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Virginia Tech Helps Working Professionals Advance Their Careers in Tech

No matter what industry you work in, technology is constantly changing. Companies are searching for candidates with new skillsets and experience with emerging technologies.

At Virginia Tech’s Northern Virginia Center, adjacent to the West Falls Church Metro station, an administrative team manages more than 600 online graduate students looking to develop new skills and fill gaps on their resume.

Virginia Tech developed its #2 nationally-ranked Master of Information Technology program (VT-MIT) in 1999 in response to a request by the Commonwealth of Virginia to help meet the growing demand for employees in the information technology field.

Since then, the 100% online program has kept pace with changes in technology, in both course delivery and course options.

Working professionals from across the country are taking the online courses at their own pace and designing a degree that works for their individual goals, whether they are a seasoned IT professional or looking to shift into a tech career.

VT-MIT currently offers 11 areas of specialization, including Analytics and Business Intelligence, Big Data, Cybersecurity, Health Information Technology and Software Development.

The program also offers six Graduate Certificate options for professionals that are not looking to pursue a full degree.

VT-MIT plans to continue adding new courses and Graduate Certificates that keep up with current trends in tech, particularly as the wider university takes on a central role in the cybersecurity ecosystem.

In 2010, Virginia Tech launched the Hume Center to lead the university’s research and experiential learning programs in national security. The center now has a research facility in Ballston.

Just this past summer, the Commonwealth of Virginia announced that Virginia Tech will lead its $25 million Commonwealth Cyber Initiative.

For more information about Virginia Tech’s 100% online Master of Information Technology Program, visit www.vtmit.vt.edu or sign up for an upcoming information session.

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Rosslyn’s Art Institute of Washington Set to Close, Stop Accepting New Students

The Rosslyn-based Art Institute of Washington is now set to shut down, and has stopped accepting applications for new students.

A spokeswoman for the college’s owner, Dream Center Education Holdings, confirmed today (Monday) that the Arlington location at 1820 N. Fort Myer Drive is among 30 of the company’s campuses set to close soon. The Raleigh News and Observer reported earlier today on an internal memo showing that the Rosslyn campus would be closing.

Anne Dean, the spokeswoman for DCEH, noted that the closure would impact “new students only” in the near term.

“We will redirect prospective students to our online offerings or one of our other campuses,” Dean wrote in a statement. “Current, active students should continue to attend class as scheduled.”

Dean did not say when, exactly, the campus would close for good. It’s been open in Rosslyn since 2000, and offers programs on everything from fashion to graphic design to culinary arts.

DCEH, a for-profit company, bought the Art Institute brand, as well as South University and Argosy University, late last year for $60 million. Since then, Dean wrote that the company has been “undergoing an ongoing process of evaluating the viability of certain campus-based programs relative to student needs and preferences in order to best support our students, both present and future.”

Though records show the Arlington campus, a branch of the Art Institute of Atlanta, has remained fully accredited, the company has struggled to maintain its credentials at other programs. The News and Observer also reported that DCEH has had trouble winning approval from the U.S. Department of Education to convert the Art Institute colleges into nonprofit entities.

“While we actively work with our accreditors and regulators to assess the viability of our current offerings at these locations, DCEH remains steadfast in our mission to provide students with accessible, affordable, relevant and purposeful education aligned with market demands,” Dean wrote.

The company also operates an Argosy University campus in Arlington, but that location is set to remain open.

H/t Rob Stern. Flickr pool photo by PDerby.

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Arlington Named Second Best-Place for Recent College Grads

Arlington is the second-best “city” in the nation for recent college graduates, according to the website NerdWallet.

Arlington County received high marks for “the environment offered for recent college graduates looking to get a foothold in the working world,” which factors in “jobs, age of the population, rent costs, median earnings and unemployment.”

Arlington was second only to Madison, Wisconsin, and ahead of Seattle, Minneapolis and Boston, which ranked No. 3-5.

Here’s what NerdWallet wrote about Arlington:

Just over the Potomac River from the nation’s capital, Arlington is part of the densely populated region known as Northern Virginia, or NOVA. Rents are the highest among the top 10 — a median of $1,844 a month — and third-highest in our analysis. That the median income is $75,025 doesn’t quite offset the cost of living: Arlington’s young professionals still pour about 30% of their income into rent. Where it thrives is the percentage of workers in high-paying management, business, science and arts occupations (topping our list at 68%), likely due to the large technology, government contracting and finance employers in the region.

