Filling in the Blanks with Ramee Gentry: The holiday season at ACPS

Filling in the Blanks with Ramee Gentry: The holiday season at ACPS
Ramee Gentry is chair of the Alexandria City School Board.

As temperatures grow cooler, days become shorter and the year draws to a close, a spirit of giving, sharing and connecting abounds. Throughout our schools and community, children are singing, bands are playing and community service initiatives
are underway.

Many families joined our interim superintendent, school board members and staff at the festive Scottish Walk on Saturday as we kicked off the closing month of 2017.

The Jefferson-Houston School community welcomed Alexandrians to their free pre-Scottish Walk pancake breakfast, a great gift to all who were able to partake.

Later this month, creative artists from throughout Alexandria City Public Schools will share their talents at Alexandria’s First Night celebration.

At this time of year, parents, students, staff and community members are drawn together in ways that are particularly special.

In our schools, bands and orchestras are rehearsing, along with choirs and third grade recorder students, getting ready for their winter performances. Families will fill our schools to make merry with friends and neighbors and celebrate the creative and artistic endeavors of their children.

Third grade students from across the division will descend upon T.C. Williams High School to enjoy a concert by the award-winning T.C. choir. We are hopeful that this special opportunity will inspire some of these young students to sing a little louder in the shower and maybe join the choir when their time comes.

And community leaders and elected officials will enjoy breakfast with students at many of our schools as part of the Virginia Breakfast Challenge. The challenge seeks to increase participation in school breakfast programs, a key strategy in ending childhood hunger. Added benefits of the program include a more positive school climate, calmer and more focused classrooms, a decrease in tardiness and absenteeism and the elimination of the stigma associated with free meal programs. We know that children who are well fed are better able to learn.

While enjoying holiday cheer is a big part of this season, so too is giving back.
At many of our schools, new and gently used hats, gloves, coats and boots are being collected to be shared with those in need. And gifts will be anonymously given to students who might otherwise go without, thanks to generous staff who volunteered to be paired up with students in need.

Many businesses, such as Bread & Chocolate, Barnes & Noble and Chipotle, are teaming up with our schools to donate a percentage of their proceeds on a given night, or as part of a fundraiser, to support school initiatives.

You, too, can be a part of the giving. Contact your neighborhood school to learn how you can help those who are facing challenges to enjoy this holiday season. Participate in your neighborhood school’s fundraisers, especially when one is connected to something you might already do, like eat out. Donate to toy and winter gear drives at your neighborhood school, or through organizations such as ALIVE!

Come read to, tutor or mentor our students and get immersed in the diversity that makes this city so very special.

Our neighborhood schools are a staple of our community and bring us together in so many ways. You don’t have to be a parent of a student to be involved in our schools. Whether attending a community meeting or casting a vote at your neighborhood school, you are a part of our school community and we welcome your involvement.

Ensuring that our students feel nurtured, cared for and believed in is critical to their overall success in life. When children feel safe, secure and loved, they are better equipped to perform academically and to succeed in school and in life.

Learn more about how you can get involved and support our goal to have every student succeed. Better still, make a plan to be involved throughout the coming year.

This time of year is a universal time of giving, sharing and connecting. We look forward to continuing this tradition in the year ahead. Happy Holidays.