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.”
Brian McGrail and Emma Pierson will receive funding to study at Oxford University in the United Kingdom for two to three years starting in October 2014. They were selected among a pool of more than 1,000 applicants.
McGrail lives in Arlington Forest, while Pierson’s home is in the Williamsburg neighborhood.
The Rhodes Scholarships were were created in 1902 to be given to students who meet the criteria of “high academic achievement, integrity of character, a spirit of unselfishness, respect for others, potential for leadership, and physical vigor.” McGrail and Pierson are now among 3,324 Americans who have ever been named Rhodes Scholars. From the Rhodes Trust’s announcement, here are brief biographies of Arlington’s two winners:
Brian W. McGrail, Arlington, is a senior at Williams College where he majors in political economy and history. A Truman Scholar and elected to Phi Beta Kappa as a junior, Brian is doing research on the effect of tax rates on income inequality, and on behavioral responses to taxation. Politically active, he is president of the Williams College Democrats, and interned on the Elizabeth Warren Senate campaign. He also serves on several college councils and committees. He has volunteered to help those with low income prepare their taxes, is a teaching assistant and peer tutor, and is a four-year member of the Williams varsity cross country team. At Oxford, he plans to do the M.Sc. in comparative social policy.
Emma Pierson, Arlington, graduated from Stanford in June with a B.S. in physics and an M.S. in computer science. Her classroom work was augmented by research in cognitive psychology and biocomputation. Emma is now working for Coursera, which provides free online education. She was president of the Stanford Debate Society, and won second place in the U.S. national debate championships. She also has done statistical analyses of sexism in sports and in responses to sexual assault trials, and has volunteered as a tutor. Emma intends to do a D.Phil. in computational biology at Oxford.
Terminal A Revamp Underway at DCA — A $37 million renovation project at Reagan National Airport’s Terminal A is proceeding swiftly. The project isn’t adding a significant amount of extra space to the historic terminal, but it will make the existing space seem brighter and more open. Most of the work is expected to be complete by the holiday travel season. [Washington Post]
Pupatella Makes National Pizza Rankings — Bluemont’s Pupatella Neapolitan Pizzeria (5104 Wilson Blvd) serves one of the top 40 slices of pizza in the country, according to new rankings. Pupatella’s capricciosa pizza was ranked No. 36 on the list, as judged by the Daily Meal website. [Daily Mail]
Students Receive Scholarships at NAACP Banquet — Through a partnership with the Arlington NAACP, a new scholarship fund awarded $2,500/year college scholarships to four high-performing local students over the weekend. The scholarship fund allows the NAACP to “invest in our youth,” said the head of the Arlington branch of the organization. [Sun Gazette]
Beer and Wine Walks Return to Crystal City — Crystal City’s 1K wine and beer walks will return next month. The walks — which allow participants to sample various wines and beers while walking through Crystal City’s underground shopping center — will take place on Nov. 16 and 17. [Crystal City]
County Board Adopts Public Safety Radio Resolution — The Arlington County Board adopted a resolution yesterday (Tuesday) that calls on builders to install technology that allows better police and fire department communications in new buildings. Modern construction materials have made it difficult for first responders to receive radio signals in newer buildings. The Board’s non-binding resolution calls on builders to install in-building wireless systems to better transmit public radio signals. [Arlington County]
Disclosure: Crystal City BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser
O.C. Donut Store May be Coming to Arlington — The Fractured Prune, an Ocean City institution known for its hot, hand-dipped, homemade donuts, is expanding to the Washington area. The company is looking at Arlington as a possible location for a new store. [Washington Business Journal]
National Merit Semifinalists Announced — Eighteen Arlington Public Schools students have earned the honor of being named National Merit Scholarship semifinalists. The semifinalists include 4 students from H-B Woodlawn, 9 students from Washington-Lee, 2 students from Yorktown and 3 students who are attending Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. [Arlington Public Schools]
O’Connell Impresses on the Gridiron — Bishop O’Connell High Schools’s football team is 2-1 after three games, and the Washington Post writes that the team has “turned some heads with their high-octane offense and stout defensive effort.” [Washington Post]
Fish and Wildlife Office to Leave Arlington — On the heels of the decision to move the National Science Foundation from Arlington to Alexandria, the General Services Administration is expected to announce soon that the Fish and Wildlife Service is leaving, as well. The Dept. of the Interior agency, which occupies three office buildings in Ballston, is “seeking a less expensive space option outside Arlington.” [Washington Business Journal]
Restaurant Fire in Crystal City — A fire broke out in the kitchen of Cafe Manna in Crystal City around 5:30 last night. The restaurant is located on the ground floor of the office building at 2345 Crystal Drive. A sprinkler system helped to extinguish the flames before they spread, but the restaurant suffered smoke and water damage.