“With employers reporting plans to hire 5% more graduates in 2017 than in 2016, it appears the employment outlook for recent graduates is on the upswing,” said a NerdWallet PR rep. “That’s good news for the city [sic] of Arlington.”

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Brewing a Better Way to Stay Awake at Crystal City-Based Sunniva

Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

College students fall asleep in class. It’s an age-old issue. But a new solution to the problem is what prompted the launch of Sunniva, an Arlington-based “super coffee” beverage business.

A couple of years ago Jordan DeCicco was that guy who kept falling asleep in his classes at Philadelphia University. The freshman tried to stay awake using the energy drinks or pre-made coffee beverages available at convenience stores, but he didn’t like all the sugar, fat, caffeine, and calories that accompanied the beverages.

He learned about Bulletproof Coffee — a blended mixture of coffee, grass-fed butter, and MCT oil — and found that it definitely gave the energy boost he needed to stay awake through class. He tried making it in his dorm room but that wasn’t really practical for a few reasons. First, making it ahead of time and trying to chill it resulted in the butter going back to its solid form. Second, it was loaded with fat from the butter. Finally, Jordan just wasn’t a fan of the taste.

Sunniva "super coffee" beverageThat’s when he started making his own coffee drink and it seemed to be a winner. So much so that other students took notice and DeCicco began selling the drink out of his dorm room. He felt like he was onto something and enlisted help from older brother Jake, who at the time was in business school at Georgetown University.

“We’re very much accidental entrepreneurs,” Jake says. “We were just tired college students who needed an energy boost.”

Sunniva’s combination of Colombian coffee, coconut oil, and a lactose-free milk protein is a low-fat, low-cal beverage that, according to Jake, offers a longer-term energy boost compared to other products that often provide an energy spike and a crash later. Each bottle has 90mg of caffeine, which is pretty standard for an 8 oz. cup of coffee.

Sunniva is now about a year old and based out of the WeWork space in Crystal City. Oldest brother Jim is now the CEO and joins middle brother Jake in running the business, while youngest brother Jordan has gone back to school after taking a year off following his freshman year.

The business is coming full circle and targeting the very audience from which the original idea sprouted: Sunniva has found a substantial niche market on college campuses. It therefore relies heavily on digital marketing channels that younger audiences use: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs, and vlogs, to name a few.

“Being started by tired college kids for tired college kids, we really take advantage of this digital age,” Jake says.

The DeCicco brothers, who launched Arlington-based SunnivaThe brothers often are featured in the various social media posts. “We definitely have a personality behind the brand,” Jake says. He laughs as he points out how they often go by “oldest brother, middle brother, and youngest brother” instead of by formal titles like CEO, COO, or founder.

In addition to a growing market on college campuses, Sunniva also has found a home in the cold beverage section of 32 Whole Foods stores in the Mid-Atlantic region, as well as on Amazon.

The product is processed at an aseptic facility in Buffalo, New York. The business tried out different manufacturers and different modes of pasteurization before landing at the current facility. “We had to scale our business appropriately to get there,” Jake says.

Sunniva currently processes about 200,000 bottles per batch. The product now is made in such a way that it doesn’t require refrigeration before opening; it’s shelf-stable for nine months.

Sunniva’s business plan involves further expansion into other Mid-Atlantic and northern East Coast markets up to Boston, with a longer-term goal of becoming a national brand. But the goal for early 2017 is to work on more local market penetration. The brothers want Sunniva to be the “premier bottled coffee in the Washington, D.C. area.”

“Reaching profitability is not a metric we use right now,” Jake says. “Right now we’re really focused on our philosophy of ‘win where you live’ and being hyperlocal.”

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Making Saving for College Easier at ‘Leaf’

Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Leaf College SavingsThe skyrocketing cost of higher education can make saving and paying for college overwhelming. So you might want to “leaf” the burden to the experts.

