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Pints of ice cream from Nicecream (courtesy of Nicecream)

Arlington-based Nicecream will be celebrating National Ice Cream Day this Sunday (July 18) by offering free scoops of its frozen-to-order ice cream.

Guests can get one free scoop all day at any of Nicecream’s four locations across the D.C. area, including its original spot at 2831 Clarendon Blvd in Clarendon. For founder Sandra Tran, it’s a nice gesture after weathering COVID-19.

“The past year was scary and very, very tough for us. We are happy to have be on the other side of the pandemic and want to celebrate with the community,” she said.

It’ll also be a sweet relief from a scorching week.

Nicecream uses liquid nitrogen to freeze servings of ice cream right in front of guests. Popular flavors include Nutella, Wild Blueberry, Cherry Bourbon Chocolate Chunk and Sweet Corn.

Nicecream’s Clarendon location closed for about a month and a half last year due to the pandemic. Adapting to the decline in in-person customers, Nicecream introduced national shipping and expanded its delivery capacities.

The company opened its first storefront in Clarendon in May 2014.

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

In 2017, while a graduate student at Georgetown University, Shavini Fernando’s heart suddenly stopped beating.

“I was working, and my friend started to scream that my entire face was blue,” said Fernando, who now lives in Arlington. “It didn’t even take one minute. I couldn’t breathe and my heart stopped.” 

Fernando managed to revive herself by self-administering CPR before the oxygen supply to her brain cut out, but the incident frightened everyone around her. Fernando’s doctor at The Johns Hopkins Hospital suggested that it was no longer safe to live on her own.

But Fernando, who was unwilling to let the condition control her life, refused. Instead, she decided to develop a wearable device that continuously monitors her flow of oxygen with the help of her graduate school program director and fellow students. Whenever Fernando’s blood oxygen levels fell below a normal threshold, the ear-worn device sends an emergency alert to her doctor.

“I’m sort of a rebel. When people tell me ‘you can’t do this,’ I want to show them that I can,” Fernando said.

OxiWear founder Shavini Fernando (courtesy of Shavini Fernando)

She channeled that fighting spirit two years prior, when a cardiologist told Fernando — who was 33 at the time — that she had just two years left to live. She flew from her home country of Sri Lanka to The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for a second opinion and treatment. There, she received medicine and equipment to help manage severe pulmonary hypertension, a condition in which the heart has trouble pumping blood through the lungs. The condition leaves people vulnerable to sudden and undetected drops in oxygen, known as silent hypoxia.

This condition makes it dangerous to live in high altitudes, so rather than return home to Sri Lanka, she settled in the D.C. area to keep receiving medical treatment and start her master’s degree at Georgetown. That decision ultimately set her up to establish OxiWear so that she could share the product that she wears to survive with others.

“Most of the deaths happen in the pulmonary hypertension and cardiovascular patient community because they don’t get the help in time,” Fernando said. “If they have an alert and a way of calling for help, these deaths can be prevented.”

By the end of this year, Fernando and OxiWear plan to launch a product to be used by the public for fitness. A medical device for those with heart conditions will come later, once it gets approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

Both devices connect to a smartphone to show users their oxygen levels and enable them to contact emergency services during sudden drops.

A prototype of a forthcoming device from OxiWear (courtesy of Shavini Fernando)

OxiWear is now closing in on $1 million in funding since its launch in the spring of 2019. Most recently, after securing patents in the U.S, China and Japan, the company received investments from CIT Gap Funds and Tie DC. Before that, Fernando obtained funding through her connections at Georgetown and a crowdfunding campaign.

“Currently, there is no other device available to continuously monitor oxygen levels. OxiWear is a game changer for those affected by the complications of pulmonary hypertension, and could be the difference between safety and danger,” Tom Weithman, Managing Director of CIT GAP Funds, said in a press release.

Fernando says that investors and potential consumers initially expressed doubt about the importance of the product. As COVID-19 raised awareness of the dangers of silent hypoxia, however, OxiWear gained traction.

“Because of COVID-19, fundraising became really slow. At the same time, a lot of people started contacting us, asking, ‘Is there a way we can purchase this device?’ I’m like ‘I wish I could get it out fast, but we don’t have enough money,'” Fernando said.

In the early stages of the company, as funding dried up, Fernando and her employees went months without pay. Still, the OxiWear founder carried on.