Mary Marshall Scholars Announced — Arlington County has named the eight local high school students who will receive $1,500 college scholarships as part of the Mary Marshall scholarship program. The scholarships, awarded to those who are pursuing careers in public service, are named after former House of Delegates member Mary Marshall. [Arlington County]
Teen Battle of the Bands This Weekend — Artisphere (1101 Wilson Blvd) will host a teen battle of the bands competition on Saturday. The competition, from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m., will feature at least 8 local teen bands. The concert was organized by D.C.-area high school seniors as part of a month-long internship at Artisphere. Tickets are $5. [Artisphere]
Army Celebrates Birthday — Today (Friday) is the U.S. Army’s 238th birthday. The occasion will be marked with a wreath-laying ceremony from 2:30 to 3:00 p.m. at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. [U.S. Army]
Flickr pool photo by Martin Humm
Clarendon Center Wins Architectural Award — The Clarendon Center development has won a 2013 Charter Award, which is a global architectural award for excellence in urban design. The building straddles the 3000 block of Wilson Blvd and Clarendon Blvd. Clarendon Center was highlighted for being an example of walkable urban density in a suburban context and for its use of Art Deco styling. [Congress for the New Urbanism]
Arlington Transit Bus Survey — Arlington Transit is asking residents to fill out an online survey regarding the county’s bus service. Survey respondents are asked to suggest improvements for ART and Metrobus service. The information will help shape updates to the county’s six-year Transit Development Plan. The survey closes on Friday, June 28. [Arlington Transit]
Dream Scholarship Award Ceremony on Friday — Twenty-nine students from Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax will be honored at Friday’s Dream Scholarship award ceremony. Undocumented students in good academic standing qualify for the scholarship if they or one of their parents were born outside of the United States, and the student will attend an accredited college or university. The ceremony takes place on Friday at 7:00 p.m. at the Arlington Education Center (1426 N. Quincy Street). [Facebook]
Streetcar Forum Tonight — The Arlington Committee of 100 will be holding a forum tonight entitled “Streetcar for Columbia Pike: Are the Benefits Worth the Costs?” The forum will be moderated by Sun Gazette editor Scott McCaffrey and the scheduled speakers are Arlington Chamber of Commerce Chairman David Decamp (speaking in favor of the streetcar) and ARLnow.com columnist Peter Rousselot (speaking against the streetcar). The event will take place at 8:00 p.m. at Marymount University (2807 N. Glebe Road). [Arlington Committee of 100]
Pricey Streetcar FOIA Request — Local fiscal watchdog Tim Wise is decrying the price tag attached to a Freedom of Information Act request he made regarding the Columbia Pike streetcar project. The county says Wise’s wide-ranging request will cost $2,858 to process. More than 80 percent of that cost would go to AECOM, a consultant working on the county’s transit program. [Sun Gazette]
Record Temperature Possible Today — The official high temperature at Reagan National Airport might be tied or even broken today. The high temperature at DCA for today, April 10, is 89 degrees, set in 1922. [Capital Weather Gang]
Mary Marshall Scholarship Applications — The Arlington County Commission on the Status of Women is now accepting applications for the 2013 Mary Marshall Memorial Scholarships. The $1,500-2,000 scholarships are intended for Arlington high school graduates who intend to attend Northern Virginia Community College and pursue careers in public service. [Arlington County]
Could New Theater Become a Financial Drain? — As a condition of its site plan for a new nine-story office building on the site of the old Arlington Funeral Home in Virginia Square, developer Crimson Partners agreed to build a new $3.7 million black box theater inside the building, at the request of the county. But given the financial problems at Artisphere, some are questioning whether the theater will be a financial “black hole” for Arlington County. [Arlington Connection]
