group-v2First Star Greater Washington Academy LLC – Summer Immersion at The George Washington University – July 2015 Blog

On July 5th, we were delighted to welcome 23 students, both current and new, to the Merriweather dorm located at the beautiful Mount Vernon campus of The George Washington University for our third summer immersion experience.  Students brought laughter, smiles, luggage and bags and set about settling into their rooms and talking with their roommates about their hopes and plans.

Ms. Zora Marshall joined us this year as our new Assistant Director.  She works at Fairfax County Public Schools and brings decades of advanced education and experiences as both a teacher and a principal to our academy.

Our new group of dedicated mentors introduced themselves and immediately started learning names and personalities before the day was done.  We also welcomed our new counselor, Jacqueline Hargrove, who shared duties with our longtime counselor, Dr. Amrit Daryanani.

The Introduction to Architecture two-credit course began on the first Monday, followed by daily sessions in literacy, mathematics, reading (Reading Plus), SAT/ACT test taking and vocabulary,  and study/test-taking skills. Transition classes included instruction in topics such as public speaking, dressing for success, learning strategies, financial literacy, building personal resilience and practices for successful living.  Topping it off, students enjoyed team sports, personal gym time, art activities and music sessions!

Our students cooled down from the intense learning with an ice cream social, yoga, calming green tea and scheduled bedtime meditation.  They also earned spending money for a group activity by organizing a very successful and fun car wash at the local Exxon.  After a fun day in the sun with lots of suds and hoses, they all cleaned up and dressed for a spectacular dinner at Carmine’s, where they continued instruction in etiquette while enjoying a delicious meal.

We participated in many other activities, such as a full day at Six Flags Amusement Park, attending the Nationals baseball game, and a night at the movies.

A very special day was spent with our partners from the Sara Start Fund who sponsored a trip to Macy’s department store.  Each student received a generous donation to purchase clothing that would be appropriate work attire for current and future employment opportunities.  We thank everyone involved for the time, funding and helpful advice to help our students shine!

Additionally, the students were treated to a poignant evening spent with a Holocaust survivor in preparation for the field trip to the Holocaust Museum the following day.  It was a rare treasure to be in the presence of a person who modeled uncommon courage and perseverance to live.  What a gift to then be generous enough to personally share the truth of this history to our new generation of young people.

One of the high points each summer is the Talent Show and once again, the students and mentors outdid themselves with a plethora of talents!  Dancing, singing, poetry, and story-telling filled the evening with joy and splendor.  Everyone then surprised Mr. Wayne (the proclaimed “Grandpa” of the Academy!) with a cowboy themed birthday celebration back at the dorm, complete with cowboy hats, cake and ice cream!


 The four weeks went by so quickly and before we knew it, it was time for the Closing Ceremony.  Students and staff worked hard to organize a lovely evening with families, social workers, friends and supporters to celebrate the hard work and camaraderie of our special community of learners.  We proudly shared our advances in reading levels, academic growth, personal development and relationships.  As we stood in gratitude that beautiful final night before packing up for home, we agreed to carry in our hearts our thankful spirit for all that we have been given and shared together.

We look forward to the fourth year of our wonderful Academy starting with the monthly meetings beginning in September.  We thank everyone for the love, hard work and support that made this summer the best yet and we await new possibilities as our students succeed toward high school graduation and onward to college!