Washingtonians Of The Year 2000
IT TAKES TWO KINDS OF PEOPLE TO BUILD A COMMUNITY: DREAMERS and doers. The Washingtonians of the Year for the year 2000 are people who do both. Susie Kay dreamed of getting the resources that kids east of the Anacostia River need to succeed. Her Hoop Drea
I see these kids with life-threatening illnesses who aren't old enough to strap on a pair of skates. You want to help them forget about being sick for a little while.
WHEN WASHINGTON CAPITALS goalie Olaf Kolzig is on the ice, he can look downright menacing. But the iceman melts when he meets children.
Kolzig has made Children's National Medical Center his cause. He and DC 101 morning host Elliot Segal created the Olie and Elliot Great Saves Program. Each donates a dollar for every save Kolzig makes in a game, $50 for every win, $100 for every shutout, and $25 for each point the Caps gain in the standings.
Last season, Olie and Elliot gave $12,500—an amount matched by Caps owner Ted Leonsis.
Then there are Olie's All-Stars. Kolzig bought ten season tickets to Caps games for hospitalized kids and their families. When the All-Stars and their families go to a game, one child gets to ride the ice resurfacer. Often the children spend time with Olie.
One of the All-Stars last year was Nicholas, a nine-year-old with T-cell lymphoma. Nicholas felt like he had received the greatest gift ever, says his mother. But she felt she and her husband got an even greater gift: "We had a chance to see the smiles and the laughter, the spirit that we hadn't seen in so long. Nicholas was not lonely, scared, sickly, or depressed. He was what we thought we had lost."
It is the private time Olie Kolzig spends with kids that matters most, according to Lynn Cantwell at Children's. "We have very sick children here. He comes in to see them one-on-one," she says. "He asks the staff to call him if a kid is having a rough time so he can come by."
The McGowan family has three children with cystic fibrosis. They have spent a lot of time at Children's and have come to know Kolzig well.
Kathy McGowan talks about his relationship with her son John, 16, who died in February. "What my son loved was that he could talk hockey with Olie," she says. "With Olie he wasn't a patient. He was a fan."
I wear my soul on my sleeve.
I N ONE OF HER FIRST JOBS AS A TELEVISION REPORTER, Barbara Harrison was chastised by her superior. During an interview with a mother who had just lost her child, the camera caught Harrison with a tear in her eye.
What one news director saw as weakness has become Harrison's hallmark. The WRC-TV anchor doesn't pretend to be untouched by her stories.
When Harrison came to WRC from San Francisco in 1981, DC had one of the nation's highest infant-mortality rates. Harrison documented her own pregnancy on the air as part of a "Beautiful Babies Right From the Start" campaign to show the importance of prenatal care.
In 1990, Barbara Harrison began her "Wednesday's Child" segments to help find adoptive families for hard-to-place children. The project is a joint effort with the Council of Governments and the Freddie Mac Foundation.
The kids she showcases on "Wednesday's Child" are not poster babies. Many are older, want to be placed with siblings, or have disabilities.
Before Harrison met one brother and sister, they had been adopted and lived with their new family for a year. Then the father got sick, and the mother sent the children back to social services.
The little boy asked Harrison, "Why did we have to go? We still had our room, and we were good!"
During their "Wednesday's Child" segment, "they stood there with their brave little hearts," Harrison recalls. Afterward the station was flooded with calls, and the siblings found a new family.
Barbara Harrison has won 11 Emmy awards. One of her specials, "The Healing of Kuwait," was honored by the International Film and TV Festival of New York. In 1997, Harrison received the Ted Yates Award for community service.
But for Harrison the greatest reward is still the opportunity to share her caring with her audience. "I feel fortunate to be able to help," she says, "to give a story the face and the depth it deserves."
J. Willard Marriott Jr.
We need to get people in the inner city excited about the opportunities in our industry.
F OR BILL MARRIOTT, HOSPITALITY ISN'T a business. It's a calling. He started working in the Marriott-owned Hot Shoppes when he was in high school. And when the first new Hot Shoppe opens at the Key Bridge Marriott this spring, he'll make the first hot-fudge ice-cream cake.
The secret, Marriott says, is that when you pour on the hot fudge, you have to leave a dry spot on the top of the cake so the whipped cream and the cherry don't slide off.
