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AHC Celebrates 20 High School Grads – All First in Family to Attend College

In early June, AHC Inc. honored 20 high school graduates during a special celebration with families, mentors, education leaders, and much applause. School Board member Tannia Talento was the keynote speaker.

AHC’s Class of 2018’s achievements are remarkable. Perhaps most life-changing, ALL of the students are the first in their families to attend college.

Their future hopes and dreams are wide-ranging, including cyber security, film and media studies, special education, mechanical engineering, criminal justice, auto mechanics, architecture, social work, animation, civil engineering, pre-med, international relations and psychology.

Together, the group earned more than $613,000 in scholarships. Two students received full-tuition scholarships. Flor Caceres is attending Lafayette College through the POSSE Foundation. And, Ruth Mengesha is going to James Madison University through the Centennial Scholars Program.

The students are participants in AHC’s College & Career Readiness Program, a component of AHC’s overall education initiative that provides after-school, teen, and summer camp programs in the affordable apartment communities where students live. Many of the graduates have grown up in AHC’s programs. Three of this year’s class started in Kindergarten.

Lydia Abraha, who has participated in AHC’s programs since she was six, believes the program has helped her become who she is today. “I’ve built many relationships with staff members and tutors that have influenced my life,” says Abraha. “I can’t imagine my life without the memories and positive impact AHC has provided me.” A dedicated student, Abraha was accepted into eight colleges. She chose Virginia Tech because she received the Virginia Tech Inclusive Student Excellence Scholarship and plans to study mechanical engineering.

Along with students’ hard work, the College and Career Planning program succeeds thanks to mentors who work one-on-one with students throughout their senior year. Volunteers help students keep up their grades and navigate college and scholarship applications. Their commitment produces real results. This year, students applied to 93 colleges and universities and were accepted into 65.

Over the years, many of the students and mentors have developed lasting relationships. “We will definitely stay in touch,” said Undrakh Tsend, who is attending the College of William and Mary, and has worked with tutor Lisa Martin since 8th grade. “She is my mentor and my best friend, too,” said Tsend.

Mentor Alex Payne also hopes to keep in touch with Victor Orellana, who is enrolled in the Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) Pathways Program. “The mentoring program has been rewarding and productive for both of us,” says Payne. “We’ll definitely keep in touch and I hope he keeps me updated when he registers for classes.” Orellana, who hopes to be a graphic designer or animator, agrees. “I hope we stay friends forever,” he says.

AHC’s College & Career Readiness Program is part of AHC’s comprehensive commitment to “Housing + Education = Success.” The organization’s goal is to provide educational opportunities and social services to help individuals and families build stable lives, put down roots and become strong community members.

Many thanks to Project Discovery Virginia and Arlington Public Schools for their support of our students and our programs.

AHC Class of 2018 Students

Umniya Abdu (Virginia Commonwealth University), Lydia Abraha (Virginia Tech), Dayana Albarado (George Mason University), Sharon Albarado (George Mason University), Flor Caceres (Lafayette College), Flavia Dominguez (George Mason University), Kiana Flores (Northern Virginia Community College), Christopher Lozano (Northern Virginia Community College), Katelyn Ly (James Madison University), Ruth Mengesha (James Madison University), Carlos Orellana (Northern Virginia Community College), Victor Orellana (Northern Virginia Community College), Bibho Prasai (Northern Virginia Community College), Daniel Rodriguez (Northern Virginia Community College), Bryan Sanchez (Northern Virginia Community College), Ainood Soliman (George Mason University), Carlos Soliz (Northern Virginia Community College), Undrakh Tsend (College of William and Mary), Minjin Uranbayar (James Madison University) and Katerin Villegas (Northern Virginia Community College).

2017/2018 Mentors

Tim Bellaire, Jim Burridge, Terry Burridge, Rachel Cosgray, Christina Ann Dietrich, Jean Falvey, Evan Heit, Cindy Kaang, Alexandra Lucas, Christine Mader, Lisa Martin, Katie Masterson, Judy Palmore, Alex Payne, Jonathan Roose, Kathryn Sheehan, Sharon Showalter, David Slater, Ann Symonds, Jennifer Ukegbu, Gary Usrey and Maria Woolverton.

Photos from the graduation celebration.

