The Campagna Center delivers educational and social development services in Alexandria.
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story by DAWN KLAVON | photography courtesy of THE CAMPAGNA CENTER
One of the best kept secrets in Alexandria is the work of one of its most active groups. Over 2,000 children and families utilize services from the Campagna Center (TCC) daily, making it one of Alexandria’s leading non-profit organizations.
The group strives to equip children and families with helpful tools to improve their education and futures. TCC has made significant contributions to the community by offering invaluable resources to children and adults.
“The Campagna Center is a really unique place here in Alexandria,” says TCC President and CEO, Dr. Tammy Mann, in a video on the website.
The organization was founded in 1945 when a group of local women organized the Campagna Center, then known as the Alexandria Branch of the YWCA. At that time in Alexandria, the program was the only place where women of all ages, regardless of race or creed, could gather for social activities that promoted “leadership, morale and inspiration,” according to TCC’s website.
With a mission to make a measurable difference in the lives of children and families, the long-standing organization is meticulous in its methods. The group tracks the progress of its numerous programs, with impressive numbers to back up their successes.
Campagna Middle School Programs
TCC offers extraordinary programs for middle school students, including after school enrichment opportunities, weekend events and spring or summer camps. College preparatory resources are available, and students can participate in The Campagna Center’s Building Better Futures Program. There, they can consider compelling post-secondary pathways through college visits.
“Our middle and high school programs are meeting a need in the Alexandria community,” says Randy Gore, Senior Director of Out of School Time Programs at the Campagna Center. “There are quite a few programs at the elementary level, but the Campagna Center is unique in that we’re one of the organizations in the city that’s rising to meet the unmet need with children and youth—especially at the middle and high school level.”
TCC’s Performing Arts Academy offers voice, acting and dance lessons, with the opportunity to perform in a theatrical production.
“[Students] take classes multiple days a week, as well as on the weekends, in private voice lessons, acting; they take classes in technical theater, so they’re learning things such as prop making and stage design,” says Gore. “They also take lessons in modern jazz dance and musical theater dance.”
Each year, TCC holds four to five productions—including dance productions and large musical theater showcases—in which students can perform and display their skills.
“We’re leveling the playing field for students across economic barriers. We’re not charging middle school students for the services; they just have to join,” Gore said.
TCC’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Academy offers a maker lab, robotics lab and visual arts studio, as well as the chance to compete on a robotics team.
“It gives [students] a chance to come alongside peers and learn in a group,” says Gore. “We always tell students, you don’t have to feel like you’ve mastered something in STEM to participate in our enrichment classes or on one of our teams.”
STEM Academy students may participate in the First Lego League Robotics Team, developed in partnership with Virginia Tech University.
“It’s really a learning exploratory approach,” Gore says. “We have classes in Lego robotics, 3D printing, classes in things such as print making and user technology. We’re always looking for new technology that we can introduce [the kids] to.”
Building Better Futures
Building Better Futures is a Campagna Center program focused on equipping middle and high school students to prepare them for success. Valuable college prep information is provided as part of a variety of services to students considering next steps, college applications, as well as resume and cover letter writing.
“We are trying to get these students on a college career track before they get to high school—working with them incrementally—providing services to these students and their families to get them on a track to start thinking about what’s next,” Gore says.
In order to achieve academic success, tutoring support and incentives are available to middle and high school students.
“By the time [students] get to high school, we have seminars happening every month and college tours happening just about every month,” Gore says. “It’s not just college; [students] look at trade schools, military schools, things like that.”
New Neighbors Program
TCC New Neighbors reaches out to immigrants and refugees with programs for English-language learners, virtually and in-person. The English classes offered are meant to aid those from other countries who now live in Northern Virginia and help families become self-sufficient.
“The idea really is to provide them with support and a community within the community of Alexandria,” says Katrina Foelsche, Director of Youth Literacy and Adult Language Program.
Foelsche says students may sign up each semester, which lasts 12 to 14 weeks, and will attend classes three times a week for two hours at a time. So far this fall, 75 students are registered for the program. Eight levels of classes are offered. Last spring, there were 29 home countries represented in the programs.
“When we talk about services, there are other kinds of enrichment programs like job readiness, citizenship classes and family literacy events,” she says.
Foelsche says there often is overlap between services utilized, as new residents may register for Head Start or the reading programs for children through TCC, in addition to the New Neighbors Program.
“Really from birth to adulthood, we’re serving entire families." - Katrina Foelsche
Volunteers are essential to running the program. Many volunteers say it’s as gratifying for them as it is the students.
“We’ve had good success and I’m very happy I’ve done it,” says New Neighbors volunteer teacher, John E. Lennon, on a video on TCC's website. “All of the students in there really are an inspiration for me.”
Ways to Help
Friends of Campagna is a volunteer group for those wishing to serve the non-profit organization. Members must serve at least one day annually. Registration involves donating $75 annually—a tax-deductible donation. More information can be found online at https://www.campagnacenter.org/volunteer. TCC also accepts support in the form of cash, estate gifts and bequests, stock, corporate gifts, in-kind donations and gifts made through the United Way and CFC.
The Work Continues
TCC will carry on, reaching out to inspire, educate and unite families of Alexandria. Committed staff members like Gore, who has served at the non-profit for over 17 years, find the community work supremely gratifying.
“That’s what’s kept me here so long—being able to know that I am giving back to my community, to the community that my family lives in,” he says. “I’m making a real impact and I’m able to see tangible results.”