Marriott believes passionately that the hotel and food-service industry can offer great opportunities for others as it has for his family. He has turned that passion into programs for people who have a hard time entering the workforce. These efforts offer the training and placement needed to succeed.
Marriott started the "Bridges … From School to Work" program in 1989 to help young people with disabilities find jobs. Students in the last year of high school get paid internships in local workplaces and training to prepare them for work. Since Bridges started, 1,200 young people have gotten jobs.
Last year, Marriott helped launch the Marriott Hospitality High School, the nation's first four-year public high school of its kind. Open to all DC residents, the school offers academics as well as training in restaurant and hotel operations.
When Bill Marriott speaks to students at the school, he encourages them to aim high.
"I tell them that most of our senior vice presidents came up through the ranks," he says. "There are lots of good jobs in construction, architecture, and real estate in this industry."
Marriott is also a major supporter of the DC College Access Program and contributes to dozens of community causes.
He brings to each project the same energy and determination to "do it right" as he does to creating the perfect hot-fudge ice-cream cake. And because he cares so much, life is sweeter for many Washingtonians.
Rockefeller Ludwig Twyman
It's so rewarding to see that registry grow.
B ECOMING A BONE-MARROW DONOR INvolves anesthesia, a needle in the hip, and a couple of days of rest. Rocky Twyman can't wait.
"I'm going to have TV follow the whole process," he says. "Friends will bring food and presents. I'll have my choir sing… ."
Twyman gets jazzed about bone marrow. Since 1992, he has inspired 9,000 Washingtonians, mostly African-Americans, to get tested as potential donors.
That was the year Twyman heard that a coworker at DC General Hospital, Alicia Nelson, was fighting leukemia. Without replacing her bone marrow with some from a healthy donor, she would die.
Donated marrow can help sufferers not just of leukemia but of lymphomas, rare blood disorders, and possibly lupus—which disproportionately affects black women. Learning that all minorities made up just 5 percent of National Marrow Donor Program registrants, Twyman resolved to drive the numbers up. He organized one registration drive for Nelson, then another and another.
It's working: That 5 percent has since quintupled. Just last year, the number of African-Americans on the registry—though still less than 8 percent of its names—jumped by 25,000.
Twyman, now community-affairs coordinator at radio station WHUR, has organized drives around Martin Luther King Day, Thanksgiving, birthdays, and Christmas. At Capitol Hill Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 300 people waited in freezing weather to get tested. On Howard University homecoming weekend, alumni in gowns and tuxedos filled out medical histories and gave blood samples.
His next target is far from home: "Do you know there's not one transplant center in all of Africa and Asia?" South Africa's racially mixed population makes it a promising place to find matches for American minorities, and vice versa. He's working with American doctors to develop a transplant center there.
In 1995, Alicia Nelson died without finding a compatible donor. But through her example, Rocky Twyman has rallied a city to help others. So far, his efforts have led to 10 lifesaving bone-marrow transplants. He hopes to be a match for number 11.
Joan A. Gaskins
These women need someone to believe in them.
F OUR YEARS AGO, ALEXANDRIA BOUtique owner Joan Gaskins was asked to join a board to address a problem with Virginia's welfare-to-work transition: Many women didn't know how to dress for office jobs or have the wardrobe to do so.
But "boards don't solve problems," Gaskins says. Frustrated, she soon began asking women's groups to donate "gently worn" career clothes and accessories—then opened an upstairs room as Generations Closet.
"I thought it would something I'd do in my spare time," she says, "but it grew."
With no formal funding, Generations Closet has outfitted more than 3,000 people, all referred by Northern Virginia and DC social-service and job-training agencies. "I take care of the clothing," she explains. "That allows them to make sure the rent's paid and the car runs."
The transformation is astonishing, every time. A parolee or recovering addict who arrived with her head down emerges from the dressing room breathless.
"I can't believe I'm wearing a $400 suit," she'll say.
"You deserve to wear a $400 suit," Gaskins replies with a hug.
Lisa Woll was inspired by a similar program in Chicago. In 1992, she and four friends began running Suited for Change out of her Northwest DC apartment. It now serves 100 to 150 low-income women a month, referred by 90 area agencies. In eight years, the organization has "suited" nearly 5,000 for employment.