For volunteer opportunities, visit https://www.ahcinc.org/get-involved/volunteers/

Photo: From left to right: Flor Caceres (Lafayette College), Bibho Prasai (Northern Virginia Community College) and Undrakh Tsend (College of William and Mary) participated in AHC’s education programs at Woodbury Park/Frederick Community Center.

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Founded in 1975, AHC Inc. is a nonprofit developer of affordable housing in the mid-Atlantic region that provides quality homes and education programs for low- and moderate-income families. Based in Arlington, VA, AHC has developed more than 7,000 apartment units in 50+ properties in Virginia,  Maryland and Washington, DC. AHC’s Resident Services program reaches 3,000 children, teens, adults and seniors each year through onsite education programs and activities.

 

High School Seniors Announce College Choice at AHC Inc. Signing Day

With brand new college t-shirts and big smiles, 20 high school seniors proudly announced where they are going to college during AHC Inc.’s recent College Signing Day. The students, participants in AHC’s College & Career Readiness Program, are all the first in their families to achieve this milestone. AHC, a nonprofit affordable housing developer, provides a variety of onsite services for residents, including education programs for youth.

Going to college is a life-changing achievement. College graduates, on average, earn 56% more than high school grads, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Earning a college degree will change these students’ lives as well as the lives of their families.

Housing + Education = Success is one of AHC’s key philosophies. Along with building and preserving affordable apartment communities, AHC also provides a variety of onsite services for residents, including education programs for youth. The organization’s goal is to help individuals and families build stable lives, put down roots and become strong community members.

Celebrating with the teens were volunteer mentors, AHC Inc. staff, parents, representatives from Arlington Public Schools and leaders from Project Discovery of Virginia, a statewide program that provides resources and tools to help students stay in school and successfully access post-secondary education.

The students are planning to attend a variety of schools, including the College of William and Mary, George Mason University, James Madison University, Lafayette College, Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) Pathways Program, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Virginia Tech.

Youth are considering a wide range of careers, including criminal justice, mechanical engineering, film and media studies, cyber security, special education, architecture, graphic design, pre-med or nursing, game design, social work, math education, history, civil engineering, and international relations.

“I am incredibly proud of all of our students,” said Milenka Coronel, College & Career Readiness Manager. “They have worked so hard to get to this day.”

Initiated in 2016, AHC’s College & Career Readiness Program helps high school seniors successfully transition to the next step. The program pairs students with adult volunteer mentors who help teens succeed academically and also navigate the challenges of college applications and scholarship opportunities.

“The mentor/student relationship is the secret sauce of our program,” explained Coronel. “They work one-on-one for a full year and develop a real partnership. Signing Day was as exciting for the mentors as it was for the students.”

Several students earned significant scholarships.

Flor Caceres, for instance, earned a POSSE Foundation Scholarship, a four-year, full-tuition leadership merit scholarship that also includes mentoring, leadership training, and career preparation. Flor will be attending Lafayette College in Pennsylvania.

Ruth Megesha received the James Madison University Centennial Scholars Program, a full, four-year scholarship, which also provides financial assistance and multi-level academic support.

The College & Career Readiness Program is the culmination of AHC’s multi-faceted education program, which also includes an after-school program and summer camp for elementary students plus tutoring for teens. For more than 10 years, 100% of the seniors in the program have successfully graduated from high school.

Many students have grown up in the program.  Lydia Abraha and Katelyn Ly have been involved since kindergarten. And Carlos Soliz started in elementary school.

“Our Resident Services program, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, works so well because we provide programs where people live,” explained Susan Davidson, AHC’s Director of Resident Services.

Lydia, one of the 2018 graduates, joined AHC’s education program when she was in kindergarten. She and her family lived at the Berkeley Apartments all her life and recently moved to another AHC property while the Berkeley is being renovated.

One of her favorite memories is how her long-time mentor, Tim Bellaire, helped her master freshman math. “I think I actually started getting into what I wanted to do for college thanks to his influence in math and encouragement to work hard,” says Lydia.

Since then, Lydia’s math skills have expanded significantly. At AHC’s College Signing Day, she announced she is going to Virginia Tech to study mechanical engineering. And, just as he’s been doing since Lydia was in middle school, Tim Bellaire was there to cheer her on.

