When National Conference Center was approached more than a year ago about taking on young adults with disabilities as interns, General Manager Geoff Lawson described it as “one of those easy, 10-second decisions.”
Now, nine recent Loudoun County graduates have become an integral part of the conference center’s team, working alongside its chefs, technical engineers, maintenance crew and others to learn hands-on job skills.
The National’s Human Resources Manager Helen Kendall said, “We know that teaching is all about making a difference, and I will say that we are pleased that we have made a difference. It has been so fulfilling.”
Relationships like this play out every day throughout the county and, this morning, they were celebrated at the Loudoun School-Business Partnership Recognition Breakfast. About 800 educators and business and community leaders gathered in The National in Lansdowne to honor the collaboration between hundreds of area businesses and the county’s public schools, some that go back two decades and others that are just getting off the ground.
Superintendent Eric Williams credited the business leaders in the banquet hall for helping the school system achieve its No. 1 mission to produce graduates who go on to make meaningful contributions to the world.
“The work that you do for our students really matters. Thank you for choosing to matter. We know that is a choice,” he said.
The community-wide effort to support the county’s education system was made clear even in the number of nominations for businesses to receive Partner of the Year awards. This year, a committee recognized five partnerships with the awards from among close to 300 nominations.
The efforts of Leesburg-based medical device company K2M Inc. to work with students at Evergreen Mill Elementary School were applauded and recognized. Each Wednesday, K2M employees visit the school and serve as mentors in its Study Buddies program. The mentors meet with their buddies to eat lunch, play games and brush up on their math skills. Evergreen Mill Principal Michael Pellegrino said it means a lot for the young students to get to know people who have gone on to successful careers in math-related fields. “K2M, on behalf of the whole Evergreen Mill community, thank you, thank you, thank you,” he said.
Loudoun County Fire and Rescue’s partnerships with the C.S. Monroe Technology Center and the LCPS Head Start program won accolades. The department provides classroom space, training equipment, financial support and support instructors for C.S. Monroe Technology students. They coordinate fire exercises and prepare students for their state EMS and fire exams. Through a second partnership, the fire department provides smoke alarms to families of the Head Start program.
The creative teamwork between NOVA Parks and Trailside Middle School was also praised. Through the partnership, students are learning more about the history of the WO&D Trail and how to care for it. NOVA Parks and Trailside’s teaching staff worked together to create a geocaching project for students that was designed to teach them the relative distances of each planet from the sun.
The National Conference Center’s partnership with LCPS, nonprofit Didlake, and the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services to welcome the Project SEARCH internship program also earned special recognition.
A project of the Loudoun Economic Development Council and LCPS’ School Nutritional Services Department was also recognized. The two teamed up to produce trading cards that featured area farmers. They were a hit at the schools and even won an award from the Virginia Association of Counties. A new round of cards is expected to be released this spring. School Nutrition Services Director Becky Domokos-Bays, who developed the concept, said the cards have been a fun way to teach students about where their food comes from and encourage them to eat healthier.
Northern Virginia Community College won the Make a Difference Award for its many contributions to the county’s school system. Among the college’s projects in partnership with LCPS is its dual enrollment program, which allows students to earn college credit while in high school; it now offers the courses tuition free to about 3,500 Loudoun high school students.
David Herlihy was recognized with the Community Service Award. After retiring as a regional manager for the Target Corp. three years ago, Herlihy decided to volunteer at Douglass School. He helps students do everything from get driver’s licenses to transportation, and teaches them how to be valuable employees. This year, he became the coordinator of a team of mentors who work with Douglass seniors preparing to graduate.
The Claude Moore Charitable Foundation received the Legacy Award; this is only the second year the Loudoun School-Business Partnership Executive Council has given out the award. Since 1992, the Claude Moore Charitable Foundation has donated more than $3.54 million to local public schools. After accepting the award on behalf of the foundation, Executive Director J. Hamilton Lambert turned around and presented an award of his own.
He called Shirley Bazdar up to the stage to receive the prestigious J. Hamilton Lambert Exemplary Leadership in Education and Community Service Award. Bazdar, the school system’s longtime director of Career and Technical Education, retired in June 2016 after a 19-year career with LCPS and 30 years in education. Bazdar said the award was “totally unexpected,” but an honor and a privilege.
She described the Loudoun community as second to none and credited the work of the entire community—including so many who do not work for the school system but give of their time and resources to support it. “The magic happens here—in your partnerships, in our schools, in your communities,” she said. “It’s so powerful and impactful to our students. Our kids are outstanding, and they have benefited from your generosity.”