Woll, a child-rights advocate with several international organizations, knew that clothes alone wouldn't help women get and keep a job. So Suited for Change offers career education, too—on office etiquette, interview skills, time management, and the like. Fannie Mae gives a home-buying seminar; Hecht's, Loews Hotels, and other employers describe how their businesses work and sometimes recruit workers on the spot.
Woll's secondary mission is to develop leadership and organizational skills in young women. Nearly all board members are in their twenties or thirties, and every executive director has been under 30. They manage 50 to 70 volunteers, business and community outreach, and a $200,000 annual budget.
In 1999, Woll helped launch the Women's Alliance to connect similar groups around the country. "I heard from a sister program that offers a dental service," she says. "We want to do that, too."
Nancy M. Folger
I am involved in a lot of things because I see so many needs.
N ANCY "BITSY" FOLGER IS AN UNLIKELY angel for DC kids. Folger came to Washington in 1958 as the daughter of Neil McElroy, Secretary of Defense in the Eisenhower administration. She was a dutiful Cabinet daughter—she went to lots of parties with her parents and did volunteer work.
Folger got a teaching job in Montgomery County and joined the Junior League. Before long, she found herself training new members for community service. That opened the eyes of the trainer as well as the trainees.
"It sort of hit me that I was not part of the whole community, only a small part of it," she recalls.
That led to immediate action by the energetic Folger. She joined forces with DC leaders like John Hechinger and John Ray to work for more home rule. She got involved in a variety of programs for people in the inner city.
Bitsy Folger chaired the Black Student Fund for 12 years. The fund offers scholarships to independent schools, then provides support to help the kids succeed.
"We have made an enormous difference in the lives of many young people," Folger says proudly.
Olive Covington, a friend on the BSF board, introduced Folger to her sister, Marian Wright Edelman, head of the Children's Defense Fund. Folger has been helping CDF ever since.
Folger has also come to the aid of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, DC Action for Children, Arena Stage, and J.O. Wilson Elementary School.
A few years ago, she was asked to help raise $12.5 million to maintain the public rooms of the White House. Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton recently presented her with a piece of White House sandstone as a symbol of her success.
The effort has given Folger a new perspective on the White House. She still feels the "wonderful influence of this great building," she says. But when she goes there now, she can't help checking the condition of the drapes.
What is the secret of Bitsy Folger's success? "You have to be enthusiastic. It has to be something you really care about," Folger believes. "When I'm giving myself, I feel comfortable asking others."
Robert L.E. Egger
We're shattering stereotypes of what homeless people can do.
S UCH A SIMPLE IDEA: COLLECT LEFTOVER food from George Bush's inauguration events in 1989 and deliver it to groups that feed hungry people.
Look what it's become: DC Central Kitchen, which collects two tons of food every day from restaurants, hotels, caterers, and cafeterias; uses it to train motivated men and women for jobs in the food-service industry; and turns out 3,000 meals a day to feed hungry people. Sending those meals to shelters, rehab centers, and after-school programs frees those places to concentrate their limited energy and funds on counseling, strengthening, and teaching.
"Follow the logic," founder Robert Egger is fond of saying. Pairing leftover food with leftover people gets them off the streets and welfare rolls and into productive work that helps sustain others with similar goals, creating a ripple effect felt across Washington and across the country.
Across Washington, DC Central Kitchen's 12-week culinary-arts program certifies 100 graduates each year. Trainees learn from their predecessors and from top local chefs who teach culinary skills, offer career advice, and watch potential employees in action. In turn, those trainees oversee 7,500 volunteers a year—among them Bill and Hillary Clinton and thousands of high-school students—thus leveraging not just free ingredients but free labor into more than the sum of their parts.
Across the country, others are learning from this example. Egger has worked to connect 40 food-recovery and job-training programs so far and has raised $1.5 million to jump-start them.
But Egger has leveraged more than food, people, and a smart idea. The World Bank, Pizza Hut, Catholic University, and 7-Eleven are just a few organizations that have donated their surplus. Nextel supplied phones. Wachovia gave a van. The National Restaurant Association discounted its food-safety materials. Sodexho Marriott and Plural backed the Web site that links far-flung community kitchens with the resources they need to achieve similar success.
Four years ago, concerned that "restaurants, hotels, caterers aren't going to throw out food forever," the former nightclub manager set up Fresh Start, a for-profit catering company that employs graduates and—using purchased, not donated, food—supplies the main kitchen with a reliable revenue stream.