For volunteer opportunities, visit https://www.ahcinc.org/get-involved/volunteers/

 

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Founded in 1975, AHC Inc. is a nonprofit developer of affordable housing in the mid-Atlantic region that provides quality homes and education programs for low- and moderate-income families. Based in Arlington, VA, AHC has developed more than 7,000 apartment units in 50+ properties in Virginia,  Maryland and Washington, DC. AHC’s Resident Services program reaches 3,000 children, teens, adults and seniors each year through onsite education programs and activities.

 

AHC Inc. Students and Seniors Spread Holiday Cheer

This holiday season, AHC Inc. staff teamed up with residents of all ages to share the holiday spirit.

AHC’s After-School students created dozens of colorful holiday cards for senior citizens. The new activity allowed students to share the warmth of the season with their older neighbors at this special time of year.

“During the holidays, our students receive gifts from generous local organizations,” explained Senior Resident Services Manager Becky Koons. “This holiday card project was a perfect way to include our senior citizens, so they can also receive something special for the holidays.”

Resident Services Manager Jasmine Rose said the project helped her students think about those who are less fortunate or may not be with family during the holidays.

“They filled the cards with a lot of positive language and holiday cheer,” said Rose. Some of the fifth graders were really proud they were going to make someone’s day with the words and poems they put in the card.”

Koons believes the card-making project meant a lot to both the recipients and the students. “It’s something so simple, but the students put a lot of care into making them. Each student added their own creative touches to the cards and included a thoughtful message inside.”

While students made holiday cards, residents at AHC’s affordable apartment community for active senior citizens, Hunter’s Park, were busy working on their own special project – “Operation Christmas.”

For the second year in a row, senior residents organized a drive for children in need, filling shoe boxes with toys, personal hygiene kits, and other items. Resident Services Manager Ana Ochoa said the idea for Operation Christmas came up in an informal conversation last year, as residents wanted to band together to help children.

“They were very enthusiastic, said Ochoa.  “Our group of knitting ladies made hats and scarfs. Some of them collected a few little toys and before I knew it we packed 40 boxes!”

Hunter’s Park residents were excited to repeat the shoe-box drive this year and got more volunteers involved. Their effort paid off – this year the group produced 60 packed gift boxes for children in need.

“What amazes me is the circle of kindness around. It was just a beautiful moment for all of us,” said Ochoa.

– Andrew Karpinski

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Founded in 1975, AHC Inc. is a nonprofit developer of affordable housing in the mid-Atlantic region that provides quality homes and education programs for low- and moderate-income families. Based in Arlington, VA, AHC has developed more than 7,000 apartment units in 53 properties in Virginia and Maryland. AHC’s Resident Services program reaches 2,500 children, teens, adults and seniors each year through onsite education programs and activities.

 

Celebrating Thanksgiving – AHC Serves Up 30+ Turkeys at Six Community Centers in Arlington

Thanksgiving-2017

November 22, 2017 — In celebration of the holiday season, AHC Inc. continued its annual tradition of hosting Thanksgiving dinners at several of its affordable housing communities in Arlington. For some residents, the Thanksgiving dinner is a preview to the one they’ll share with family on Thursday. For others, it is their main Thanksgiving celebration – a time to share big plates of food with their families and neighbors in the community.

“These events are a wonderful opportunity to build community at our properties and bring residents together,” said Resident Services Director Susan Davidson. “It’s great to experience so many different cultural flavors along with the traditional turkey dinner.”

This year, AHC hosted Thanksgiving celebrations at six community centers that offer onsite education programs and services for residents. AHC staff teamed up with dozens of volunteers to cook more than 30 turkeys, prepare side dishes, and help decorate community spaces for hundreds of residents to enjoy a Thanksgiving feast together.

At Woodbury Park Apartments, long lines of guests waited outside on Monday evening for the community center doors to open. Becky Koons, Senior Resident Services Manager, spent the day cooking mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, corn, and stuffing. Prior to the dinner, Koons predicted they would need eight turkeys for the 300 to 400 guests they were expecting.

“I think there were one thousand people!” said ten-year-old volunteer Micah Peters. Peters, who helped hand out desserts to guests, said he would come back again next year to help. “It was cool to see kids my age. Chocolate cake was the most popular [dish].”

