At a ceremony in Arlington Thursday evening, ten students graduated from La Cocina, a bilingual culinary school for the unemployed or underemployed.
The culinary job training program holds classes for 12 weeks. The students then complete a four week paid internship at different hotels and restaurants.
The majority of students, 85 percent, graduate with a job at a local restaurant or hotel. Employers of program graduates include Washington’s Sfoglina restaurant, National Harbor’s MGM Casino and supermarket chain Wegmans. La Cocina has a partnership with 30 businesses, which take on program graduates.
Current La Cocina students are all Latino immigrants from across Central and South America. The program is hoping to soon expand its student body to include refugees, military veterans, and non-Latino immigrants.
This graduation marks almost 100 program graduates over 11 graduating classes since its inception in 2014. Patricia Funegra, La Cocina’s founder and CEO, was inspired after volunteering in 2012 at DC Central Kitchen, which trains low-income people for cooking careers.
“I just fell in love with the model and how the program was transforming lives, but at the same time I thought, ‘Oh my god Latinos are already in kitchens and they are not receiving this training,” said Funegra.
The graduates receive three certificates degrees after completing the program — in culinary arts workforce development from Northern Virginia Community College, in food safety from the National Restaurant Association, and in food allergy prevention.
Students walked into their graduation ceremony at Ballston’s Mount Olivet Methodist Church to Pharrell’s “Happy” before listening to speeches that touched on the importance of hard work and perseverance.
“It wasn’t easy for you to get here,” said Daniela Hurtado, La Cocina’s program manager. “Each of you had a goal, each of you had a vision, and you gave it your best.”
One graduate, Jose Cordova, originally from Peru, shared his experience at La Cocina during the ceremony.
“Standing up every morning and coming here was hard,” he said. “But we [did not] give excuses and we are not to give it now nor ever.”
For Cordova, who will be working at Crystal City’s Hyatt Regency hotel, the classroom became his home and the professors were like family.
Another graduate, Luisa Gil, who was born in Honduras but immigrated to the United States nine months ago, feels very connected to the other students in the program. She told ARLnow.com that she’s excited to start a new challenge as a Sfoglina chef.
“Everyday I have to learn many, many things. I have to be at the same level as my coworkers, improving my skills and learning or discovering new ingredients and techniques,” Gil said.
The ceremony concluded with a reception of American, Mexican and Peruvian food made by the 12th class in the program. Throughout the program, as food is prepared and graded, it is boxed up and donated to shelters and affordable housing units.
“It’s kind of a circle of sustainability using those resources to feed our neighbors in need,” said Funegra.
Car Fire on 23rd Street N. — A car was engulfed in flames on 23rd Street N. near the Overlee pool last night just before 6:30 p.m. The fire department arrived on scene and quickly extinguished the fire. [Twitter]
Local Tech Firm Benefiting from Trump — Giant Oak, a low-profile data mining firm based in Clarendon, has been awarded nearly $3 million in contracts from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) since President Donald Trump took office. Most of the contracts are for “social media data analytics.” [Forbes]
Arlington On-Time Grad Rate Dips — “Arlington Public Schools’ on-time-graduation rate dipped slightly in 2017, remaining roughly on par with the state average, according to figures reported Sept. 27. The school system’s on-time-graduation rate of 90.8 percent was down from 91.1 percent a year before and the lowest since 2012.” [InsideNova]
No ‘Code Red’ Days This Year — Summer is over and the D.C. area got through it with no “code red” and fewer “code orange” low air quality days. “We’ve seen a dramatic improvement in the region’s air quality thanks to more than a decade of action and coordination at all levels of government,” said Hans Riemer, chair of the Metropolitan Washington Air Quality Committee. [MWCOG]
Road Closures for Shirlington Oktoberfest — Campbell Avenue and part of S. Randolph Street in Shirlington will be closed most of the day Saturday for the annual Shirlington Oktoberfest, which runs from noon to 7 p.m. [Arlington County]
County Awarded for Economic Development Efforts — “Arlington Economic Development (AED) has been honored with three Excellence in Economic Development Awards by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC). The awards were presented at a ceremony earlier this month during the IEDC Annual Conference in Toronto.” [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Rough Day on the Roads — An already rain-soaked Thursday was made worse after a tree fell across the eastbound lanes of I-66, blocking the highway during the morning rush hour. Later, the southbound lanes of the GW Parkway were closed near the Key Bridge due to a crash. [WJLA, Washington Post]