Leaf College Savings co-founders Juan Aguilar, Chris Duffus and Josh Bixler set out with the goal of making it easier to save for college. More specifically, they wanted to find an easier way to give the gift of college savings because, as Aguilar says, “it’s a complicated web out there of college savings.”

The collaborators previously had been colleagues at another Arlington business and regrouped a few years after that company sold. Leaf has been around for about three years now and the Rosslyn-based business has nearly 20 employees.

Leaf enables people to purchase an FDIC-insured gift card which transfers money directly into any 529 college savings plan. If the recipient doesn’t have a college savings account, the business will help set one up.

“It’s a gift that says something very special and very specific,” Aguilar says.

Another option Leaf offers is for an employer to allow payroll contributions to go toward a college savings gift, in a similar way to how a 401(k) works.

“That’s the headache we’re solving right now,” says Aguilar. “The gift card is one idea, a payroll deduction… is idea number two.”

Aguilar points out that children are more likely to pursue higher education if they have some savings set aside for it. He says Leaf offers ways to start saving early — for example, by giving one of the gift cards at a baby shower — and all of the contributions will add up over the child’s lifetime.

“We’re not trying to say a gift card will pay for every dime. But we say that every little bit helps and you need to get started somewhere,” he says. “Over time it will grow into something, which is certainly better than not having made a plan or waiting until it’s too late.”

The business continues to evolve and improve based on feedback from customers and research on changes and trends for savings plans. Employees currently are devising a payroll benefits program to help workers pay off their student loans. Leaf is working on the idea with companies interested in using such a benefit as a recruitment and retention incentive.

“The amount of college debt is staggering,” Aguilar says. “Companies love the idea of college savings and helping employees with student loans.”

As a testament to the benefits Leaf provides, Aguilar says he uses the services for his own kids.

“On a personal level, being able to use Leaf myself… it’s good to see the product work and that it really helps people,” he says. “I’m happy that we’re helping people save for college.”

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App to Help Campus Sexual Assault Victims Access Resources

Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

actNOW app prototypeRecently there has been more attention paid to how incidents of sexual assault are handled on college campuses. The team behind actNOW wants to help the victims of those campus assaults easily get access to the resources they need to deal with the frightening, overwhelming issue.

Co-founder Mark Harris says actNOW is a “survivor-centered model to help after an assault has occurred.” Many sexual assault victims are “unfamiliar with how to [report the incident]. There’s a lot of information on websites, but it’s not streamlined,” Harris says. That realization prompted him to look for a way to gather all the information into one place and make it available on a convenient mobile platform.

The web- and app-based service will allow victims of sexual assault to report the incident — either anonymously or with identifying information — to the authorities of their choice. The user enters information about the incident and can choose to inform the university, the campus Title IX office and/or the police.

Users who enter information and then don’t feel like they want to send it can also choose to store the information until they are ready to pass it on to officials. “After an event that is really traumatic, a person may want to wait to come forward,” explains co-founder and certified sexual assault nurse Stacy Garrity.

According to co-founder Lee Reynolds, the actNOW team wanted to “deliver something that’s uactNOW app prototypeseful and impactful” to allow victims to “tell their stories and… know it’s not the end of the road.”

The team members add that this is not a platform for people to put their stories out to the public or media, but rather for victims to report incidents to authorities. But it isn’t only intended to be a reporting platform; the app also will link victims to physical and psychological healthcare providers.

The service makes it less intimidating to report incidents and takes the guesswork out of trying to discover or remember available resources, the co-founders say. Harris stresses that “actNOW is a liaison to the services. We do not provide the actual psychological or physical health services.”

The service started as Harris’ academic project at Georgetown University, and he found Garrity through researching sexual assault resources. Along with Harris’ longtime friend Reynolds, the three officially launched actNOW in March. The Arlington-based business now has six employees.

Much time has been dedicated to researching and initiating appropriate app security measures for both sexual assault victims and the universities where assaults occur. “We have to be mindful of each university’s rules for investigations,” Harris says. In addition, actNOW employees want to make sure strong security measures are in place to ensure the utmost protection for victims’ identifying information and HIPAA privacy.