Marco Condor attended the Woodbury dinner with his two youngest children, Anthony and Emily. Condor and his family have lived at Woodbury Park for five years, where his children participate in AHC’s After-School Program. They are enjoying another Thanksgiving event with extended family on Thursday.

Cynthia Ma and her daughter, Christina, residents at Woodbury for 10 years, consider Monday night’s meal their main Thanksgiving dinner. They celebrate the holiday by paying it forward – volunteering at a local shelter to help prepare Thanksgiving meals.

At Harvey Hall Apartments, Resident Services Manager Jasmine Rose organized a smaller dinner of around 60 to 70 guests for AHC’s After-School Program students and their extended families.

“It’s fun for the kids to have their families come where we host the program. We keep their artwork out on display for their families to see,” said Rose. “[These dinners] are just a perfect way to bring folks together around Thanksgiving.”

At The Gates of Ballston Rinker Community Center celebration, families received a special guest appearance along with their Thanksgiving meal. The Arlington County Police Department’s First District Community Team stopped by to spend time with the young students and wish families a happy Thanksgiving. The team has become a regular visitor at AHC’s After-School Program and spent the evening with students who had prepared special napkins with notes about what they were thankful for this holiday season.

“We enjoy spending time with the kids, helping them with crafts and other activities,” said Officer Michael Keen. “It’s nice to build continuity with the students and their families.”

About a dozen volunteers helped prepare and serve Thanksgiving dishes at the Gates of Ballston event. “They really went above and beyond,” said Shardae Monroe, Resident Services Coordinator. “I think that’s what made the event so successful.”

One of the volunteers, Coral Harris, has worked with youth in AHC’s education programs for three years. She enjoyed the opportunity to visit with students and their families – and share a big batch of home-cooked macaroni and cheese. Her long-time commitment also reflects the spirit of Thanksgiving.

“A lot of people helped me along the way, and I am grateful for the opportunity to give back,” said Harris. “I feel it is necessary to do what I can.”

– Andrew Karpinski

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Founded in 1975, AHC Inc. is a nonprofit developer of affordable housing in the mid-Atlantic region that provides quality homes and education programs for low- and moderate-income families. Based in Arlington, VA, AHC has developed more than 7,000 apartment units in 53 properties in Virginia and Maryland. AHC’s Resident Services program reaches 2,500 children, teens, adults and seniors each year through onsite education programs and activities.

 

AHC Teens Tour University of Virginia

UVA-trip

November 17, 2017 — Nearly 50 AHC students and staff members recently toured the University of Virginia. The students, mostly high school juniors and seniors, were delighted to experience the historic campus first hand.

AHC’s Teen Tutoring and College and Career  Readiness Programs provide a variety of field trips for students to help them navigate the complicated path to choosing a college or a career after high school. Each year, AHC teens visit two to three local colleges. The program is also visiting Howard University and Marymount University in the spring.

One of the highlights of the UVA trip was the student panel, which included a diverse group of students who spoke about their personal college experiences. “The panel was really helpful for our students,” explains Milenka Coronel, AHC’s College and Career Readiness Manager. “Hearing stories from students of different backgrounds and from different states allowed our students to see that college is possible for everyone.”

The UVA students also provided helpful tips on work opportunities on campus (a priority for many AHC students) and advice on choosing a college, finding scholarship dollars and filling out applications. AHC students also enjoyed learning more about the opportunity to create a unique major and the wide variety of social and extracurricular activities that are an important part of a full college experience.

Eight seniors also had an opportunity to choose and attend a class lecture or seminar. The experience was really inspiring.

One student, Dayana, was particularly excited about attending a computer programming course and brought her own laptop to follow along. After the class was over she said: “This was really helpful to see a college course, and I know I want to pursue my major even more now. It was exciting and informational.”

Photo: Rhegan Hyypio Nunez

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Founded in 1975, AHC Inc. is a nonprofit developer of affordable housing in the mid-Atlantic region that provides quality homes and education programs for low- and moderate-income families. Based in Arlington, VA, AHC has developed more than 7,000 apartment units in 53 properties in Virginia and Maryland. AHC’s Resident Services program reaches 2,500 children, teens, adults and seniors each year through onsite education programs and activities.