Arlington Helps Out With Falls Church Graduation — Arlington voluntarily shifted its high school graduation schedule to help Falls Church’s George Mason High School get a graduation ceremony spot at D.A.R. Constitution Hall last month. [InsideNova]
Nearby: Affordable Housing Decline in Alexandria — There was a 90 percent drop in affordable housing units in Alexandria between 2000 and 2017 and the decline is likely to continue without the construction of more dedicated affordable units. [WAMU]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Alamo Drafthouse Coming to Crystal City — An Alamo Drafthouse Cinema will be coming to Crystal City to anchor a residential redevelopment by the JBG Smith. The redevelopment will convert the aging office building at 1750 Crystal Drive to a gleaming glass-and-metal residential building while topping it with a six-story addition. Also planned is an as-yet unsigned “specialty grocer” — think: Trader Joe’s or something similar. [Washington Business Journal]
Home Prices Rise in Arlington — “Long & Foster Real Estate Inc. says the median selling price in Arlington County last month was $613,500, up 15 percent from May of 2016. The change was based on 350 closed sales in Arlington in May.” [WTOP]
County Looking for More Tech Grant Recipients — Arlington Economic Development is looking for more tech companies to lure to Arlington with its $1 million “Gazelle Grant” program. AED is seeking another 8-13 companies that are growing by at least 30 percent over a three year period and are willing to commit to at least a three year lease. [Technical.ly DC]
All 15 high school graduates from the pilot year of AHC Inc.’s new college guidance program will progress into higher education.
This year, the seniors applied to 71 schools and were accepted into 54. Together, they received nearly $500,000 in scholarship money, including full rides to Georgetown University and the University of Pennsylvania. Many of the students are the first members of their family to attend college.
AHC, an Arlington-based affordable housing provider, hosted a celebration Monday night at the Lyon Park Community Center for the graduates, their families and mentors.
The free mentoring program is part of AHC’s resident services program, which began in 1993. The initiative is designed to provide students of all ages with something productive to do in their afternoons.
The program includes after-school activities for elementary school students, tutoring for middle and high school students and now a mentoring program to help high school seniors with the college process.
Each senior is paired with an adult for an entire year. The mentors aid their students with the college process, including financial aid, essays and scholarship applications.
Jasmine Connor began working with her mentor, Marjorie Macieria, in the fall.
“Working with Marjorie was the best. We clicked,” Connor said.
The two met weekly, primarily focusing on scholarship applications, of which Connor has received two: the “We Are the Dream” oratorical scholarship and the Arlington School Administrators Spirit Award. The scholarships will help fund Connor’s ambition to graduate debt-free from Northern Virginia Community College and George Mason University.
Connor plans to pursue a major in Early Childhood Development with a minor in Special Education. She has been inspired by her own teachers to help students with learning disabilities.
“Just because you have a learning disability, that doesn’t mean anything,” she said. ”I have one and I got two scholarships and I’m going to college.”
Kyle Yapching-Galang began working with his mentor, Carter Vaden, in the seventh grade. Initially, she tutored him in French and then branched out to help him with English. While Vaden did not help Yapching-Galang with his college applications, she has been a part of his school career for six years.
“She’s a really good friend who helps me when I’m struggling or when I’m angsty,” Yapching-Galang said.
Vaden said she has seen Yapching-Galang grown from a shy middle-schooler into a confident adult. Yapching-Galang plans to attend Northern Virginia Community College in the fall.
Zanab Farooq has been attending AHC’s programs since pre-school. Yet, she credits her mentor of the past year, Joseph Maltby, for helping her get into college.
“I don’t think I would’ve gotten into college without him,” Farooq said. “He knew what to do, what not to do and how to stay on top of things.”
Farooq will be attending the University of Mary Washington in the fall, where she hopes to major in Marketing. With various scholarships secured, all she has to pay for is textbooks and a meal plan.
During the celebratory dinner, guest speaker and local Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) said he was proud of the graduates’ achievements.