The actNOW team at a pitch competitionCurrently, actNOW has an app prototype and employees are getting feedback on it from sexual assault victims; so far, the response has been positive. The employees are actively seeking funding and participated in a pitch competition a couple weeks ago. They’re working toward formal app development, which they hope to begin with a tech firm in the next few weeks. If all goes well, they’d like to send the finished app to universities in April 2017 during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

The goal is to spend the next three years or so maturing actNOW through activities such as receiving focus group feedback and adding additional features to the service. Eventually, employees would like to explore the possibility of expanding the service to the military.

As far as measuring success with the tool, the actNOW team says that’s achieved when people actually use the tool to get help. “It’s really hard for people to report sexual assault,” Garrity says. “So when we start to see usage of the product, I think we’ll see success.”

The team hopes their passion for developing empowerment through technology will help victims both in the short term and down the road, while simultaneously raising awareness about sexual assault.

“We want to put control back in our users’ hands,” Harris says.

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Morning Notes

2016 election-themed Halloween display on Key Blvd (photo by Katie Pyzyk)

Earthquake Drill Today — Virginia and a handful of other states will be participating in the Great SouthEast ShakeOut earthquake drill today at 10:20 a.m. [ShakeOut.org]

Sobering News on Office Vacancies — County officials are warning that Arlington’s office vacancy rate will remain relatively high for the foreseeable future. Optimistically, economic development officials believe that by “slowly and steadily” winning lease renewals and new tenants, the vacancy rate could decline to just past 15 percent, from the current 20 percent, within a few years. [InsideNova]

Arlington No. 8 on Marathon Training Rankings — Arlington County has ranked No. 8 on a list of the best places to train for a marathon. The county earned high marks for its parks, its walkability and its climate. [Competitor]

Most Popular College Applications — The three top schools in terms of the number of applications from the high school class of 2016 in Arlington were: 1. Virginia Commonwealth University, 2. University of Virginia and 3. Virginia Tech. [Arlington Magazine]

Arlington’s Commuter Efforts Lauded — “Arlington County Commuter Services (ACCS) is being recognized for weaving mobility into broader efforts to improve local quality of life and economic competitiveness. ACCS was named by the Association for Commuter Transportation as having the best transportation demand management (TDM) program among all large municipalities in the United States.” [Arlington County]

Photo courtesy Katie Pyzyk

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Tip Leads to Arrest of Suspected Argumentative Face-Slasher

Calderon, Ramon mugshot (photo courtesy ACPD))A police tip earlier this month led to the arrest of a man suspected of slashing another man in the face after an argument last June, police announced this morning.

According to the authorities, a tip received through Arlington County Crime Solvers led to the arrest of 24-year-old Ramon Calderon on April 14.

Calderon is suspected of brandishing a pocket knife, then cutting another man across the face at the Gunston Middle School soccer fields in June. The attack caused “a fairly large laceration,” on the victim’s face according to police, and resulted in significant bleeding due to a cut minor artery. The man was rushed to George Washington University Hospital, where he received 60 stitches.

Police said last June that the two men were arguing about the “worth and importance of a college education” before the attack, but they did not specify whether the suspect was arguing for or against the value of higher education.

Photo courtesy ACPD

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Morning Notes

Traffic in Rosslyn (photo by Bruce Majors)

It’s February — Today is the first day of February. As happens every four years, this year February will have an extra leap day — Monday, Feb. 29.

New Beer Store Now Open — The Brew Shop, a new craft beer store near Courthouse, opened its doors on Friday. The store is located at 2004 Wilson Blvd. [Instagram]

Top Colleges for Class of 2015 — In terms of applications sent, the top three colleges to which Arlington’s high school class of 2015 applied are: 3. University of Virginia, 2. Virginia Commonwealth University and 1. James Madison University. Arlington students sent a total of 321 applications to JMU. [Arlington Magazine]

Tomorrow: Celebrating Stratford’s Integration — On Tuesday evening Arlington County will hold a special event honoring the four African American seventh-graders who integrated Stratford Junior High — the current home of H-B Woodlawn — in 1959. [Twitter, Arlington County]

There Are Still Snow Boulders in Arlington — A number of Arlington residents are frustrated that some sidewalks, streets and parking lots are still obstructed by large piles of snow. [WJLA]

