From my first breath at Virginia Hospital Center to walking across DAR Constitution Hall for high school graduation, Arlington has been my home since birth. Despite the county’s growing hype around millennials, 18.5% of Arlington’s total population is 18 years or younger. That’s over 40,000 children, 27,000 of which are enrolled across Arlington’s nearly three dozen public K-12 schools.
There’s no complicated way to go around it: it has been a fantastic privilege to grow up in Arlington and I am not alone in this thought. Along with many of my friends and classmates, I was born here. I attended a private daycare, spent many of my childhood days swinging at the Harrison Street playground and went to preschool at The Children’s School in Westover.
When I was ready to attend kindergarten, my parents faced no qualms about a waitlist for a private education. Arlington’s public schools are as great as they come. Even a quick glance at national school rankings makes it clear why so many parents choose to live in Arlington and commute elsewhere for work.
I lived the first ten years of my life in Westover in a quaint two-bedroom home. I shared my bedroom with my little sister and attended McKinley Elementary School, where I received a great education. When my youngest sister was born, we decided it was time to move. We moved when I was in the fifth grade to a four-bedroom house in the Williamsburg neighborhood, which meant that I would have to attend a different middle school than all of my peers.
At eleven years old, that’s about as devastating as it comes. Yet looking back, I simply moved from a great neighborhood to another great neighborhood. In both middle school and high school there was never a day where there wasn’t something to do, whether in the county or across the river in the nation’s capital.
Now I’m 20 years old and attend college at Boston University. My high school friends are all over the map, some up north like me and many others still here in Virginia. However we’ve all looked back fondly at our time growing up in Arlington and come to the realization that we’ve all had it very, very good.
“I’ve had a chance now to see a little bit more of the country and I realize how lucky and privileged I’ve been with just about every aspect of my upbringing here,” said Maddie Donley, a rising junior at the University of Virginia. “People always say that they want to escape [Arlington], but I’ve come to see it as a great networking resource and an incredible place to call home.”
Kimberly Estoque, a 20 year old student at George Mason, said Arlington’s growth and prosperity helped to drive and motivate her as she transitioned to adulthood.
“Growing up here gave me a sense of what true innovation is, it’s truly a place that is always thriving to grow in order to make the community better,” she said.
Though a major component of it, public school attendance alone does not define the Arlington born-and-raised experience. Paulie Jesukiewicz is a student at High Point University who grew up in Arlington but attended Bishop Ireton High School, a private school in Alexandria.
“I still hang out with my best friends from kindergarten even though we went to different high schools, but I definitely think the biggest perk of growing up here is the proximity to the city,” said Jesukiewicz. “It’s given me bigger goals in life.”
Across the board, myself included, the true privilege of growing up in Arlington wasn’t completely known until it was finally seen from the outside. Agreeing with this is Rhys Davis, a student at St. John’s College in Maryland, who also grew up here.
“Growing up in Arlington feels like a prototypical suburban experience, until you meet people from other suburban cities in America,” said Davis. “In a university away from Virginia, I’ve learned how to appreciate the good in Arlington and recognize its flaws.”
I don’t think I would be the person I am today had I not grown up in Arlington. I am tremendously thankful for the opportunities and memories this county has presented me (including a fantastic internship writing for this very publication), and I carry it with me every day.
Kalina Newman is a ARLnow.com summer intern. Screen capture (above) via Arlington TV.