“You are what we need. You are medicine,” he said. “You are the source of pleasure and accomplishment and hope for everything that ails every community. Your thirst for education and knowledge and the fact that you’ve done it, says so much about you.”
Arlington Public Schools will begin to mark the end of the 2017 school year over the next week with graduation and promotion ceremonies.
Graduation ceremonies are scheduled for the following times and places.
- Arlington Career Center PEP (Friday, June 16, 10 a.m. in the Career Center)
- Stratford (Friday, June 16, 1 p.m. in the H-B Woodlawn auditorium)
- Arlington Career Center GED (Friday, June 16, 7 p.m. in the Washington-Lee High School little theatre)
- New Directions (Monday, June 19, 11 a.m., Arlington Central Library)
- H-B Woodlawn (Tuesday, June 20, 5 p.m., H-B Woodlawn cafeteria)
- Comprehensive high schools (Wednesday, June 21, DAR Constitution Hall – Washington-Lee at 10 a.m., Yorktown at 2 p.m., Wakefield at 8 p.m.)
- Arlington Community High School (Thursday, June 22, 9:30 a.m., Washington-Lee auditorium)
- Langston Continuation Program (Thursday, June 22, 1 p.m., Washington-Lee auditorium)
The last day of school for APS is as follows.
- Tuesday, June 20: High schools
- Thursday, June 22: Middle schools (promotion ceremonies that day)
- Friday, June 23: Elementary schools (a number also have celebrations that day)
The first day of school for the next school year is Tuesday, Sept. 5.
Arlington Public Schools high school students will have an early dismissal today, their last day of the school year.
The last day of school for APS middle school students is Thursday; it’s Friday for elementary students. All schools will have early dismissals on their last day.
(Barcroft elementary ends its school year early — it had its last day yesterday. Private, Arlington-based Bishop O’Connell High School had its last day of school on Friday, June 10.)
The graduation and celebration schedule for Arlington Public Schools is as follows.
- Wednesday: Williamsburg Middle School (8:15 a.m.), Gunston Middle School (8:30 a.m.), Kenmore Middle School (8:30 a.m.), Swanson Middle School (8:30 a.m.), Jefferson Middle School (9 a.m.), H-B Woodlawn (6:15 p.m.)
- Thursday: Washington-Lee High School (10 a.m.), Yorktown High School (3 p.m.), Wakefield High School (8 p.m.)
- Friday: Arlington Mill High School (9:30 a.m.), Langston High School Continuation Program (1 p.m.)
Seven Arlington students graduated Friday from a culinary program that trains individuals who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless in the skills necessary to get a job in a commercial kitchen.
This was the sixth incarnation of the D.C. Central Kitchen’s Culinary Training Program, which meets locally at the Fairlington Community Center. The graduation ceremony was held in Rosslyn Friday afternoon and the Arlington students were joined by eight other students from the Central Union Mission, a homeless shelter in D.C.
One of the speakers at the ceremony was Napolean Boakye, a graduate of the fifth Arlington class. He first found out about the program while living in the Carpenter’s Shelter in Old Town Alexandria. As a result of the program, he was offered two jobs in the culinary field and he now works with the National Youth Escape Arena in Maryland.
“This job training sponsored by Arlington County positively influenced me and prepared me to change my way of thinking and my life,” said Boakye. “I said to myself, never again. I’m tired of failure. I’ve been there, done that, I’m moving on to success.”
Two students won the program’s Ron Swanson Life Skills Award: Bryce Churchman from the Arlington program and Gary Lucas from the D.C program.
Along with culinary classes, the students also receive self-empowerment classes and get to train outside of the classroom, with each student receiving a month-long internship. Some of the internship sites included the Key Bridge Marriott, Mess Hall in D.C. and Nando’s Peri-Peri.
The graduation rate for Arlington students ranges between 85 to 90 percent and graduates have an 90 percent job placement rate.
Photos by Jackie Friedman
Here’s what the website had to say about Arlington and its No. 1 spot.
“If you’re looking to live near other educated people, this Washington, D.C., suburb is the place to be. A whopping 71.5% of Arlington’s 25-and-older population holds at least a bachelor’s degree, the highest percentage on our list. Arlington also is tops for the number of jobs in management, business, science or arts occupations, as well as for salaries.”