Scott Walker Owes Shirlington Company $60K — The campaign of former GOP presidential candidate (and Wisconsin governor) Scott Walker owes Shirlington-based Lukens Company $59,140 for direct mail, printing and postage services. It’s the fourth-largest debt listed by the campaign in public documents. [Milwaukee Business Journal]

Win: District Taco Makes ‘Cheap Eats’ List — District Taco has made a BuzzFeed list of “21 Delicious D.C. Eats That Won’t Break The Bank.” Amsterdam Falafel, which has a location in Clarendon, is also on the list. [BuzzFeed]

Fireball Spotted Saturday Night — A very bright meteor that streaked across the sky in the Northeastern U.S. Saturday night was captured on a dash cam in the Skyline section of Fairfax County. [Capital Weather Gang]

Photo by Bruce Majors

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Zuckerberg-Backed Rosslyn Non-Profit Helps Immigrants Realize College Dreams

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.”

Students who wish to apply for a scholarship can do so starting on Sept. 14, when the third national scholarship round opens. Those wishing to donate can do so through the organization’s website.

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Argument Over The Value of a College Education Ends in Slashing

ACFD ambulance / advanced life support paramedic unit (file photo)An argument between two men about the value of a college education ended with one of the men being slashed across the face.

The malicious wounding incident happened Friday night around 8:30 at the Gunston Middle School soccer fields. Police say two men were having a verbal argument when one of them brandished a pocket knife and cut the victim across the face, from the corner of the mouth to the ear.

The slash caused “a fairly large laceration,” according to police, and resulted in significant bleeding due to a cut minor artery. The victim was rushed to George Washington University Hospital, where he received 60 stitches.

The suspect fled the scene and the investigation “is ongoing.” The suspect is described as a Hispanic male, about 6’3″ and 220 lbs. At the time of the incident was wearing a pink Nike polo shirt and blue jeans, police say.

The argument started when the men began debating the “worth and importance of a college education,” police say. The suspect became angry during the argument, at which point he pulled out the pocket knife. A crime report did not specify whether the suspect was arguing for or against the value of higher education.

File photo

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Va. Campus Sexual Assault Bills Signed Into Law

State Senate candidate Barbara Favola

Three bills dealing with sexual assault on college campuses, championed by local state Sen. Barbara Favola, were signed into law by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe yesterday (May 28).

The bills deal with reporting of sexual assault occurrences on public college campuses. State Sen. Barbara Favola, who represents part of Arlington in Virginia’s 31st District, helped write the legislation, including a bill that required campus safety officials to be part of a threat assessment team formed after a student reports sexual assault. The establishment of a threat assessment team is required by Title IX.

Under Title IX, a federal law that deals with preventing discrimination based on gender, certain college administrators must report sexual assault to law enforcement. It is also part of the Clery Act, which requires schools publicly report crimes on campuses. The new laws will make it a state requirement as well.

Under the Favola’s amendment to the bill, a threat assessment team, which will include campus safety officials, has to investigate a sexual assault claim without releasing the name of the survivor. If the team determines that there is a legitimate threat to the survivor, it will then release the name to local law enforcement or a local state attorney if necessary.

The bill was originally authored by Sen. Richard Black, who represents Viriginia’s 13th District. The original bill, sparked by the Rolling Stone article about University Virginia, had campus officials report a sexual assault to law enforcement immediately after a report was filed, Favola said.

When campus administrators heard about the bill, they came to Favola for help. The officials told her they thought the bill would discourage people from reporting sexual assaults to the school because it would go to the police, she said.

Many sexual survivors have to process the trauma of a sexual assault, and some survivors do not want to report to police, Favola said.

The signed bill now allows survivors to have time to accept the traumatic event as well as get some counseling, Favola said. A second bill, also signed by McAuliffe, includes a memorandum of understanding, which helps survivors get counseling.

“I think we ended up in the absolute right place,” Favola said.

The bill is another “hammer” to make sure colleges do not sweep sexual assault reports under the rug, according to Favola. Sexual assault reporting has garnered national attention as the Department of Education opened Title IX investigations to look at how colleges handle sexual assault reports. As of May 13, there were 111 colleges on the list, including five Virginia schools, according to the Huffington Post.

Favola is not sure if reported cases of sexual assault will go up with the new laws in place. Some believe there will be more cases reported because the state government is trying to make the bill very public in order to ensure that students and colleges know about the new process.

