ALEXANDRIA, VA – Alexandria City Public Schools hosted the official grand opening of the ACPS Family and Community Engagement Center (FACE) and Family Learning Zone at Ferdinand T. Day Elementary School on Tuesday, November 29th. Participants, including local families, volunteers, community dignitaries, and elected officials, spoke and together joined in the cutting of the bright orange ribbon.
“Family engagement is not a program, it’s a practice,” FACE Manager Krishna Leyva said.
FACE offers an avenue to truly involve families in the educational experience and their children’s academic achievement.
“The center, located on the sixth floor of Ferdinand T. Day Elementary School, serves as the home base for our language-specific and bilingual family liaisons, who help build authentic relationships with families and the community. Need resources are also provided to all ACPS families, along with workshops and other activities that support educational achievement and overall quality of life,” according to the ACPS Facebook page.
“What’s very unique about this situation is that we actually have a center,” said Chief of School and Community Relations Julia Burgos. Most school systems nationwide do not have a home base for FACE. “This was a real dream come true,” added Burgos. The project has been spearheaded by Burgos and her team at ACPS.
FACE has been a part of ACPS for years and is considered to be a dual capacity framework of family engagement. Alexandria is among many cities across the national FACE network, but one of only a few school divisions that has an actual location. Now, parent volunteers, children, and staff can converge upon a beautiful space which will knit the community together.
Being on the West End was a concerted decision since a lot of residents are limited in the English language. Some parents spoke with the assistance of an interpreter, sharing from their heart of what the center means to them.
“We are the human factor. Sometimes (you need to) give a little extra (to others), but keep doing it because that is the only way our children and families are going to be,” said parent partner Rosa Landeros in describing her ability to connect with others in the community. “I speak the language of laughter. I smile a lot,” said Landeros.
“We know that our families have a difficult platform to maneuver, whether you have language barriers or not. With the challenges that so many of our families face, to have a center like this where you can feel comfortable and welcome, what better way can we support our students ultimately for supporting their families,” said ACPS Interim Superintendent Dr. Melanie Kay-Wyatt.”
One father, Mohammed Akbar Spasely, a cardiologist from Afghanistan and his wife, Marjana Spasely, also a physician, spoke of their 4th grade daughter, Madiha, and how important FACE has been to their family in connecting to the community.
“For family and community engagement, bringing family and fabric together, coming from all over the world and giving them the tools so they can have their best success within the school system,” added Brooke Sydnor Curran of Move2Learn, an Alexandria nonprofit.
The speakers included – ACPS Interim Superintendent Dr. Melanie Kay-Wyatt, ACPS Chief of School and Community Relations Julia Burgos, Executive Director of Community Partnerships and Engagement Kurt Huffman, ACPS Manager of Family and Community Engagement Krishna Leyva and ACPS Family Liaison Rosa Landeros and families. Among the guests were Alexandria City School Board Members Tammy Ignacio and Dr. Michelle Rief, as well as Alexandria City Council Members Canek Aguirre and Alyia Gaskins.
“(This is a) great step forward for ACPS and for our community. (It’s) an opportunity and location as part of a larger network of people looking to help families in our community,” said John Porter, former ACHS principal.
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