Community Schools Initiative: A ‘Game-Changer’ for Loudoun County Students

Community Schools Initiative: A ‘Game-Changer’ for Loudoun County Students

By Danielle Nadler

Principal Gail Brady knows first hand how important neighborhood schools are to her students and their parents. In her nine years at the helm of Sugarland Elementary School, she’s seen just how the school has become a community hub for so many families in the area.

And that connection between families and the school is key to students’ success, she says.

“Parents are that link that our children need to see to do well in school,” Brady said. “If they see their parents and teachers as partners, they will value their education, and I believe they’ll do better.”

Throughout the past several years, there’s been a big community effort to build those key connections in Loudoun County’s six Title 1 elementary schools, which serve under-resourced neighborhoods in Sterling. It’s called the Community Schools Initiative and it’s goal is to provide additional resources for Sugarland, Sterling, Rolling Ridge, Sully, Guilford, and Forest Grove elementary schools.

Funds from incredibly generous donors—including 100WomenStrong, Truist Foundation, and Telos Corporation—have provided these Community Schools with additional resources, such as full-time parent liaisons, a full-time social worker, and programs that keep families engaged in their child’s education. The Community Schools initiative focuses on bolstering these schools in six areas: academies, health and social services, youth and community engagement, building stronger families, and healthier communities.

The need? After-school enrichment

Now, the goal is to fund youth development programming at each of the schools. Over the next two months, the Loudoun Education Foundation is working to raise $15,000 to support the Community Schools. The funds will help provide after-school enrichment programs for these kindergarten through fifth-graders at a time when they need community connection more than ever. 

Principal Brady shared that she grew up in poverty, very similar to many of her students. She remembers feeling like she was a “have not” while so many others were “haves.”

Sugarland Elementary fifth-graders’ “moving on” ceremony.

“For my kids to see, oh, this other school is thriving with chess clubs, soccer and theater, but then their school doesn’t have any that—that’s really tough. I feel that all kids need those experiences,” she said.

It’s not just about a fun afternoon, she stressed. For students to see their school as a safe space to play, they’ll also see it as a safe space to learn. And Brady should know—under her leadership, Sugarland Elementary has been recognized nationally as a model school for improvement.

Brady said, “If we close the opportunity gap for these students, the achievement gap will take care of itself.”

Toth Financial stepped up to help us kick off the fundraising campaign. They gave $2,500 last month to the Community Schools Initiative. Mitch Sproul, portfolio manager with Toth Financial, said, “I believe that after school enrichment within our Community Schools has the potential to be a game-changer for many students in Loudoun County .” 

Consider helping LEF provide one a six-week, after-school program at each of the Community Schools. It comes down to just $50 per student. If that’s something you can do, give at LoudounEducationFoundation.org/donate and add “Community Schools” in the comments.

Thank you for considering partnering with us to help students reach their full potential.

Published by Danielle Nadler

Danielle Nadler covered public education as a journalist for 15 years. Now working in the nonprofit realm, she continues to leverage the power of stories to bring about positive change. She serves as the Loudoun Education Foundation's Executive Director.