Arlington’s Marymount University will be among the colleges subject to the new laws. Marymount reported two cases of forcible sex offenses on campus for 2013, in its 2014 Campus Safety report.

Favola says she’s not done with sexual assault legislation. She is now turning to prevention at colleges.

“As a parent, as a woman, as someone who’s been a part-time employee of a university for 19 years, our children need to be safe,” Favola said.

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W-L Student Goes 5-for-5 in Ivy League Acceptances

Brandi Moore with her 13 college acceptance letters

Brandi Moore is far from your typical high school student.

Most days, she goes to bed at midnight or later to study or finish. Some days, she wakes up at 5:00 a.m. to get in a few extra hours of studying before attending classes at Washington-Lee High School. In the evenings or on weekends, you can find her performing in one of a handful of theater groups — at school or otherwise — or volunteering to clean up streams and mark sewer grates.

High-achieving students, especially in Arlington, are hardly news. But what makes Brandi stand out, her father George tells ARLnow.com, is her own self-possessed drive.

“I never had to push her to read or anything,” he said. “I used to have to tell her to stop reading and go to bed. I’ve never even had to look at her grades online. She just naturally absorbs stuff and wants to learn.”

Brandi’s hard work has paid off. This week, she received acceptance letters from all five Ivy League universities she applied to: Cornell, Brown, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia and Harvard. Those letters came after she had already been accepted at eight other schools, making her 13-for-13 in college applications.

A month before her flood of Ivy League acceptance letters, Brandi said she received “likely” letters from four of the schools, something she said the Ivy League universities only send to a few hundred students.

“They helped the process a lot. I knew my fate would be decided, because I was already pretty sure I was getting in,” she said.

Before she got those “likely” letters, it was a different story. Her first letter and package was from Brown University in Providence, R.I., which had been her dream school since she was 8 years old.

“When we got a pretty sizeable package from Brown, we didn’t know what it was,” she said, referring to the piece of mail that came. After she opened it, “I lost it. I was really excited.”

The Moores live in the Columbia Heights neighborhood, and Brandi has risen through the ranks of Arlington Public Schools, from Campbell Elementary School, to Kenmore Middle and now Washington-Lee. The 18-year-old senior has narrowed down her choices to Brown and the Ivy League school that gave her the biggest financial package: Harvard. The family will be traveling to Cambridge, Mass., tomorrow to visit the oldest university in the United States.

“Harvard is really, really pushing her,” George Moore said. He added that the whole process has been “so strange,” because, after all, what parent expects Ivy League schools to fight over any student? Reed College in Oregon paid for her to fly across the country to visit the campus. “I knew something was going on when they flew her out there and paid for everything. I thought ‘something special’s going on here.’ It just sort of comes one after another. It’s hard to keep up.”

Brandi said she hopes to make her decision in the next week. Next year, she hopes to start studying biology or something in the life sciences, while keeping up with theater, her passion. Brown appeals to her because the school doesn’t have a core curriculum; students can take whatever classes they want. On the other hand, Harvard is Harvard.

Either way, it’s clear she’s ready for bigger and better things.

“Our classes in high school, there are kids who love what’s going on in the classroom, there are kids who don’t love it as much,” she said. “I’m excited about being in the class where everyone loves learning. I’m just generally excited to see what my limits are and what I’m really going to end up doing. I really want to find myself.”

Photo courtesy George Moore

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Sexual Assault Bill Sponsored by Favola, Ebbin Passes Senate

State Sen. Barbara Favola speaks to the crowd at the groundbreaking for the Union at Queen apartmentsA bill co-sponsored by Arlington legislators that would require college campuses to provide survivors of sexual assaults with options for off-campus resources — like counseling and law enforcement — has passed the state Senate.

Sens. Barbara Favola (D) and Adam Ebbin (D) are co-patrons of SB 1329, which would require colleges to establish memorandums of understanding with “a local sexual assault crisis center or other victim support service,” refer victims to the center and encourage them to preserve physical evidence for a police investigation.

“This legislation represents a positive step in protecting our young people and making college campuses safer,” Favola said in a press release. “SB 1329 strengthens support systems for sexual assault survivors and empowers these survivors to pursue charges against their assailants.”

