Tutor’s Dedication + Student’s Determination = Success

AHC-Inc-News-03-tutors-dedication-students-determination-success

Israel Weldeslassie only began speaking English about a year ago when he moved to Arlington from Eritrea. Despite having to learn a new language and reading at about a first grade level, the 7th grader is making amazing progress and is enthusiastically optimistic about his new life.  Much of his success is due to his AHC tutor, Steven Rentz.

The pair has formed a fast friendship. Steven works with Israel twice a week through AHC’s Teen Tutoring program and then meets with him for another two hours on Saturday.  “Steven is making a huge difference to Israel’s progress,” said Julie Korona, AHC’s Resident Services Manager. “He is outstanding!”

“Volunteering is in my blood,” explained Steven, an instructional technology specialist at the National Cathedral School. “I chose AHC’s program because it’s small and everyone can interact and get involved. I really like the opportunity to work one on one.”

Israel is catching on quickly. He is gobbling up books like Curious George and clearly enjoys the nuances of the English language. He has big ambitions and would like to be an engineer and build houses when he grows up. His determination along with Steven’s dedication will undoubtedly help make that dream come true.

 Photo: Israel and his tutor Steven Rentz have formed a fast friendship.

Volunteers Create Scholarship for AHC Students

AHC-Inc-News-05-volunteers-create-scholarship-for-ahc-students

Long-time (11 years!) volunteers Joanna Miller and Roger Brown have created a scholarship exclusively for AHC students in 2014. They presented the first-ever merit scholarship  to Sivia Campos, who has participated in AHC’s education programs since 2nd grade. Sivia is now attending the University of Mary Washington.

The scholarship fund, which is managed by the Arlington Community Foundation, provides $2,000 a year for four years to a student in AHC’s educational program. “We felt like we wanted to do something else to help the students as they reach this milestone and move on to the next stage of their lives,” said Miller.

Brown and Miller hope others will contribute to the fund to provide additional scholarships in the years ahead. For more information, contact the Arlington Community Foundation at 703-243-4785.

Photo: Joanna Miller and Roger Brown presented the first-ever AHC Inc. scholarship to Sivia Campos, who has participated in AHC’s programs since 2nd grade. 

Affordable Housing for an Aging America

AHC-Inc-News-06-affordable-housing-for-an-aging-america

Every day, 10,000 Baby Boomers turn sixty five years old.  In Arlington, one in five residents will be 60 or older by 2020.  As the number of senior citizens grows, affordable living opportunities for older Americans are becoming an increasing need.

AHC currently operates three apartment communities for senior citizens. All provide programs and staff to help residents age in place successfully.

 Hunter’s Park, in Arlington’s Cherrydale neighborhood, opened in 2005 with 74 one-bedroom apartments. The property includes welcoming common areas, including a living room with fireplace, library and rooftop patio. Activities abound, including exercise classes, book club, gardening workshops and special birthday celebrations. The vibrant environment helps keep seniors active and engaged.

MonteVerde Apartments, in Baltimore, serves 301 senior citizens and physically disabled individuals. AHC purchased and completely renovated the property in 2008. Today, AHC’s Resident Services staff help connect residents with the local services they need to live independently and improve their quality of life.  The property provides a shuttle service to local retailers, a library, arts and crafts room and game room lounges, nutrition and wellness programs.

 Charter House, in Silver Spring, MD, has 212 apartments for individuals aged 55 and older. Located near the Silver Spring Metro station, the 14-story building is within walking distance of lots of shops and activities. AHC assumed management responsibilities in mid-2014 and is working on building stimulating programs and activities with such partners as the Fenwick Foundation, which provides a wide variety of social programs and field trips for AHC’s senior citizens at other properties.

 Photo: AHC operates three communities for aging Americans.

Summer Camp Keeps Children Active and Engaged

AHC-Inc-News-07-summer-camp-keeps-children-active-and-engaged

It’s hard to say who has more fun during AHC’s six-week Summer Camp – the staff or the children.

AHC Resident Services staff are hard at work getting ready for this year’s Summer Camp. The theme is going to revolve around the arts, which will encourage lots of creativity and fun along with plenty of opportunities for engaging educational activities – the secret to AHC’s Summer Camp success.

Last year’s theme was Outdoor Exploration and the staff outdid themselves with wonderful field trips and activities.

The end-of-the-camp event, designed to give students a taste of camping and the outdoors, included a variety of activities that were brand new to most of our kids – like putting together a tent, roasting marshmallows, hiking, and trying to catch a fish.

There was lots of learning going on, too, during Summer Camp. But most of it was designed to be fun so students never felt like they were “in school.” For instance, one activity combined math, bowling and giant dice.

The children’s progress was very positive. Ninety-four percent of campers showed no loss in reading skills and 83 percent showed no loss in math facts. Plus, 100 percent of campers enjoyed learning how to cook and eat s’mores!

Photo: AHC’s Summer Camp makes learning fun

Creative Smart Growth Strategies

AHC-Inc-News-08-creative-smart-growth-strategies

One of the biggest advantages of smart growth – housing built in walkable neighborhoods located near mass transit, grocery stores, and shops – is that it creates desirable communities and draws homebuyers. A National Association of Realtors survey found that more than half of respondents preferred a smart growth neighborhood to a suburban subdivision.

But smart growth demand also can have a downside – limited housing stock and high development costs — which makes building transit-oriented affordable housing particularly challenging.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

In Arlington, Va., AHC Inc. has a track record of using creative ideas to build affordable housing in dense urban areas, where land can be expensive and scarce. Some of its approaches – from land swaps to creating land – could be replicated elsewhere as well. AHC’s experience provides examples of how affordable housing can be a key part of a smart growth strategy, helping to reach the goal of creating communities that are diverse, as well as desirable.

Here’s a look at some of AHC’s projects and strategies – and some of the challenges overcome.

 Swapping Land

Community concerns about density and building heights are a common challenge in smart growth areas. To move forward such a stalled project, AHC engineered a land swap with a prominent developer to reconfigure a multi-pronged project that included affordable housing along with high-end townhouses and 450,000 square feet of office and retail space. The land swap moved the townhouses next to existing single-family homes and nestled AHC’s 90-unit, four-story building closer to the retail and commercial spaces. AHC’s building, The Jordan, which encloses a welcoming courtyard, is separated from the larger buildings by an urban greenway.

 Using Nontraditional Spaces

With space at a premium in Arlington’s dense Metro Corridor, AHC transformed a parking lot next to an existing affordable garden-style apartment complex (Woodbury Park) into twin nine-story buildings – one affordable and one market rate. The condo (The Park at Courthouse) helped subsidize the affordable housing apartments. A passerby couldn’t tell the difference in the buildings, which are connected by a brick-lined courtyard. The end result: On a site just 1/4 mile from the Courthouse Metro Station, AHC created The Frederick with 108 affordable apartments, a 4,300-square-foot community center with onsite Resident Services programs, underground parking, and play areas for children.

 Photo: Twin buildings – one affordable (The Frederick on the right) and one market-rate (The Park at Courthouse on the left).