Robert Egger takes on poverty and the inefficient "soup kitchen" model the way an old soldier took on war: To paraphrase General Patton, "I want to fight the enemy with the utmost audacity." Every day at DC Central Kitchen is a step toward victory.
Robert A. Washington
I'm constantly trying to instill hope in the possibility of something better.
A T DUSK, THE TEN-YEAR-OLD girl stood as always at the window, watching for her mom to come home. There she was now, lifting groceries from the back of the car.
Then the other car came, the one that didn't stop. Packages on the ground. Her mother on the ground.
Forbidden to unlock the door and go out, the girl could only watch as paramedics charged in. There was a lot of shouting, and then they took her mother's body away.
Ten months later, the girl was uncharacteristically acting up in school. Officials referred her to DC's St. Francis Center, now the William Wendt Center for Loss and Healing. There a counselor played with the girl, gently coaxing out of her what she'd seen that night.
"Apparently the mom's face had turned toward the house as paramedics beat on her chest," Robert Washington recalls. "We discovered that the girl thought they'd been hurting her mom. All this time she'd been thinking, 'I didn't go to her when she looked to me for help.' "
Washington, a clinical psychologist, knows too many stories like this. Ten years ago he began volunteering at the Wendt Center, counseling people like himself infected with the AIDS virus. In 1993 he joined the staff, eventually becoming director of education and outreach and then executive director.
Along the way he turned the center's face to the east, just as the mother's face had turned toward her daughter.
Washington served as the District's commissioner of mental health from 1987 to 1992. "After I left the DC government, I said I'd never manage again. I was fed up," he says. "But the center was irresistible." Since 1975, it had comforted and guided those facing life-threatening illness or the loss of a loved one, by death or other means.
By the mid-'90s, though, Washington and some of his staff sensed the center was adrift. Once unique, it had trained so many competitors that market share was falling. And while most clients could afford treatment, there were unserved needs close by.
After consulting with medical professionals, judges, foundation leaders, and clergy—drawing on relationships all over the area—"we took an organization modeled after private practice and made it a social-service organization with a major focus on inner-city kids."
In 1998-99, the center changed its name, began transitioning out of Georgetown ("you can't serve the inner city from MacArthur Boulevard"), set up shop in the DC morgue, and launched plans for a $1.75-million expansion and children's grief center. Though some stakeholders were discomfited at this shift in mission, both the staff and the budget have since doubled.
The morgue program, called Recover, has grief counselors on hand whenever someone comes to identify the body of a loved one—seven days a week, every week of the year. A trained counselor greets newcomers, explains what's going to happen—how to handle the forms and claim the deceased's personal effects—and makes them aware of the Wendt Center's services. The counselor also asks if there are children affected by the death.
"We explain that kids don't process grief the same way adults do," says Washington. "Sometimes their pain is overlooked; often it's misunderstood by the adults around them."
That's the way Washington felt growing up in the Chicago projects. Abused, neglected, "it took a long time to become whole," he says. "No child should have to feel like that."
Life has taught him that "the people who do best at this work are those comfortable with the fullness of humanity." Now comfortable himself, Washington left the Wendt Center in August to pursue a new calling: He enrolled in Howard University Divinity School.
This new course "feels good and right and wonderful," he says. "I bring to it an unstoppable spirit." The same spirit that has consoled and sustained so many hurting children and families.
Katherine K. Hanley
This is the level of government that can have the most positive impact on people's lives.
S HE SERVES ON AT LEAST 20 BOARDS, COMmissions, committees, and councils at any one time. She puts 25,000 miles a year on her own car, "Subaru One." She's even stamped out a fire in a highway median strip.
Meet Superwoman: Kate Hanley, chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
Hanley presides over a booming jurisdiction, one with a $2.15-billion budget and a bigger population than seven states. Her office runs on details, deadlines, and Diet Dr Pepper, sometimes well past midnight.
"Hey, I volunteered for this job," she says. "Voters didn't hold a gun to my head. All those boards and commissions are part of the responsibility."
That responsibility has served taxpayers well. The former teacher and mother of two won a school-board appointment in 1984; she became supervisor of Providence District, including most of Tysons Corner, two years later, then chair early in 1995.
