Director’s Blog – September, 2014


First Star Greater Washington held the first monthly meeting of the 2015-2016 academic year at the historic Arts Club of Washington this past Saturday, September 5th. Students and Mentors alike were ecstatic to see one another after the end the summer immersion in August. Smiles and warm embraces were abundant as we talked about how the summer had wrapped up for each of us and what we were looking forward to in the new school year.

Students arrived between 9:30 and 10 am, caught up with each other, and relayed their current class schedules to their mentors and senior staff. Brian Ritchey, our Program Director, had already met with most of the students and guardians the two weeks prior to discuss the successes of the summer and map out plans and goals for the upcoming school year.  All the students enjoyed breakfast snacks of bananas, breakfast bars, orange juice and apple juice as they settled into the day.

Each student was given a folder with an outline of all the monthly meetings for the upcoming 2015-2016 academic year and the workshop focus for each meeting, as well as, all the dates for optional tutoring days and community service days being offered by FSGWA throughout the year. Also included in the folder were two lists of SAT/ACT vocabulary words. The first were words that the youth learned over the 2015 Summer Immersion Program, the second, a new list of 100 words for the upcoming year.  The youth are quizzed on 10 vocabulary words from each list at each monthly meeting throughout the year.  Each student received their own Reading Plus login information to continue working with the program at home and a biography of each of the members in The Rock Creek Trio. We began the day’s activities at 10 am.

Students broke out in small groups and went over the two groups of vocabulary words.  First working with pronunciation and learned the meaning of the word, then finding a synonym for each using vocabulary words they had already mastered or used in every day speech,  Once youth had written in their synonyms and felt they had learned the words, they got together with a peer to quiz each other.

At 11am were treated to a private performance by The Rock Creek Trio, a group of classical music performers comprised of a piano player (Bob Boguslaw), a violinist (Regino Madrid), and a celloist (Nicole Boguslaw). The Trio played many different classical pieces that explored the emotions provoked by the music.  They also stopped after each piece to engage with the students about the music and what emotions the felt or heard. The students were spell bound by the performers and actively engaged in the discussion.  They also learned about how the each member’s instrument was unique, as well as, the lives of the musicians themselves and how their love of music got them to the places they are now.

We spent the next hour mingling with the band members while lunch was provided by the ever generous, Arts Club of Washington. A spread of fresh greens, fruits, slices of ham with dried fruit, coleslaw, potato salad, pasta salad, delicious BBQ ribs, and as assortment of cookies, brownies and lemon bars for desert. The setting could not have been more elegant with white table clothes, fine art on the walls and full service waiters who never let the food run out.

After lunch students were quizzed on the 20 vocabulary words for September.   The chosen ten learned over the summer were put into context sentences to show mastery and the ones from the new list were matched with definitions to show they had learned the meaning of each word. They had to use each word in a sentence. Then we reviewed the new vocabulary word packet and assigned ten words to be learned by the next meeting in October. Expectations for the year were laid out with the understanding that the year would be focused on academics.

Students wrapped up the day by celebrating birthdays with cupcakes and little social time prior to pick up by parents, social workers, and guardians. We continue to be encouraged and inspired by these amazing young people as they continue this journey in the right direction towards higher education and a productive future. I look forward to seeing everyone again October 3rd for a Financial Literacy Workshop being hosted by the Sarah Start Fund.


With warmth and compassion,


Brian Ritchey
Program Director