Army Celebrates Birthday — The U.S. Army is celebrating its 237th birthday today. On June 14, 1775, in the midst of the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress authorized the creation of the Continental Army. To mark the occasion, Army Secretary John McHugh will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery at 9:30 this morning. [Associated Press]
Mary Marshall Scholarship Recipients To Be Honored — The seven 2012 recipients of the county’s Mary Marshall Memorial Scholarships will be recognized at this Saturday’s County Board meeting. “These young people epitomize the civic spirit of Arlington — just as Mary Marshall did during her decades of service to our community,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said of the recipients. [Arlington County]
Arlington Mill Student Gets Scholarship — Arlington Mill High School Continuation Program student Marleny Giron has been awarded a $10,000 “Founders Scholarship” from Comcast. The scholarship is intended to recognize students for their leadership, academic achievement and community service. It was created in honor of Comcast founder Ralph Roberts.
New Art on the ART Bus — A new “Art on the ART Bus” exhibit is up. The exhibit, by local artist Jenny Sidhu Mullins, explores the idea of national identity. [Facebook]
Flickr pool photo by Alex
In a ceremony at the Arlington Public Schools Education Center on N. Quincy Street, Hareth Andrade and Antonella Rodriguez-Cossio from Washington-Lee High School, Henry Mejia from Yorktown High School and Jose Vasquez from Arlington Mill High School Continuation Program received Dream Scholarships to help fund their college educations.
Although countless high school students enjoy grants and awards around this time of year, the Dream Scholarship is reserved for undocumented students — children born abroad who are not U.S. citizens or legal residents.
An estimated 65,000 undocumented students graduate from American high schools every year, but they cannot receive federal financial aid and are ineligible for in-state tuition in Virginia. That renders college an expensive, unattainable goal for many.
While activists around the country fight for undocumented students’ rights at the federal level, others, like Arlington School Board Member Dr. Emma Violand-Sanchez, are trying to make a difference on a local level. Violand-Sanchez founded and chairs Dream Project, Inc., which awards the scholarships.
While speaking at Thursday’s event, Dr. Violand-Sanchez said that many undocumented students feel discouraged by the restrictions against them and don’t know where to turn. She added that although school guidance counselors and other community members may want to help, they don’t always know the best means if they haven’t previously dealt with students in this situation. She hopes Dream Project, Inc. can bridge that gap.
The four students all described the personal motivators that kept them focused on their goals during difficult times. “I despised the idea of throwing away the opportunities my parents gave me when they brought me and my siblings to the United States,” said Meija, a valedictorian who’s heading to Bucknell University in the fall.
Artisphere to Be Named in Contest — Artisphere is holding a contest to name its new restaurant. Anybody with a creative idea will be able to submit it through an online form next week. The winner will receive a private dinner for eight and VIP entrance to an Artisphere event. [TBD]
Columbia Pike Electronics Store May Be Forced to Move — The long-time owner of a small electronics store is trying to decide what to do if he gets the boot from his landlord. Venus Stereos & TV occupies a prime storefront at the corner of the Pike and Walter Reed Drive, next to Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse. Should the store move, many residents are hoping that a cafe takes its place. [Pike Wire]
Scholarships Offered to Aspiring Teachers — Graduating high school seniors planning a career in education can apply for $2,000 scholarships from the Arlington County Scholarship Fund for Teachers. The organization has been awarding scholarships since 1955.