities:
My name is Allyson Suria, and I am 19 years old. I am an APAH resident and a member of Mi Voz Cuenta. You may remember me from the County Board meeting where I shared my testimony in support of the Affordable Housing Master Plan.
I came to Arlington from El Salvador in 2004. I attended Barcroft Elementary School, Kenmore Middle School and Washington-Lee High School. Coming from a low-income family, I was a FARM (Free and Reduced Meal) student until graduation. Although I did not have as many resources as many classmates, through support from both my family and my teachers I was able to succeed in school.
I was excited to learn and tried my best to be an exemplary student. By age 10 in 5th grade, I was completely integrated with the rest of the English-speaking students and quickly became an honor student.
My family valued the education my brother and I were receiving from the Arlington Public Schools (APS). So as rent prices rose, we moved all across Arlington — a total of 11 times.
Despite the frequent moves, I continued to excel and my teachers recognized this. I was student of the quarter and semester several times, I was invited to attend youth summits, and received several awards during my APS years.
At Washington-Lee, I took AP courses, IB courses and dual enrollment courses; was president of clubs, a leader in my community, and graduated with an advance diploma.
Currently, I am pursuing an education major at Marymount University where I am a member of the Education School’s honor association and the Dean’s List. Additionally, I am president and founder of Marymount DREAMers — a club for immigrant youth and our allies.
For the past three years our family has lived in an affordable housing property and it has improved our lives by adding much necessary stability.
It has also helped us feel a part of the community. After living in apartments we had no personal connection to, we now live in an apartment we call home and we consider ourselves a part of the neighborhood. I feel motivated to participate more passionately in my community. I now invite others to become civically engaged so they too can enjoy such a feeling.
My brother and I continue to excel in school because we have affordable housing.
My parents always say “We know in the future you will be able to do more than we have in our lifetime.” I believe them. Thanks to my stable home and to my academic efforts, perhaps in the future I will no longer be an affordable housing resident but rather an Arlington home-owner.
This is why affordable housing is important to me. I want our future generations to have better access to economic mobility. In order for students to excel and become successful professionals they need two very important things: 1) a stable home like the one I am blessed to have thanks to APAH; and 2) a world-class education just like the one I feel so privileged to have received from APS.
On behalf of all the families who live in the APAH properties, I would like to give a sincere thank you to all the employees, the donors, volunteers, and board members at APAH. Your contributions to this great organization truly improve our lives and make Arlington our home.
Allyson Suria is a Marymount University student and Arlington resident.