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RestON – Achieving Equitable Results

PEACE mural at Dogwood Elementary School
Submitted By LaTanja Snelling, RCC’s Equity Partnerships Director

Opportunity Neighborhoods (ON) is an initiative of Fairfax County Government that brings together residents, service providers, schools, and other supporters in defined communities, including neighborhoods in Reston, to create a shared vision to address needs and achieve equitable results for youth and their caregivers.

Reston Community Center (RCC) is a founding member of the RestON endeavor. RCC works closely with our community partner, Cornerstones, the nonprofit organization in Reston charged with advancing and facilitating the ON goals and objectives. Working collaboratively with Cornerstones and other Reston partners, Reston Opportunity Neighborhood (RestON) leverages combined resources for collective and lasting impact.

The late Bob Simon, who founded Reston in the 1960s, was passionate about creating leisure-time and enrichment opportunities for youth in the community and we strive to fulfill his vision. In our role, we provide programs, both at our facilities and in the community, targeted to serve families and engage young people in diverse neighborhoods that have been traditionally underserved. Several RCC staff members in both administration and programming work closely with ON ambassadors in each of the neighborhoods to plan and execute a wide offering of program opportunities targeted to their residents.

Cooking Camp-Art of Sushi @RCC

Prior to each of our registration cycles, RCC staff travel to RestON communities to meet with residents and highlight our offerings, especially those that we bring to their neighborhoods, and ensure that they have all the information they need to register. Staff also provide patrons with information about the RCC fee waiver program so that cost is never a barrier to participation, particularly for youth and summer camps, where fee waivers are designed to cover most of the camp enrollment fees. In addition, prior to summer camp registration opening, RCC hosts the annual Reston Summer Camp Expo which features several public agencies and non-profit organizations who provide low-cost camp opportunities.

RCC is proud to bring regular programming directly to RestON neighborhoods, including offerings in music, fitness, arts and crafts, and opportunities for socializing. These “Fun Around Town” events and “Crafternoons” are open to everyone and have fostered a feeling of belonging among participants. RCC also provided a five-week sewing class in one of the neighborhood’s community rooms, complete with an instructor and basic supplies, at no cost to participants. RCC’s Aquatics staff also provides free First Aid and CPR training to community members so they could learn these valuable life skills.

RCC’s Terry L. Smith Aquatics Center has started hosting a women-only swim one Saturday evening per month. Staffed exclusively by females, this provides recreation and water exercise options for community members whose cultures prefer such separated swimming opportunities. The popularity of this program has grown and participation numbers have steadily increased. To sustain this program, the Aquatics staff actively recruits female staff to lifeguard and manage the customer service desk of the Terry L. Smith Aquatics Center at RCC.

Working with schools is a critical part of the ON initiative. RestON partners and RCC created a public art project at Dogwood Elementary School, a neighborhood school with 89% minority enrollment, that was unveiled in June 2022. The wildly successful activities involved student artists, the Dogwood Elementary School principal and visual arts faculty, the Cathy Hudgins Community Center at Southgate, Public Art Reston and Reston Association working together to design, prepare, create and celebrate the resulting mural. RCC funded the muralist and coordinated the artist residency while project partners provided engagement activities, supplies and volunteers. The bright outdoor mural depicts the school’s motto – Peace, Equity, Access and Connection (PEACE) – in colorful letters and designs next to the school’s student drop-off area.

RCC’s annual prom dress drive, DIVA Central, has been available for many years and the response for dress donations from the community exceeded storage capacity, resulting in a lack of space for donated dresses and accessories. This led to a partnership with administrators and students at South Lakes High School to launch a giveaway event at the school that served more than 60 students. These school-based collaborative efforts are fostered by the RestON partner relationships.

AARP TAX Aide reps

For our older community members, the RCC Rides program matches older patrons who may not be able to drive anymore, with volunteer drivers who take them to medical appointments, shopping destinations, etc. The AARP Tax Aide program at RCC provides guidance and assistance with filing returns for low-to-middle income and older taxpayers.

To support these important endeavors even more, RCC created a new programming department focused specifically on collaboration and outreach. This team works with a wide variety of community partners to provide even more programming and events in neighborhood settings. Plans are underway to acquire a mobile unit – a true “community center on wheels” that will travel to neighborhood settings to deliver even more opportunities to residents.

RCC truly enjoys engagement with the community in neighborhoods and taking programming to them has proven to be very successful. Reston has enthusiastically embraced the values, vision and goals of the Opportunity Neighborhood initiative. Together with our partners, we collaborate effectively for collective impact that brings enrichment to and builds community for everyone in Reston.



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