Back then, the county projected a 1999 shortfall of $230 million. By the real 1999, through careful restructuring and cuts, the red ink was gone. Two years ago, Fairfax achieved a triple-A bond rating—which saves citizens millions of dollars in interest payments— from three rating houses, a county record.
Hanley is the second board chair to have also served on Metro's board. Her work with half a dozen organizations tackling Washington's traffic headaches has paid off in a new commuter garage at Vienna and a streamlined transit center at Spring Hill. She's pushing to get transit extended past Tysons and Dulles.
"Transportation, like the environment, is truly regional," she points out. "It doesn't do any good to fix transportation only in, say, Annandale and not anywhere else."
As for the environment, Hanley's added a full-time coordinator, acquired nearly 1,000 open acres in western Fairfax, and expanded park holdings 20 percent in the last year. She called for an infill study, too, and works with developers "because revitalization of existing neighborhoods is the smartest growth of all."
Hanley is proudest of launching Fairfax Partnership for Youth to prevent teen violence. It's now an independent nonprofit.
And in a county that had no Web site when she took office, residents can now pay taxes, change address records, resolve traffic tickets, and apply for government jobs via Internet and from kiosks in malls and libraries.
It's more convenient—plus, she confides, "it keeps 'em off the roads." Which is where Kate Hanley probably is now, putting out more fires.
Our on-air people are involved with good causes. It's the general manager's job to get equally involved.
C ATHERINE MELOY LEADS SUCH A HECtic life that she could be forgiven if sleep were her only leisure activity.
According to a reliable source—her 14-year-old son, DJ—Meloy starts each day at 5 AM with a prayer. Then she goes to the gym, does unfinished office work and laundry, goes to the office for 11 hours, and returns home to make dinner, does more housework and office work, helps DJ with his homework, and says another prayer with her family.
Meloy runs WASH-FM and WBIG-FM. She's also head of sales for Clear Channel Communications, which owns eight radio stations in the Baltimore-Washington area.
Despite her schedule, she finds time for many community causes.
Meloy believes radio can be a powerful force for good. The daughter of a Marine Corps officer, Meloy moved around a lot as a child. In each new town, she turned to the radio as her first friend.
"I was fascinated by how much one person on the radio could influence things, even though you never see them," she says.
Since coming to Washington to work for WMAL in 1984, she has moved around the dial. At each station, she found a way to harness the power of radio.
Meloy is particularly proud of the WGMS Instruments in the Attic Program, through which listeners have donated 750 used musical instruments to DC public schools.
She serves on the boards of Wolf Trap, the Cultural Alliance, Trinity College, Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind, Washington Hospital Center, Strathmore Hall Center for the Arts, and the YMCA. This year, the Greater Washington Board of Trade honored Meloy as its Leader of the Year.
Catherine Meloy sums up her guiding principle with a prayer she loves: "God, help me to make an investment in someone else's life today.
"Radio has enabled me to invest in other people's lives," she says. "If I don't, shame on me."
A million people in Montgomery County deserve a first-rate arts center.
S TRATHMORE HALL ARTS CENTER TODAY IS a solitary mansion with a sculpture garden overlooking Rockville Pike. A few years from now, Strathmore will add a $90-million, 2,000-seat concert hall with education and rehearsal space and a covered walkway to connect with a new Metro parking garage.
This is the house that Eliot built.
Strathmore executive director Eliot Pfanstiehl had help from some powerful friends—including Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan and Maryland Governor Parris Glendening.
But from the beginning it was Pfanstiehl who orchestrated the public-private partnerships, worked the halls of county and state government, and courted the performing-arts groups that will draw audiences to Strathmore.
"This is Montgomery County's stadium," Pfanstiehl says only somewhat facetiously.
Pfanstiehl has spent most of his life training for the opportunity Strathmore offers. As a teenager, he was interested in both arts and governance—dancing in musicals at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring and attending the Maryland Leadership Workshop for teens.
After college and a stint in the Maryland Department of Education, Pfanstiehl was hired to assist the woman directing arts programs for Montgomery County. When the county decided to form an arts council, Pfanstiehl was asked to head it.
"I was the only one on the payroll with both art and administrator in his title," he explains.
When the county acquired the Strathmore land and mansion, Pfanstiehl was the prime candidate to run the place. Today the mansion hums with activity—art shows, concerts, lectures, and other programs
Like Ado Annie in Oklahoma!, Pfanstiehl is just a guy who can't say no. He is deeply involved in Leadership Montgomery and many nonprofit groups.
