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Mentorship Program for At-Risk High Schoolers Seeks Volunteers

Local professionals have the opportunity to contribute to the Arlington community through new a mentorship program managed by Arlington’s Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Services Unit.

RISE — an acronym for respect, integrity, self-esteem and empowerment — pairs at-risk kids with an adult in their community. Mentors help their mentees develop social, emotional and practical skills, program coordinator Erika Yalowitz wrote in an email to ARLnow.

“The objective is to provide young Arlingtonians a path to achieve their dreams,” Yalowitz wrote.

Yalowitz says participants in the program are usually Arlington high school students with histories of delinquency or status offenses, like breaking curfew or skipping school, or those who have been otherwise identified as at-risk. Participation is voluntary for mentees.

The group of mentors and teens typically meets in the evening on the first Wednesday of every month to participate in activities like hiking, bowling or mini-golf. Those interested in mentoring must commit to the program for a minimum of one year, submit to background and criminal record checks and attend on-site training.

Local businesses can also support the program by donating to help cover the cost of meals and activities. Anyone interested can contact [email protected] or [email protected]

Photo courtesy Erika Yalowitz

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Arlington Babe Ruth Baseball Spring Registration Open Through Feb. 1

Arlington Babe Ruth Baseball works with the Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation to provide the county’s children — more than 1,300 boys and girls from age 4 to 12 — a high quality baseball program in the local area. With eight levels of play, ABR promotes equal competition, camaraderie, full participation, good sportsmanship and fun!

Teams are forming now for Spring 2018. Register by Feb. 1 on the ABR website: www.ArlingtonBabeRuth.com.

Neighborhood Teams

ABR endorses the neighborhood/school concept in youth sports. Where possible, ABR groups players on teams based on the neighborhood in which they live, or the school that they attend. Most likely players’ friends are on school teams which practice in their own neighborhoods.

We use the neighborhood principle at every level except the oldest–Majors 70′ (our intermediate size field league, 50/70) for 11 and 12-year-olds, where a modified draft creates a more competitive playing experience.

Commitment to Coach Training

ABR is committed to providing each player with an enjoyable and valuable baseball experience, helping kids learn the game while developing life skills and an appreciation for baseball. We provide each coach in the league with coach training clinics and coaching manuals covering safety, skills, teaching the game, and managing the ups and downs of competition.

Outstanding Travel Baseball

For those ABR players seeking a highly-competitive experience in addition to recreational baseball, ABR Travel Baseball is a nationally-competitive youth baseball organization for players ages 8-12. ABR Travel teams participate in the Cal Ripken all-star tournaments and regularly advance into the Virginia State Cal Ripken Tournament. ABR Travel’s 2017 8YO, 9YO and 10YO Storm teams won their District Championships and after winning their State tourney, the 10YO Storm team represented Virginia in the Southeast Regional Tournament last summer.

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County Boosts Suicide Prevention Efforts, Launches Youth Program

Logo via Arlington CountyArlington County is stepping up its suicide prevention efforts in 2017, including launching a pilot program aimed specifically at youth.

The county’s Dept. of Human Services is enhancing its suicide prevention strategies based on the Zero Suicide initiative. The overall goal is to reduce the number of suicides in the county — there were 41 reported between 2013 an 2015 — to zero and improve care and outcomes for those seeking help.

Over the summer some county staff attended a seminar to learn more about implementing the Zero Suicide methods. They’ve applied the strategies and have been teaching other employees about them so everyone is on the same page in the new year.

After an assessment earlier this year, staff discovered inconsistencies in the suicide prevention knowledge and responses among the different divisions within DHS, says Sharon Lawrence, Children’s Behavioral Healthcare bureau chief.

“We wanted to establish a universal approach to make sure that we’re addressing suicide,” Lawrence says.

Part of the revamped approach is to step up training and to ensure all relevant DHS staff members are comfortable handling suicide-related discussions and situations.

In addition, the Children’s Behavioral Healthcare division is spearheading one of the major Zero Suicide-related programs in the new year: a pilot to assess the treatment model and address youth “suicidality,” both in identifying those at risk and in ongoing treatment of those individuals. As part of the pilot the division is implementing the Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale, which includes plain-language questions that make it easier for staff to identify young people who are at risk of self-harm and to have more productive follow-up visits.

One reason the department chose to focus on youth for the pilot is that suicide is one of the top three leading causes of death for Americans between the ages of 10 and 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Plus, local survey results released in 2014 indicated that 25 percent of Arlington 8th, 10th, and 12th grade students reported feeling sad or hopeless for two or more weeks at a time.

“In the past year-and-a-half we have trained over 300 people in Arlington, including in the schools, to be able to identify when a young person is at risk of harm and may be in distress,” Lawrence says.

Overall, the new methods are “basically a commitment to provide better suicide prevention strategies and tools to DHS staff,” Lawrence says. “Suicide deaths are preventable, that’s the basis of Zero Suicide. The only way to prevent it is by implementing strategies that speak to leadership in terms of the culture you’re setting for staff and the community, [and by] providing training.”

