Providing Children and Families with a Framework for Community Collaboration
To Create Limitless Opportunities. To Fulfill Dreams and Hopes.
With eloquent enthusiasm, Douglas Tyson, assistant superintendent of Fairfax Public Schools, described it as “the equity of expectations!”
Modelled after a highly successful initiative launched five years ago in Harlem, NYC, the concept of Reston becoming an Opportunity Neighborhood was inaugurated at a ceremony held at South Lakes High School on Wednesday, October 26, 2016.
An auditorium filled with interested Reston-area residents, school principals, policemen, nonprofit executives, county program directors, business leaders, faith organizations and elected officials gathered to learn that an Opportunity Neighborhood is one where residents, schools, local government, community organizations, faith and business partners work collaboratively to create limitless possibilities for families in need.
RestON will ensure the well-being of children and youth by reducing barriers, and will provide a seamless continuum of trauma-informed supports, using data to understand community conditions, measure success and be accountable for results.
RestON is a commitment by community partners to work together in a focused and strategic way to improve outcomes for children, youth and families. Whether it is health, being ready and prepared for school, feeling safe in our home and community, or having a plan for graduation and beyond—Opportunity Neighborhood helps the Reston community identify the priorities and work together toward that change.
Longtime Hunter Mill Supervisor Cathy Hudgins explained it this way: “An Opportunity Neighborhood is a framework adopted by Fairfax County to enable communities like ours to look at the concerns, data, performance and assets, decide what is most important to us, and to bring together the people and institutions that can change that picture.”
She went on to say, “This helps our community identify the priorities and work together toward that change. No single organization, business or person can accomplish the task of long-term social change for youth and families on its own. We all do better when we all do better,” said Supervisor Hudgins.
In addition to Fairfax Public Schools, other RestON planning partners instrumental in the development and launch include Cornerstones, Leadership Fairfax, Reston Association, Reston Community Center, YMCA Reston, and the Fairfax County departments of Neighborhood and Community Services, Family Services, Housing and Community Development, the Office of Children and the Police Department.
Tyson singled out by name and thanked the attending principals of participating Reston area schools – Dogwood, Herndon, South Lakes, Lake Anne Elementary, Forest Edge and Sunrise Valley. He pointed out that the idea of equitable opportunity for all was infused into Reston’s core planning principles by Founder Robert E. Simon, including the building of a strong academic foundation. He said that the Board of Supervisors had recently adopted the One Fairfax Resolution, which directs the development of a racial and social equity policy to ensure all individuals in Fairfax have an opportunity to reach their highest level of personal achievement.
Greg White, COO at Cornerstones, shared with the crowd, “This collaboration provides the opportunity to understand what is happening in our community, see where we are not measuring up—or where there is unequal access to opportunity, and then set goals together to help change that picture for all children and youth. I know personally and professionally the importance of community in reaching young people and offering them chances and choice in their lives. If it hadn’t been for mentors in my life—I was headed down a path that others had prescribed for me. Now, we want to do the same in our community.”
The attendees were then invited to visit RestON information stations set up around the room for specialized queries: these included – Healthy Youth and Families, Success in School and Career/Workforce Readiness, Stable Families and Safe Communities, Community Engagement and Connectedness, and Community Resources (Fairfax County, Schools, Nonprofits and other Resources).
Reston Community Center (RCC) is a RestON planning partner, and Executive Director Leila Gordon closed the meeting with a pledge to continue to support this optimistic program and to help create positive, recreational, cultural and educational experiences to enhance the quality of life for all people living in and around Reston.
Information about RestON:
An Opportunity Neighborhood can be found at www.cornerstonesva.org/rest-on, or by emailing ON@cornerstonesva.org or calling 571.323.9555. For information about the Fairfax County Opportunity Neighborhood Initiative, see www.fairfaxcounty.gov/ncs/prevention/opportunity_neighborhoods.htm.