Alexandria, VA – The May edition of the Alexandria Noir column gladly introduces you to Mr. Bruce Milton who is an alumnus and the current Chairperson for the Project Discovery of Alexandria Advisory Board. The Project Discovery Alexandria club has been a part of the city since 1986. The vision of the club is to create an avenue for TC students from low to moderate income households and/or students who are the first to attend college or trade school in their family an opportunity to obtain their secondary education goals. education. This is achieved through scholarships and educational events throughout the year. During this interview, I sat down with Mr. Milton to learn about how Project Discovery has influenced his life, why he continues to selflessly serve in a leadership position and what is in store for the Alexandria club in 2021.
Zebra: How did you become involved with Project Discovery? Also, how long have you held your current position as Chairman?
Bruce Milton: I am a local kid. I was born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Alexandria in the Del Ray area of the city. I first became involved with Project Discovery as a student at T.C. Williams High School. The club was beneficial to me because it allowed me to visit a lot of colleges and learn about the college admission process.
In 2013, Ron Frazier, who was part of the Health & Family Services department in the city and worked directly with the club, notified me there was a vacancy on the board and suggested that I join. I was more than honored that my mentor asked me to be a part of the Board because of what Project Discovery meant to me and how it impacted my life. My first leadership role on the Board was as the Communications Committee Chair and, in 2020, I was elected as the Chairperson of the Board.
Zebra: As a native Alexandrian how has your experience growing up in the city influenced your work with Alexandria’s Project Discovery?
Mr. Milton: It’s influenced it greatly. I had a lot of really great black male role models when I was growing up that helped me along the way. My dad was a tremendous example and, in addition to him, Donald Green was a very prominent mentor, serving as my Boy Scout Troop Master during my formative years. He had a vested interest in seeing me doing well that was life changing.
Having those mentors like Mr. Green, Ron, and others totally inspired me as an adult to look for ways to mentor kids. In addition to my work with Project Discovery, I mentor kids who are interested in breaking in to the film and television industry, since my background is in that arena. I feel like I have a pretty good perspective to assist them as they begin that journey. I also do work with the Miracle League of Alexandria as well.
Zebra: Project Discovery is based on preparing and motivating Alexandria college eligible students from low income and first-generation college bound families by presenting opportunities to assist with their education. What initiatives has Project Discovery executed in Alexandria to continue the success of the program during COVID-19?
Mr. Milton: The biggest initiatives that we held prior to COVID-19 were our two fundraisers, one in the fall and one in the spring. But, due to COVID, we had to pivot to a new way to fundraise for Project Discovery. So, in November 2020, we participated in Giving Tuesday, which falls after Thanksgiving Day, and we marketed and promoted this initiative throughout our communication channels.
The big thing that we got to participate in was the Resiliency Fund initiative. Due to the CARE Act passed by Congress, funds were allocated and obtained by the non-profit ACT for Alexandria. They, in turn, reached out to other non-profits, offering to fund their projects. We went through an application process and were awarded $10,000 to help out the Project Discovery kids, which was really great! We asked kids in the program what were their needs and created our own application process for current students and alumni to benefit from this.
The stories were heartbreaking. A lot of kids had parents who lost their jobs, the kids lost their jobs, and were struggling with virtual school and just their mental well-being. In the end, all who applied to the Resiliency Fund received food, PPE, and school supplies. In addition, we were able to provide laptops and hot spots to those who asked for those items as well. In my opinion, this was the biggest win for Project Discovery Alexandria in 2020.
Zebra: What do you most enjoy about being a part of Project Discovery?
Mr. Milton: As discussed previously, I really enjoy being a mentor to the Project Discovery kids. In addition to that, I appreciate collaborating with my fellow board members. We have a common respect and love for the program because our niche is a little more hands-on than other college-prep programs in Alexandria. Our board’s largest strength is that we are able to pivot and hone in on what the kids really need rather than providing something generic.
Zebra: What are some of your favorite Alexandria establishments and why?
Mr. Milton: Old Town in general is one of my favorite spots to visit. As kids we used to lament that there was not a lot for youth to do in Alexandria, so we would always drive down to the waterfront and get some ice cream and walk around.
I also love Mount Vernon and Charles Houston Recreation Centers. I spent way too much time in there, of course pre-COVID.
Currently, I love Del Ray Pizzeria; it’s my favorite pizza place of all time. I usually get the Barack My World pizza.
Zebra: What’s next for Project Discovery?
Mr. Milton: First and foremost, surviving the pandemic. We just want to get back to normal and do the fundraisers and events that we were doing pre-pandemic.
In the immediate future, the Project Discovery scholarship application window is currently open for students to apply.
We have three scholarships that we award to students/alumni who are Project Discovery club members: the Natalie Vaughn scholarship is awarded to any graduating senior who is a member of Project Discovery and is majoring in the liberal arts ($500), the Senior scholarship is designated for any graduating senior who is a member of Project Discovery ($1000), and the Alumni scholarship is awarded to an alum of Project Discovery currently enrolled at a technical/trade school, or 2 or 4-year institution, and is a full-time student ($1000). Interested parties can submit their application and supporting documents at the following link by May 11, 2021: https://www.alexandriava.gov/ProjectDiscovery.
In June, we will announce the scholarship recipients at a ceremony where we will have a keynote speaker to congratulate the students on their accomplishments. Last year, we were honored to have Jerry (Jay) McCargo, who is the President & CEO of ARServices act in that capacity, continuing our outstanding relationship with the organization.
We are now in the process of organizing the lineup for this year’s event, so stay tuned.
Zebra: How can Zebra readers donate or provide support to Project Discovery?
Mr. Milton: We are always looking for donations. It doesn’t have to be a big event to donate to Project Discovery. We would be grateful to receive any donation that you deem necessary, because 100% of what is donated goes directly to the kids. You can donate via our website (https://shop.alexandriava.gov/MakeDonation.aspx?skuid=6005440).
We are always looking for great people to be board members as well. If you want to strengthen the board by donating your time and filling a gap to make the program grow, we welcome that with open arms. For more information about being a board member, please contact Ms. Noraine Buttar ([email protected]) or the Board itself ([email protected]).
Zebra readers can stay informed with Project Discovery events and programming by logging on to their website (https://www.alexandriava.gov/ProjectDiscovery), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/friendsofpdalexva), Twitter (https://twitter.com/friendsofpdalex) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/friendsofpdalex/) platforms.