The Department of Human Services’ increased push for suicide prevention also involves asking residents to give feedback via a short online survey about existing services, suicide prevention training and any unaddressed needs.

Lawrence says everyone should speak up if they encounter a person at risk of self-harm, whether it’s a young person or an adult. She suggests thinking of it like the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign.

“People say ‘I don’t know what to say.’ It’s best to say something so you don’t ever feel like you missed an opportunity [to help],” says Lawrence.

She explains that it’s okay not to directly address a person at risk of self-harm. It’s sometimes better to first talk to someone with knowledge of handling such situations, like a counselor or teacher. But Lawrence reiterates the importance of not staying silent.

“There’s always help. There is help in Arlington County,” she says.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger of self-harm, call 911 or the Department of Human Services’ emergency services line at 703-228-5160. CrisisLink also has a 24-hour crisis hotline at 703-527-4077 or 800-SUICIDE, or text 703-940-0888.

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Arlington-Based Water Polo Club Picks Up Top-25 Finishes in Junior Olympics

Arlington fielded some of the country’s top youth athletes in water polo last month.

Capital Water Polo has two of the top 25 youth water polo teams in the United States after competing in USA Water Polo’s 2016 Junior Olympics in San Jose, Calif., from July 22-30.

The club, which trains at the pools at Washington-Lee, Yorktown and Wakefield high schools, sent more than 50 athletes ages 10-18 from five teams to the tournament.

The under-14 girls’ and under-12 boys’ teams were Capital Water Polo’s top squads, finishing 22nd and 24th, respectively. The under-18 boys’ team finished 44th in its fifth appearance in the tournament and the under-16 and under-14 boys’ teams finished 76th and 79th, respectively.

“I am incredibly proud of all our athletes for their dedication during the tough 10 months of training leading up to this championship tournament, as well as for their formidable play against the top teams in the nation,” coach Leslie Enwistle said in a statement. “Many of our competitors’ programs have been ranked nationally for over 20 years. We demonstrated that our coaches’ commitment to effectively develop all our athletes was successful at the highest level.”

Photos courtesy of Teresa Byrne

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Arlington Native Named National Ultimate Frisbee MVP

Alika Johnston and Mary Hynes (photo courtesy Lawrence Cheng)Arlington native and H-B Woodlawn alumna Alika Johnston has received the ultimate honor.

Last month the newly-minted University of Virginia graduate and long-time ultimate frisbee player was presented with the Callahan Award, issued annually to the most valuable collegiate men’s and women’s players in the sport.

In recognition of her award and her engagement with the local ultimate community, the Arlington County Board issued a proclamation praising Johnston at a meeting earlier this month.

To receive a Callahan Award, a player is evaluated on their offensive and defensive abilities as well as their sportsmanship. Likewise, Chair Mary Hynes explained that the Board’s June 16 proclamation was meant to highlight both Johnston’s formidable athleticism and her extraordinary leadership skills.

“We are here today to recognize the extraordinary achievements of Alika Johnston both on and off the ultimate frisbee field,” Hynes said.

According to the website Ultiworld, which also named her its 2015 Women’s Player of the Year, Johnston has been a core member of the UVA’s ultimate team (the Hydras) since her freshman year in 2011, and was instrumental in the team’s development into an “elite contender.”

“Johnston’s play has spoken for itself all season long… a lot of breath and ink used in the act of praising her prolific and relentless performance,” the website said. “On both sides of the disc, she’s been a top producer and drastically influenced the fate of her team. Opponents have most been forced to submit to her, going with the ‘stopping six other people is more likely than stopping her’ strategy.”

Johnston has been playing ultimate since her days at H-B Woodlawn and credits the school with some of her success.

“I am so grateful to H-B Woodlawn’s program for introducing me to the sport and making all of this possible,” she said. “I’ve been moved by the outpouring of excitement and support from Arlington’s ultimate community.”

Johnston has also dedicated herself to introducing a new generation of athletes to the sport. She serves as USA Ultimate’s Virginia Girls State Youth Coordinator, and works to grow the sport through clinics, events and mentoring young players.

Arlington’s youth ultimate programs have grown rapidly in the past several years, as the sport becomes increasingly popular across the country. Opportunities to play can be found through the Youth Ultimate League of Arlington.

Photo courtesy Lawrence Cheng

 

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Enrollment for Marymount’s Summer Running Camps Closes Tomorrow

Marymount logoThe deadline to enroll in one of Marymount University’s annual youth running camps is tomorrow (June 19).

Marymount is offering two sessions of the camp this summer, one for younger runners and one for more experienced athletes. Marymount’s cross-country and triathlon coach Zane Castro will coach both, assisted by professional triathlete Calah Schlabach and St. Anselm’s Abbey School cross-country coach Kailey Gotta.

The first session (June 22-26) is designed for runners age 8-13 who are looking to develop their skills. Enrollment in the five day camp costs $310, which includes lunch at the university and a camp t-shirt at the end of the session. The camp will run each day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. There is no cap on enrollment.