“Arlington, Virginia, stands out in our analysis because 67.1% of its workforce find jobs in management, business, science or the arts. These fields have the most jobs that require a bachelor’s degree or higher.”
“However, if you move here, be ready to give up a big chunk of your salary for housing. The median rent is one of the highest among the 100 cities in our analysis, and it would take up nearly a third (31.4%) of that paycheck.”
The report analyzed a number of data points, including:
- Percentage of population 25 and older with bachelor’s degree or higher
- Percentage of population ages 20 to 29
- Median earnings of residents 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree
- Jobs in management, business, science and arts occupations
- Rent as a percentage of income
- Unemployment rates
The class of 2015 had a 92.8 percent graduation rate, 0.8 percent higher than the previous year. The on-time graduation rate has increased 8.1 percent over the past six years, according to APS.
The rate is 2.3 percent higher than the state average of 90.5 percent, APS said.
“The increases in the on-time graduation rate and the proportions of graduates earning advanced diplomas is notable given the more strenuous requirements for earning a diploma in Virginia,” APS said in a press release.
Students receiving diplomas this year had to complete an economic and personal finance course, the first time Virginia had this requirement.
“The students who graduated in May and June began high school just as the commonwealth was introducing challenging, new assessments in mathematics, English and science,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven Staples said in a statement.
Of the students who graduated this year, 68.5 percent of them graduated with an advanced or International Baccalaureate diploma, 17 percent higher than the state average of 51.5 percent. The average number of students graduating with advanced or IB diplomas has also increased 7.3 percent over the past six years, from 61.2 percent in 2009.
“While I am pleased that our graduation rates have continued to rise, I am especially excited to see that more and more of our students also have challenged themselves to earn advanced or IB diplomas. This expands the options for their academic and personal pursuits after graduation,” said APS Superintendent Patrick Murphy.
While graduation and advanced diploma rates have increased, the number of students dropping out of school increased, as well. The rate jumped up from 3.8 percent in 2014 to 4.2 percent in 2015.
Although the rate increased, the dropout rate has decreased since 2009, when the rate was 11.9 percent. The rate is under the Virginia average of 5.2 percent.
Graduation Live Streaming Nixed — Arlington Public Schools canceled internet live streaming of its high school graduation ceremonies this year due to budget cuts. Graduation ceremonies has been streamed online for the past two years. [InsideNova]
Police Foot Chase in Pentagon City — Last night, after the Pentagon City mall was evacuated due to a power outage, mall security spotted two men lingering and entering closed stores. Police were given a lookout and one of the alleged suspects was spotted outside the mall. A foot chase ensured and the man was apprehended behind nearby Pentagon Row. No word yet on any changes.
Economic Chief Has a Plan For Arlington — New Arlington Economic Development Director Victor Hoskins says he has a plan for economic growth in the county that will reduce the county’s office vacancy rate from the current 21 percent to 10 percent over the next six years. The plan includes “a mix of much more aggressive marketing efforts, incentives and other government aid, and the help of ‘frenemies’ in competing local governments such as the District and Alexandria.” [Washington Business Journal]
A-Town Plans ‘Sunday Funday’ Summer Kickoff — “Ballston’s rowdiest bar,” A-Town Bar and Grill, will be kicking off its summer “Sunday Fundays” this weekend with “squirt guns, beach balls, popsicles, barbecue, water balloons” and multiple DJs. [Clarendon Nights]
APS Graduation Rate Rises to 92 Percent — Arlington Public Schools’ graduation rate rose to 92 percent for the Class of 2014, up from 85.2 percent in 2010. The dropout rate declined to 3.8 percent this year and the graduation rate for Arlington’s three comprehensive high schools reached 98.7 percent. “This steady improvement is a reflection of the teamwork of everyone working together to ensure that our students succeed,” said Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy, in a statement. [Arlington Public Schools]
Company Promises In-N-Out Delivery — As a publicity stunt, food delivery service OrderAhead is offering to deliver frozen In-N-Out Double Double burgers from California today to addresses Arlington and D.C. Even though In-N-Out is famous for food that’s never frozen or pre-packaged, the offer is apparently proving popular for those with a craving for the west coast chain. Currently, a website set up to provide more information about the promotion is down. [Eater]
County Board Supports Nonpartisan Redistricting — The Arlington County Board voted unanimously on Tuesday to support nonpartisan redistricting of state legislative boundaries. Democratic Board Chairman Jay Fisette said partisan redistricting leads to “stagnation and gridlock,” while independent Board member John Vihstadt said it produces “toxic partisanship in Washington and Richmond.” [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
This article was written by Audrey Batcheller
Whether they’ve spent the past 18 years in the county or have just been around for high school, these young adults have unique perspectives on life in Arlington.