“Even if it kills me, I will get this done. That’s why, even without funds, we’ve managed to get so far in such little time,” said Fernando. “For me, this is not about making money. It’s about helping those like me. Once you get silent hypoxia, even if you are recovered, you will end up with life-long after effects.”

Fernando and her OxiWear employees work remotely. The company’s address is publicly listed as a condo in Rosslyn.

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Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (courtesy of Sean Nguyen)

Months after parents and students wondered if rising freshmen in Arlington could attend Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, the results are in.

The Class of 2025 will include Arlington kids, although the exact number is not known.

The results, released Wednesday, cap a turbulent admissions cycle. Fairfax County Public Schools made significant changes to the school admissions criteria — among them scrapping a standardized test and written teacher recommendation — which parents protested and challenged with two lawsuits.

The changes resulted in the school’s “most diverse class in recent history.”

Thomas Jefferson, nicknamed “TJ,” is a STEM-focused magnet school open to students from Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties who meet certain academic requirements to get in. US News ranks it as the number one public high school in the United States.

While Arlington annually sends students to the school, the relationship is not a steady one. When facing a budget deficit, Arlington Public Schools sometimes suggests cutting funding. That happened earlier this year, when Superintendent Francisco Durán’s proposed budget for the 2021-22 school year, which had a $42 million gap, put TJ funding on the chopping block.

In response, some Arlington parents and students mobilized to advocate for funding tuition. Then-sophomore Lauren Fisher was among four parents and students to speak at a School Board hearing on March 23.

“If I were to sum up TJ in a few words, it would be an animated community of nerds,” Fisher said. “The students there are incredibly enthusiastic and encouraging, and this energy is contagious. I’ve never felt more encouraged to try or learn new things regardless of how nerdy they might be.”

When the School Board released its amended budget in early April, TJ was no longer among the next school year’s cuts, though the reason for the reversal was not clear.

Still, Arlington students’ access to the magnet school could end in a future budget cycle. Director of Secondary Education Tyrone Byrd tells ARLnow that in difficult budget situations, funding for the magnet school would be among the first of proposed cuts.

“Our commitment is to APS kids and APS buildings, that’s our first priority,” Byrd said. “As far as I know, there’s no purposeful movement toward removing TJ from our options to kids, but when it gets tight, we have to start looking for avenues to correct that.”

Former TJ parent Jennifer Atkin, who remains involved in the Arlington-TJ community, recalled a similar effort two years ago when then-Superintendent Patrick Murphy suggested cutting transportation funding.

“I believe one of the values that Arlington and the School Board profess is equity and access, and I think there’s a feeling amongst parents that in order for them to make good on that they really need to continue the relationship that they have with TJ,” Atkin said. “If you cut off access to this public education opportunity, what you’re really doing is cutting off access to [specialized] programs to the people who are middle and lower-income within Arlington, which runs counter to this idea that you’re promoting equity and access.”

Atkin suggests that the magnet school remains a target for budget cuts because the Arlington-TJ community is relatively small, and tuition cuts would anger fewer people than cuts to other programs. Byrd disputes that theory, saying that the county considers these cuts because the APS prioritizes its own resources first and foremost.

Should access to her school be in danger next year, senior Alexandra Fall said she is prepared to pick up where she left off in April, writing to board members and motivating peers to take action.

“I would try to get people involved,” Fall said. “I know that the community of Arlington kids at TJ is very strong because they ride the buses together and they’ve all come from a similar place.”

Fall and Atkin said they doubt the struggle to keep Arlington students at TJ will ever reach a resolution.

The problem is with every election cycle, the composition of the school board changes,” Atkin said. “Even if this school board were to say, ‘We’re going to stop proposing cuts to TJ,’ it doesn’t mean that the next school board will operate the same way. That’s the nature of politics.”

Photo courtesy of Sean Nguyen

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Thousands of historic Arlington newspaper issues from 1935 to 1978 are now available online.

Arlington Public Library’s Center for Local History worked with the Library of Virginia to transfer more than 40 years of published material to the Virginia Chronicle, where they are searchable by keyword, date, location and publication.

The materials include newspaper clippings and images published in Columbia News, the Daily Sun, and the Northern Virginia Sun. Previously, these publications were only available in the Center for Local History as microfilm and digital scans, according to Arlington Public Library’s announcement.

“Delve deeper into your family history, find information on the transformation and growth of Arlington and discover more of its unique history,” Arlington Public Library Director Diane Kresh said in a statement.

