Long before Sharon Virts was known as one of the nation’s most successful businesswomen, she was a student at Lucketts Elementary. At 9 years old she remembers being handed a key to the school as part of a celebration of the then-new school building.
“The superintendent handed me the key and I gave a speech,” she recalled. “That was 1972.”
More than 45 years later, Virts considers it her responsibility to give back to the school community she feels gave her the tools to succeed. She went on to launch federal contractor FCi Federal, which she grew to nearly 5,000 employees and $250 million in revenue before selling it in 2017.
She, with her husband Scott Miller, have since formed the Virts Miller Foundation with the goal of giving to causes that make big impacts in the Loudoun community.
For Virts, one of those causes that is nearest to her heart is her alma mater. The couple is giving $100,000 to Lucketts Elementary, and they’re hoping it inspires others to adopt one of the county’s 58thelementary schools, to launch new or support existing programs.
The Virts Miller Foundation’s donation will help launch and support four programs at Lucketts. It will cover the cost of building a reading library that will be stocked with books that fulfill the county’s new reading and writing instruction program, called Units of Study. Miller said it cost about $30,000 to purchase books designed for the program for an entire elementary school.
Their investment will also expand the computer science immersion programs now offered at three other Loudoun elementary schools into Lucketts Elementary’s fourth and fifth grade classes. With those same students in mind, the funds will bring the EDGE Academy to Lucketts Elementary. EDGE is an afterschool program that enrolls fourth and fifth graders who have a knack for science, math and technology but don’t typically have access to enrichment programs to hone those skills.
The fourth tier of the couple’s investment will boost the school’s visual art and music programs in a huge way. The school is in line to get a three-room addition, which will provide the space needed to offer students art and music instruction every school day. In one of those classrooms, the plan is to build a mini recording studio, where students can mix and produce music. Virts, who has three children working in the music industry, said the goal is to give young students an early glimpse of the music industry’s opportunities.
Miller, who is also the newly appointed president of the Loudoun Education Foundation, noted that many of the top-performing students who were honored during the recent Excellence in Education banquet play an instrument or sing in a choir and also happen to be interested in pursuing careers in medicine or technology. “So you see this love of music in their right brain connecting to their love of science or technology in their left brain. That love of music is very powerful,” Miller said.
Virts’ vision is to equip Lucketts students to not only build a robot but also program it to play a song they’ve produced. “Art in the schools can be about more than just crayons and paint and cymbols and recorders—it really truly is the integration to today’s technology into their environments early.”
Virts and Miller held a fundraising event at their home, Selma Mansion, last week to encourage others in the community to invest in the schools. Virts especially wants to see people choose one elementary school in which to launch or support a program they’re particularly excited about. For her, she said, that’s music.
Miller said the Loudoun Education Foundation is a perfect partner for individuals, families and businesses who want to improve school programming. He said the school system cannot fund every idea, but the foundation can help donors launch some of these programs as pilots. “Once these programs get going, the School Board and superintendent see the success, they’re more likely to fund them,” he said.
Virts added that no gift is too small, whether in the form of money or time. “We want people to realize that through the Loudoun Education Foundation, they can direct their dollars toward a specific school or cause. There’s this misconception that [Loudoun County Public Schools] is fully funded by community property taxes, so why should I contribute? Well, the property taxes is not enough,” she said, noting that there are thousands of students in Loudoun who receive little support from home because their parents do not have the resources. “If we as a community do not take the responsibility for the schools and our students, then who’s going to do it?”