Devon Brown, a lifelong Arlingtonian, will be attending Wake Forest University this year and has mixed feelings about leaving Arlington.
“It’s been really easy to get involved in the community here,” said Brown, who was a member of the Teen Network Board. Aside from her time involved in the community, however, Brown does complain that there’s not much to do in Arlington for high school students.
“Recently I’ve felt like the only option when going out with friends to do something is getting something to eat,” said Brown.
Nicole Collantes, an upcoming Radford University freshman, disagrees with Brown on that point.
“It’s their own fault if people are bored,” she said. “Around Arlington, there are so many places to go to and shop. Also, there’s always an art or music festival going on if you know where to look. And even if people don’t think there’s anything to do around here, the metro takes you all around D.C., where there’s even more things to do.”
Alec Schadelbauer, who will be a freshman at Virginia Tech, said he stayed active in Arlington through volunteerism.
“There are so many ways to get involved in the community through leadership and service,” said Schadelbauer. “The Leadership Arlington Youth Program was one of the best experiences of my life so far.”
The county’s proximity to Washington, D.C., has been the best part of the Arlington experience to many students. Justin Snow and Maggie Burgos, who will be attending George Mason University and Colby College in Maine respectively, have taken advantage of living near the political hub of the country.
“Growing up near D.C. has helped me have opportunities to see government happen,” said Burgos, who went to President Obama’s first inauguration and hopes to work on Capitol Hill.
Snow interned on Capitol Hill and said he and other local high school students “[have] access to a lot of things that other [areas] don’t.”
As privileged as all its graduates feel about being able to live in Arlington, a few common criticisms arose among the students: the traffic, the dreaded “Arlington Bubble,” and the weather.
Gondola From Rosslyn to Georgetown? — The Georgetown Business Improvement District has floated the idea of running a gondola from Georgetown to Rosslyn in order to make it easier Metro riders to shop and dine in the D.C. neighborhood. Georgetown businesses are worried about competition from other, more trendy neighborhoods. [Washington Post]
Job Fair Today — Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) is holding a job fair for his Eighth District constituents this morning. The job fair is taking place from 9:00 a.m. to noon at T.C. Williams High School (3330 King Street) in Alexandria. [Rep. Jim Moran]
Award for Half-Cab Half-Cop Car — A combination police car / taxi cab, created by the Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP) in partnership with Arlington County Police and Red Top Cab, has been honored with the Virginia Governor’s Transportation Safety Award for its role in deterring impaired driving. [WRAP]
High School Graduation Recap — The Sun Gazette has published recaps of each of the three Arlington public high school graduation ceremonies last week. According to the paper, Washington-Lee grads were “encouraged to reach for the stars, stay true to beliefs;” Yorktown grads were “urged to embrace challenges, take setbacks in strides;” and Wakefield grads were “urged to build on the past to create the future.”
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
An early release is planned for Arlington’s high schools today, the start of students’ summer breaks. An early release will be held tomorrow (Thursday) for middle school students and on Friday for elementary school students, the end of their respective school years.
Commencement ceremonies will be held for APS high schools on Thursday, at DAR Constitution Hall in the District. The graduation for Washington-Lee will be held at 10:00 a.m., Yorktown at 3:00 p.m. and Wakefield at 8:00 p.m. Each ceremony will be broadcast live on the APS website, on Comcast channel 70 and Verizon FiOS channel 41.
Bishop O’Connell, a private Catholic high school in Arlington, has already held its 2013 graduation ceremony.
A listing of other APS graduation events, including middle school graduations, is available here.