From the secession of East Falls Church to war-time turmoil to motorcycle gang shootouts, these newspapers captured a number of surprising and notable moments in Arlington’s history.

On March 12, 1936, Justice Henry Holt of the Virginia Court of Appeals allowed the secession of East Falls Church from the township of Falls Church. East Falls Church residents had been unable to deal with the confusion that came with being under the jurisdiction of both Arlington County and Falls Church.

One year later, a Black man served on an Arlington trial jury for the first time since Reconstruction. Sixty-year-old J.J. Carpenter heard the case of Carrie Branch, who was charged with assault. She was eventually convicted and sentenced to a year in county jail.

In 1938, an Arlington jury decided people could go to the movies on Sundays. They determined theaters were exempt from Virginia’s “Blue Law,” which prohibited Sunday shopping and entertainment. An editorial in “The Sun” expressed relief, casting the law as outdated.

During World War II, Arlington County Police assisted the FBI with a nationwide roundup of German and Italian immigrants, arresting five Germans in Arlington and seizing shortwave radios, shotguns, rifles, pistols, and small-caliber ammunition. Not long after, gas ration cards began to be distributed in Arlington schools, followed by sugar and boots rations.

Meanwhile, in February of 1944, Arlington’s first modern hospital opened after more than a decade of citizen-led activism. Arlington Hospital building cost $530,000 and had 100 beds and 50 nurses.

The newspaper also chronicled the saga of students Ronald Deskins, Lance Newman, Gloria Thompson and Michael Jones, who desegregated Stratford Junior High School (now Dorothy Hamm Middle School) in February 1959. An Arlington County police captain said at the time that 90 officers were stationed inside and outside the school to maintain order.

Arlington also had some gang activity in the 1960s. Police officers arrested young men and juveniles from the Pagans and Avengers, two rival motorcycle gangs, after a shooting at a shopping center. The County Board called an emergency meeting to explore stricter gun control measures and increased police power.

Over the course of a couple of weeks in 1962, while national headlines in the Northern Virginia Sun discussed President John F. Kennedy’s economic plans and the space race, local headlines were a mix of what now seems alternately antiquated and surprisingly familiar.

Amid stories of young Arlington ladies entering society and getting engaged were headlines about debates over rezoning single-family home lots to allow for apartment buildings, noise from aircraft taking off from National Airport, and the planned Lyon Village Shopping Center.

Later, in 1965, an association of area churches led a drive to push for fair housing practices while a previously widespread and deadly disease — scarlet fever — was reported to be finally on the decline.

Photos via Virginia Chronicle

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

Ostendio, an information security management company, has completed its first significant round of venture capital funding since its founding in 2014.

Company leaders said they hope the funding will help them further develop, market and provide customer service for Ostendio’s leading product: the MyVCM Trust Network. The software platform lets small and mid-size companies securely share information with third-party sellers and security auditors and demonstrate their compliance with security regulations — or find the help they need to get on track.

“Our main goals are to increase awareness of the Ostendio MyVCM platform and to grow the MyVCM Trust Network, [which] connects organizations with their vendors to help them safely share security information,” company spokeswoman Miranda Elliott said. “The funding will be used to expand the network of auditor partners, as part of the MyVCM Auditor Connect feature, and to expand our vendor risk management solution, MyVCM Vendor Connect.”

The amount of the funding was not disclosed.

Ostendio co-founders Grant Elliott and Marc Bandini (courtesy of Ostendio)

Since launching in Rosslyn in 2014, Ostendio has grown to 30 employees and more than 100,000 user activities per month on the MyVCM Trust Network platform. Elliott said that Ostendio aims to have 50 employees by the end of the year. In 2019, the company moved into a larger office in Arlington Tower (1300 17th Street N.) to accommodate its growing team. Ostendio aims to have 50 employees by the end of the year.

“With this investment we will help many more companies move away from the arcane and episodic security audit process, helping them to transition to an always on, always auditable, always secure alternative,” Ostendio CEO and Chairman Grant Elliott said in a press release.

The financing round, led by Philadelphia-based Osage Venture Partners, began in early 2020 but had to be put on hold until the fall of 2020 due to the pandemic.

“We were impressed by both the magnitude and simplicity of Ostendio’s vision in a very large market where innovation is long overdue, particularly as security and compliance requirements proliferate,” said OVP Partner Sean Dowling, who will join Ostendio’s Board of Directors.

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