The Concerned Citizens Network of Alexandria (CCNA) thanks all who joined and supported its 10th Anniversary Celebration and Fundraising Reception, on Thursday, April 18, 2018, at the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Attendees enjoyed an excellent performance by noted songwriter and Alexandria Living Legend, Jason Ellis. Later in the evening, CCNA shared an emotional video recapping the past ten years in pictures. Dr. Bernard Jackson, Board Member, then introduced CCNA’s 10th Anniversary Photobook-A Decades of Memories, which is available for purchase online. “This is a great book and a perfect gift for families and friends,” noted attendee, Phillip Bradford, as he made the first purchase of the yearbook.
Heather Peeler of ACT for Alexandria congratulated CCNA for its decade of service and for the many partnerships it has created. “If you want to go fast, go alone. But, if you want to go far, go together,” she said.
Former Mayors Bill Euille and Allison Silberberg, among other longtime supporters, offered their congratulations for “the vision to do something for our children’s sake.” But, focused on the future, both cautioned that the “challenges we face today hasn’t changed that much.”
In 2009, a Washington Post article showed T.C Williams High School was among the “Lowest-Performing Schools” in the state of Virginia, with the highest dropout rates.
“For many of us concerned citizens, that troubling article was a ‘call to action,’ ” said Gwendolyn Hubbard Lewis, who founded CCNA. She, along with several other concerned citizens – Ferdinand Day, Reverend Bert Ransom, Gwendolyn Day-Fuller, Lynwood Campbell, Jim Henson, Florence King and a host of others – formed a network to address the issue, hence the name, Concerned Citizens Network of Alexandria.
The non-profit organization’s mission is to aid in reducing the city’s troubling public school dropout rate. But, noted Lewis, the number of students dropping out of school continues at alarming numbers today and remains an ongoing critical issue for Alexandria.
Students participating in CCNA’s acclaimed after-school tutoring and mentoring program, Reach and Rise for Excellence (RARE), do better in school. Their increased math, science, and reading scores demonstrate what a little “extra help” can do.
Standing with her two sons, Brooklyn and Robert, RARE Parent Sheray Dempsey offered her thanks for the RARE program, noting a “cookie cutter approach” doesn’t work. One son greatly benefited from CCNA’s after-school tutoring program. He became a straight-A student. She wished he had it now in high school, where he’s struggling a bit. To CCNA, she said: “Thank you so much. Thank you from my family.”
CCNA embraces a three-pronged approach. We host community forums, engage parents and tutor and mentor middle school students so everyone has equal opportunities moving forward.
City Councilman John Chapman, another longtime supporter, said “CCNA has a grassroots focus that tackles some of the hardest issues facing Alexandria.” Yet, he added, “funding is limited and resources are limited” from the city. He pledged to do what he can to find more funds.
Alfred Street Baptist Church and Saint Joseph Catholic Church, two of CCNA’s strongest and most generous supporters, continue to do their part. “I get excited with organizations like CCNA,’ said Reverend Sam Nixon of Alfred Street Baptist Church. “They are entrenched in the lives of our children.” In a November 2018 community forum meeting, Father Donald Fest of St Joseph Catholic Church echoed a similar sentiment: “If you are in a position to help, we want to challenge you and encourage you to do so.”
Still, the harsh reality is CCNA needs financial support to help its programs continue and expand over the next decade. The organization is asking the community at large to contribute what it can to help CCNA help all of our students – too many of which are still falling through the cracks.
Greeted with loud applause and a standing ovation, Gwen Lewis accepted the organization’s two Lifetime Achievement Awards, one for herself and one on behalf of Gwen Day-Fuller, CCNA immediate past Chair, who was unable to attend. The Awards are for their numerous and selfless contributions over the past 10 years. “For the first time in my life, I’m speechless,” said Lewis.
Looking back over the past decade with a sense of accomplishment, she closed the evening with an impassioned plea for more support. Looking ahead, “We still have challenges, but CCNA will continue to serve the students and families of our great city. Please stay with us on this journey. We need your help; together we can help make every child a winner.”
To donate online, please visit ccnalexandria.org or make your check or money order payable to CCNA and mail to: CCNA, 107 S West St., Suite 144, Alexandria VA 22314.