The bill would also allow victims to submit anonymous reports and provides “for nonretaliation by the institution against victims who fear their conduct may also be questioned or who are concerned that an official report might jeopardize their academic status.”

The bill passed the Senate unanimously. It also was referred out of two committees unanimously. It will now go before the heavily Republican House of Delegates.

The Senate also unanimously passed two companion bills, SB 1193 and SB 712. SB 1193 would require colleges and universities to prominently mark a student’s permanent transcript if the student withdraws, is expelled or is placed on probation for a sexual assualt violation. SB 712 requires higher education employees to report any student sexual assault they are aware of to the campus’ Title IX coordinator within four hours.

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Lopez Gears up for Fight Against Anti-Immigrant Bills

Alfonso Lopez speaks at the Democratic victory party on Columbia PikeDel. Alfonso Lopez (D) knew his work trying to secure in-state tuition for children of undocumented immigrants wasn’t over last spring when Attorney General Mark Herring declared some “DREAMers” eligible for in-state tuition immediately.

The decision allowed children of undocumented immigrant who are legal residents because of the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to receive in-state tuition if they meet other state residency requirements.

In this legislative session, there are bills in the House of Delegates and the state Senate that aim to undo Herring’s action. Lopez had previously introduced bills every year to do what Herring did in one fell swoop; now, he’s moving to block the new bills.

“We knew we’d have to defend against Tea Party attacks,” Lopez told ARLnow.com yesterday. “We assumed it would come. We hoped it wouldn’t, but now it has.”

The bills are HB1356, introduced by Loudoun County’s Del. David Ramadan (R), and SB722, introduced by Sen. Richard Black (R), also from Loudoun. Ramadan is himself an immigrant: he was born in Beirut, Lebanon, before immigrating to the United States.

Both bills declare that DACA-protected immigrants “do not have the capacity to remain in Virginia indefinitely,” and therefore are ineligible for in-state tuition. The bill applies to DACA children, those with temporary protected status — political refugees from foreign countries — and Deferred Action for Parental Accountability.

“To think that Sen. Black would want to take the refugees of civil wars and deny them an opportunity of education… that is a huge step backwards.,” Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) told ARLnow.com.

Republicans control both houses in the General Assembly, and with a 67-32-1 advantage in the House of Delegates, so Lopez knows he faces a steep climb in trying to beat the bills.

“We’ve talked to the attorney general’s office, we’ve talked to the governor’s office,” Lopez said. “We also are organizing through education and religious groups, getting them to lobby in opposition against these bills. There are many groups around the state making calls who are saying this is the wrong attack to take, not only from a fairness and a moral issue to take, but also an economic development and job growth [perspective].”

“I think we’ll either be successful and able to defeat these bills in subcommittee or there will be a heck of a fight on the floor of the Senate and the House,” Lopez continued. “Even if by some miracle these bills pass, I don’t believe the governor will sign them into law. I think he’ll veto, but I don’t know.”

Lopez said the issue impacts “my family, my friends and my neighbors,” and highlights the importance of providing in-state tuition for the state’s economic growth. Arlington residents will directly be affected, like Dayana Torres, a student at George Mason University in Fairfax who commutes to school from Arlington.

“I see being able to pay the in-state tuition rate as an essential benefit for my education that my parents and I have paid into through taxes,” Torres said in an email to ARLnow.com. She is the president of the Mason Dreamers and co-founder and former president of Dreamers of Virginia. “I affiliate with the Republican party in many key political topics, so it is always difficult for me to see Republicans in office actively trying to reverse decisions that benefit my family and I since we have been paying taxes and desperately need the in-state-tuition rates.”

Falls Church resident Giancarla Rojas is attending Radford University after spending two years at Northern Virginia Community College, and her tuition would be put in jeopardy if the new bills pass.

“At the time the Attorney General Herring announced his decision, I was in my last semester at Northern Virginia Community College. I was certain that I was not going to attend a four year university; I could not afford the out-of-state tuition,” she said. “After his announcement, not only did I attend a four-year university, but I obtained enough financial aid to finish my Bachelor’s in two years. If Republicans reverse the Attorney General’s decision, I will not be able to obtain my Bachelor’s Degree.”

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