"Many people devote their lives to work or family, or community or church," said a member of his congregation. "Eliot does it all, with energy and with excellence."
But it is Eliot the impresario that the community knows best. Pfanstiehl loves a good show, and thanks to him, Montgomery County will get many more.
Nguyen Dinh Thang
When you reach out to someone else, you learn to take nothing for granted.
I N THE TINY BOAT CHURNING OFF THE COAST of Vietnam, some 500 people were packed too tightly to eat or drink. For three days and three nights they tossed with the squalling sea.
Malaysian police turned the boat away—too many refugees already. That's when the hull broke apart, dumping 500 terrified people into the water.
"Fortunately for us," says Nguyen Dinh Thang, who survived the trip with his family. "Had we stayed at sea another hour, we'd have drowned."
Twenty-one years later, Thang is head of Fairfax-based Boat People SOS, which rescued 3,000 Vietnamese like himself. Since shifting its focus to America, the group has aided 4,500 refugees with asylum claims and helped thousands get medical attention, learn English, and become naturalized US citizens.
Of Washington's 70,000 Vietnamese, about half are in need of basic services. Among former political prisoners—90 percent of whom were tortured—many suffer post-traumatic stress syndrome, depression, family dysfunction, and unemployment.
Until three years ago, Boat People SOS made do with volunteers and $25,000 a year. "It would never be enough," Thang says. So finally, to do more for others, he asked others to do more.
With support from foundations, nonprofits, and local governments, Boat People SOS now has a budget of $700,000. That's led to a full-time staff and a neighborhood-empowerment program that helps refugee communities help themselves.
So far, Boat People SOS has taught 12 community groups to organize, then develop their own staff and programs. "The goal is to turn them from service recipients to service providers," says Thang.
The group and its spinoffs have reunited family members separated by poverty and global politics. They've connected cancer patients with doctors, gotten immigrants out of legal trouble, trained people on welfare for well-paying jobs. Pretty good for a community with no tradition of democracy or volunteerism.
For a decade, Thang ran Boat People SOS while holding a full-time engineering job. Now he's on sabbatical. "What we thrive on as a democracy is the structure of a civil society," he says. "Strengthening that here is my contribution to this country."
The students are so powerful in their desire to get ahead. By investing in their dreams, we all get stronger.
S USIE KAY IS A SMALL WOMAN WITH A BIG dream. A teacher at H.D. Woodson High School, Kay would like every kid in Anacostia to have the financial, academic, and emotional support to go to college. She'd like to link the kids with business leaders who can be mentors. And in the process, she'd like to build bridges between Anacostia and the rest of DC and the suburbs.
Kay started Hoop Dreams in 1996. The first year, it was a three-on-three basketball tournament that pitted teams of lawyers and Hill staffers against high-schoolers.
Everybody won. In that one day, Kay raised $3,000 for scholarships and lit a spark in Washington's professional community. Offers of internships, mentors, and money followed.
Today Hoop Dreams is a year-round scholarship and mentoring program that has awarded nearly $1 million to some 300 DC students. Princeton Review provides free help, including SAT prep courses. In the past few years, local businesses have created about 100 internships and job opportunities.
The internships offer invaluable contacts and a realistic view of the business world. "Its not like the movies," Kay observes. "They see that there is no way around hard work."
Even with this support, her kids have to overcome enormous obstacles, Kay says. "You walk out the door of H.D. Woodson—you don't see tangible signs that opportunities exist."
One of her students had to take out a loan just to apply to college. Few of her kids come from intact families. When Kay's father died a while back, she was reminded that "at least you had a father."
Susie Kay sometimes has a hard time convincing kids to go for the SAT-prep courses and other Hoop Dreams services. She also deals with kids who find it hard to trust a young, white teacher.
A former Woodson student who is now a scholarship student at Cornell University recently wrote to Kay, "I used to look at you with a very skeptical eye … believing that your enthusiasm was just some big fakeout because you had nothing better to do."
Kay wins their trust by her indefatigable efforts on their behalf. She has put her life virtually on hold for Hoop Dreams. Although she is teaching only part-time this year, she spends every waking hour working. "To me this is all about these amazing kids. They defy the bad rap they get," she explains.
