For Immediate Release
June 4, 2020
Contact: Michael W. Swisher
Adult Outreach and Engagement
Arlington Partnership for Children, Youth, and Families
Department of Human Services, Child and Family Services Division
2100 Washington Blvd, 3rd Floor
Arlington, VA 22204
Arlington, VA – The Arlington Partnership for Children, Youth, and Families is pleased to share a bright spot in our community – the 2020 Connect With Kids and Do For Kids Champions!
Connect with Kids Champions are individuals or groups who go out of their way to do things WITH kids. They excel at building relationships with young people that are positive and supportive; and guiding them in their growth and development. This year’s class includes two teams of youth instructors and two individuals who have been engaged and connecting with young people for years.
Do For Kids Champions are individuals and groups who do wonderful things FOR kids. They create opportunities for youth and support some of their unmet needs. For 2020, one of the Champions is a business that stepped up and is recognized for supporting families during the COVID-19 crisis; three others were selected because of long-standing commitments to children and their well-being.
For the first time, APCYF is pleased to also have named a Dual Connect With Kids and Do For Kids Champion.
The Dual-Champion is:
Nathan Liles, Teen DJ Program, Department of Parks & Recreation, Office for Teens. The first-ever Dual Champion, last spring as an 8th grader at Thomas Jefferson Middle School, he was asked to take over the DJ program when his mentor, DJ Jeff, had to take leave. Nathan jumped right in to keep the program going, coming in to work well before class time to prepare, DJing shows, and adopting a highly professional look and demeanor to copy his mentor. His commitment to the program ensured that it continued. However, his ability to connect with his peers and lead them helped the program to grow and thrive. Nathan embodies both awards in his level of investment in the program and to each individual student DJ.
The 2020 Connect With Kids Champions:
Tarica Mason, Arlington Public Schools Extended Day, Barcroft Elementary School. Ms. T, as she is known, is a consistent friendly face to all children. Her consistency was particularly important to a child who experienced multiple teacher turnovers during her kindergarten year. Wherever she worked over 22+ years with Extended Day she left a mark with countless children. She is always excited to see ‘her kids’, remembers details about their lives and listens when they talk – one of the most important ways to connect with kids.
Virginia “Ginger” Geoffrey, is a Key Club sponsor at Washington-Lee High School and in that capacity has assisted a number of students in navigating the college application process. Thanks to Ginger, Virginia’s universities are home to many young people who are first generation – and first women in their families – to attend college. Her support for students continues once they are in college as well, thus ensuring their success. Ginger and her husband have been generous supporters of young people through financial contributions and more importantly, as hosts and informal foster parents to young people from around the world. They are all one large, extended family that continues to grow with new generations, and building ever-stronger connections.
Adapted Gymnastics Instructors, Arlington Parks & Recreation. This group of youth and adults spend every Sunday morning supporting youth athletes with disabilities as they participate in a gymnastics program. The instructors create an environment of trust, forming bonds with each athlete so they feel comfortable stepping outside of their comfort zone and trying new and challenging tasks. The bond that the instructors create, coupled with their desire to see their athletes and friends reach their goals, is what sets them apart from the pack.
Martial Arts Instructors, Pentagon Mixed Martial Arts. This team of highly motivated instructors always connected with their students. Once COVID-19 made it impossible to see them daily, they quickly pivoted to online/virtual programs. Every single day they connect with parents and children to make sure they are doing well and staying healthy and active; in addition, they organize 3 events each week so that children have the ability to maintain their connection to their peers and instructors , to help them hold onto a sense of normalcy in these chaotic times.
The 2019 Do For Kids Champions are:
David Guas, Bayou Baker. David and his team have been unwavering in the their effort to provide hot meals to students since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. Initially offering meals to students from their restaurant near Courthouse, they quickly realized that few families were coming. They shifted and begain delivering meals. Working with PTA volunteers, they identified and got meals to residents who are unable to access the Arlington Public Schools Grab & Go meal sites due to geographic location. Always with a positive attitude, David is there with hot meals ready for delivery.
Charron McKethean, Arlington Public Schools Extended Day, Long Branch Elementary School. Despite over a quarter-century working with children, Charron is still has boundless energy for kids. From practicing dance moves for an upcoming event to participating in peewee Super Bowl games, to bagging meals for the homeless, she is always doing something to help make the school and the program better for the kids. She is the ‘go to’ person for just about any issue. Her commitment to the kids, and making things better, is what led to her selection.
Carol Sabatino, Carlin Springs Elementary School. Carol is the coordinator for this community school and for 7 years has nurtured dozens of partnerships to address the social, emotional and health needs of students AND their families. She facilitates access to community health and mental health supports that is critical for immigrant and vulnerable families. In addition, she creates a welcoming environment for parents who normally are fearful of institutions and helps them claim their role as partners in their children’s education and as community members.
Chris Seaton, Project Belong. Chris and her husband are one of many who have opened their homes to foster children, providing a loving and supportive home. After a few years she realized there is more she could do. What started as a side project is now a full-time endeavor. Project Belong brings together churches, government agencies and community partners to provide a variety of additional supports for foster children and the families who take them in.
The Connect With Kids Champions award was created by Mary Ann Moran, of the Arlington Partnership for Children, Youth and Families (APCYF), in 2004 as a way to recognize people in the community who go out of their way to connect WITH kids and develop positive, supportive relationships with them; and to inspire others to also connect with kids.
In 2018 APCYF added the Do For Kids Champion award to recognize individuals and groups who do wonderful things FOR kids.
Since 2004, the APCYF has recognized 139 Champions. They come from all walks of life – neighbors, friends, businesses, parent, or professionals working with young people. What sets these Champions apart is their intentional and deliberate attentiveness to the needs of young people and the support they provide.
By recognizing community Champions, the Partnership celebrates adults who make the commitment to young people, while also inspiring other adults to do the same.
The awardees will be honored at telemeetings for now; APCYF looks forward to celebrating in person with a celebration once that is safe to do.
For more information about Connect With Kids or Do For Kids Champions, contact Michael Swisher at [email protected].