The second session (June 29-July 3) is capped at 25 students and is geared towards runners age 14-17 who are preparing for the coming cross-country season. The more intensive camp will run from 7:30 a.m to 12 p.m. every day. Cost of enrollment is $200.

According to a press release, participants in both camps will receive a written evaluation from the coaches at the end of the session. To enroll their child, parents should send an email with their child’s name, age and emergency contact number.

Parents must also fill out a registration form and bring the form and a check on the first day of the camp. The form, along with a list of other youth development camps being offered at Marymount this summer, can be found on the school’s website.

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School Field Disputes Throw Youth Softball Future in Doubt

Players in the Arlington Girls Softball Association (photo via AGSA)(Updated at 3:30 p.m.) The president of the Arlington Girls Softball Association says a lack of field space and a newly enforced school policy against signs has him very concerned for the future of the youth league.

The AGSA has been in operation for more than 30 years, President Steve Severn said, and currently serves about 500 girls, 92 percent of whom are Arlington residents. Those girls make up 38 local teams and six all-star and travel teams, who play games on just five fields in the county: Greenbrier Park next to Yorktown High School, Barcroft Park, Wakefield High School, Quincy Park and Arlington Traditional Elementary School.

This year, delayed construction at Wakefield has taken away that field, and Wakefield’s softball teams have taken the AGSA’s field at Barcroft Park. At the same time, the field at Arlington Traditional School is becoming increasingly problematic after Principal Holly Hawthorne banned sponsorship signs, a move the Arlington School Board supports.

“Having so few fields available creates havoc,” Severn told ARLnow.com today, after he sent an email to AGSA’s parents informing them of the issues the league faces. “High schools have the first choice to have fields, and that’s the way it should be… But there aren’t enough fields to go around. Youth sports are screaming for outside field space.”

Severn said the Wakefield field opened for one day this spring, but Arlington Public Schools closed it after it determined the fences were too short to protect the surrounding neighborhood. APS facilities staff said it will reopen in June, but high school teams historically have asked to be the first team to use a new field. Hence, Severn said, he doubts AGSA will be able to use that field until spring 2016.

While field space is a serious issue for every league, sport and age group in Arlington, the sign ban is one that could jeopardize AGSA’s future.

“If sponsors cannot see their banners or recognition for the money they contribute to our organization, they’re not going to contribute,” Severn said. “These are by and large community businesses. Their kids play on the team. That is going to hurt us. We depend on sponsorship money, we do not take in enough money from registration. I don’t know what the end result is going to be. Our sponsorship base is going to dry up eventually.”

Arlington Girls Softball Association's fields at Arlington Traditional SchoolSevern said the league has been hanging banners recognizing sponsors for decades. This year, they tried to hang small, individual signs for each sponsor, which Severn said Hawthorne put a stop to. He asked the School Board to step in, and they did — to affirm Hawthorne’s decision.

“Ms. Hawthorne contacted APS senior staff to review APS policies on the display of sponsor banners, and we agreed that display of such banners on school property is not permissible,” School Board Chair James Lander said in an email to Severn. “The School Board wishes the AGSA success with the remainder of their season and we appreciate the patience the teams have shown.”

Hawthorne did not respond to an interview request this morning. When asked for comment, APS forwarded to ARLnow.com Lander’s message to Severn.

Severn said he’s met with APS Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and Operation John Chadwick, which “opened up a line of communication, but didn’t resolve anything.” The School Board’s ruling could mean no more banners at Wakefield when the new field opens, either. Severn told parents that an anticipated decline in sponsorship revenue could mean a significant increase in league fees.

“I’m not trying to fan any flames here, but I’m upset because the decisions are made in a vacuum,” he said. “When we got the note back from James Lander, it’s the end of the story. There is no other avenue for us. We have no real recourse there. That’s just the disturbing part.”

Photo, top, via AGSA. Photo, bottom, via Google Maps.

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Deadlines Approaching for Youth Video Programs

Arlington Independent Media, which runs the Arlington’s public access channel (not to be confused with the Arlington County government channel or the Arlington Public Schools channel), has a number of programs for young film and video-makers this summer, but deadlines are fast approaching.

The deadline for the 2010 Document Arlington Project was recently extended to April 15. The project — which is actually a paid six-week apprenticeship — is open to Arlington high school students who have an interest in documentary filmmaking. Six apprentices will be chosen for the project, which runs from July 12 to August 19.

Submissions for the 2010 Arlington Youth Film Festival are due on April 16. The festival features cash prizes for films or videos in four categories: comedy, informational, experimental, and drama. Festival entrants must be Arlington middle or high school students. Public screenings will be held on May 22.

AIM is also offering a video production camp for kids ages 8 to 15. Structured as a day camp, the program will instruct kids on the basics of video production. It will also teach how to tell a story and how to creatively collaborate. The first of three camp sessions starts on July 12. The fee for the two-week session is $575. Call 703-524-2388 for more information.

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