Many of the Hoop Dreams kids are like Wendell Smith. For him it's been uphill all the way. He was interested in technology but had no computer. He wanted to work with people, but a mild speech impediment concerned him.
Through Hoop Dreams, Smith met business leaders and a mentor who offered to help. Landmark Systems founder Pat McGettigan went to Smith's house to install a computer. Today, with the help of a Hoop Dreams scholarship, Wendell Smith is at Rochester Institute of Technology studying robotics.
Smith sometimes still struggles, but he doesn't struggle alone. Because of Hoop Dreams, he has people who believe in him.
Most of all, Smith has Susie Kay. "It's important for students to see that I won't give up on them," she says.
After four years, Kay is beginning to see her investment pay off in surprising ways. Recently, Donald Jackson, one of her first scholarship winners, came back to see her. "I'm saving my money. I'm going to give $500 to Hoop Dreams," Jackson announced.
"It brings out the best in everybody," says Susie Kay.
Thomas Circle Singers
does not stop
M ANY CHORAL GROUPS OCcasionally donate a portion of ticket sales to a charity. Donating every cent is why the Thomas Circle Singers exist.
The 33-member chamber chorale ensemble grew out of Luther Place Memorial Church on DC's Thomas Circle "to bring light to a blighted area," according to board member Krista Bradley. It has done so by both singing good works and supporting them.
The group's first recipient was N Street Village. Others are spread across the District, serving hungry and homeless, illiterate and ill, victims of rape or domestic violence or disability. Each year of concerts means another $12,000 to $14,000 for those in need.
Under artistic director James Kreger, the Singers have won critical praise for their interpretation of an eclectic repertoire ranging from Puccini to Britten, from "Ave Verum Corpus" to "The J. Peterman Company Owner's Manual No. 44b."
The Singers' three annual concerts have a dual theme—one musical, one philanthropic. This season, their 25th, supports organizations that use art to change lives: Calvary Bilingual Multicultural Learning Center, Life Pieces to Masterpieces, and WVSA Arts Connection. Some of the Life Pieces boys were ushers at "their" concert on December 17.
The Singers don't just quietly give away their receipts. Beneficiaries are described in concert programs and ads. At intermission, a representative talks to the audience about the charity's mission. Sometimes that representative is a client—a woman treated for mental illness at Sojourner Truth House or a man recovering from drug addiction through the Wellness Center.
All this helps ensure that listeners see the connection between their concert ticket and someone else's ticket to a better life. They see, says Bradley, that "what we sing for people inside makes a difference for people outside."
Stephen Joel Trachtenberg
This university has roots that go
deep into the soul of this city.
T HE FIRST YEAR STEPHEN JOEL TRACHTENberg was president of George Washington University, he spent every other Sunday morning at one of the city's black churches.
"I got a lot of spiritual uplifting and a lot of terrific home cooking," Trachtenberg says.
He also made a lot of friends and put the District on notice. Trachtenberg wasn't content for GW to be in the city. He wanted the university to be an important part of it.
Trachtenberg introduced a scholarship program for DC's best and brightest high-school graduates, offering free tuition, books, fees, room, and board. Trachtenberg sees it as a way to keep the community's potential leaders close to home.
The 21st Century Scholars Program started in 1989 and has awarded more than $5.3 million to some 58 local kids. Winners are now called Trachtenberg Scholars; the GW board renamed the program to celebrate Trachtenberg's tenth anniversary at the university.
Another Trachtenberg initiative is the Center for Excellence in Municipal Management. Created by GW and the Fannie Mae Foundation, the center offers a graduate course for DC government managers. The program has been so successful that the city wants to send hundreds more of its managers, and corporations and foundations have signed on as sponsors.
GW is also working with public schools, particularly the neighboring School Without Walls and Georgetown's Duke Ellington School of the Arts.
This is Steve Trachtenberg's third tour of duty in Washington. He was here as an aide to Congressman John Brademas and as assistant to Harold Howe, US Commissioner of Education. This time, he'd like to leave a legacy.
Trachtenberg is committed to getting George Washington University the recognition he believes it deserves.
GW is sometimes the Rodney Dangerfield of local universities, overshadowed by its academic neighbors, according to Trachtenberg.
"We've been here since 1821, and we intend to be here another couple of hundred years," he says. "I want people to know us as the university that contributes more to Washington than any other institution."