From state exams to college-prep tests, James Madison High School 11th-grader Aidan Jones knows how stressful it can be as a student.
With the pandemic adding to concerns about students’ mental health, Jones is working to turn therapy dog visits into a regular occurrence and possibly have one pet make its second home in Madison’s counseling office.
“My goal is to try to get a therapy dog as an extension to the counseling staff,” Jones said, noting that ideally, a teacher would take care of the dog and bring it to school during the day.
Jones developed the idea of a permanent therapy dog program while taking an interdisciplinary course last year, where one assignment had students come up with plans to improve people’s circumstances.
Students shared their ideas in “Shark Tank“-like online presentations, and 1970 Madison graduate Ted Dintersmith, a filmmaker and author who advocates for education reform, agreed to fund some projects, including Jones’s, according to Madison High School Principal Greg Hood.
In the cross-curricular program, Jones met and spoke with Melanie Meren, who represents the Hunter Mill District on the Fairfax County School Board. He says working with her allowed the idea to morph into an actual thing.
Meren said in a statement that she’d like to see therapy dogs serving in more schools.
“This is something close to my heart — as a dog owner, I’ve experienced the calm and reassurance that a trained dog can bring to humans with its unconditional love,” she told Tysons Reporter by email. “As a parent, I’ve seen how dogs trained for reading therapy support can encourage reluctant readers to read aloud to gain confidence in their abilities.”
Research has shown that even petting a dog can help relax people, one of numerous mental health benefits.
“Therapy dogs are nonjudgmental, and that really lowers the anxiety,” Jones said.
However, Jones says he would like Madison to have a dog as part of its counseling staff, or at least make the outreach more regular. He noticed that having a therapy dog at the school made a difference not just for students, but also for teachers.
Jones has been working with school leaders to move the project forward. He suggested that the school target particularly stressful periods for a group to bring in a trained dog to help students.
“I think this would be really beneficial to just help…the Fairfax County Public School system in general, starting with Madison High School,” he said.
County to Seek Input on Safe Streets Program — The Fairfax County Department of Transportation will hold two virtual public meetings in November to present draft recommendations for a Fairfax County Safe Streets for All Program. Developed by county’s ActiveFairfax team, the program is “a comprehensive initiative to address systemic transportation safety issues for people walking, biking and using other forms of active transportation.” [FCDOT]
Virginia Among Top States in COVID-19 Vaccinations — “Virginia now ranks 10th among all states for the percentage of its population fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and for the total number of shots administered. More than 82 percent of individuals 18 years and older have received at least one dose and 74 percent of adults are fully vaccinated.” [Office of the Governor]
Local Magnet School Admissions Now Open — “Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology…has opened its application process for admissions for the Class of 2026. This will be the second year that applications for the school’s 550 freshmen seats will be reviewed using the new admissions process which eliminated the standardized admissions test and the $100 application fee, while continuing to maintain the school’s high academic standards.” [FCPS]
Madison Student Launches Art Business — “A business showcasing the art of Madison High School students is looking to build connections with Vienna area businesses by offering professional artwork services. Spectra Artwork is the brainchild of Madison High School senior Colin Crowley, combining his skills in business and marketing with the talents of his artist friends.” [Patch]
McLean Startup Raises Funds for Healthcare Jobs App — “ShiftMed, one of the largest workforce management platforms in health care with over 60,000 credentialed health care professionals, has raised $45 million led by health care investors, Panoramic Ventures and Heathworx…In 2021, the company has already hired more than 10,000 nurses, which provided over 1 million hours of care, and received more than 100,000 app downloads.” [ShiftMed]
Storm Brings Power Outages, Hail to Fairfax County — Thunderstorms swept through Fairfax County last night (Wednesday), resulting in reports of damaging winds and even hail “that toppled trees and wires.” As of midnight, Dominion Energy’s outage map showed thousands of people in the county without power, particularly around McLean. [Capital Weather Gang]
Farmer’s Market Nonprofit Awarded State Grant — FRESHFARM will get a $50,000 grant from the Virginia Food Access Investment Fund to establish new fresh food mobile markets in food-insecure areas of Northern Virginia. The nonprofit operates several farmer’s markets in Fairfax County, including the ones at the Mosaic District and The Boro. [Patch]
More Traffic Control Sought for Great Falls Park — “Great Falls Citizens Association (GFCA) officials are seeking to have the federal government provide $100,000 in permanent, annual funding for U.S. Park Police to control traffic at Old Dominion Drive and Georgetown Pike outside the park’s entrance when park usage is especially heavy…Traffic congestion outside the park routinely occurs on weekends, holidays and fee-free days from March through early November, GFCA leaders said.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]
Madison HS Student Brings Books and Bikes to Tanzania — James Madison High School rising junior Sophia Brown organized a bicycle drive at the Vienna school in May and collected dozens of donated books to bring to Tanzania for a Girl Scout project. Sophia traveled to the East African country this summer with support from the nonprofit Wheels to Africa, which she has worked with since she was in second grade. [FCPS]
Fairfax County Urges Adolescents to Get Vaccinated — The health department will host three COVID-19 vaccine clinics at public schools this week in an effort to vaccinate more people aged 12-17. The Pfizer vaccine, the only one authorized for that age group, takes five weeks to take full effect, so students have to get their first dose by July 19 to be fully vaccinated when the school year starts on Aug. 23. [Fairfax County Health Department]
Madison HS Baseball Player Drafted by MLB — The Chicago Cubs chose James Madison High School graduate James Triantos with the 56th pick of Major League Baseball’s 2021 draft, which started Sunday (July 11). Drafted as a shortstop, Triantos ended his tenure with the Warhawks in June by throwing six perfect innings and scoring the two runs the team needed to win its first state title since 2015. [James Madison HS/Twitter]
Fairfax County Students Build Houses — “Each year, 15-20 Fairfax County high-schoolers hang drywall, use power tools, and learn technical and life skills that come with building a home. None has proved as challenging as the 2020-2021 covid-wrought academic year.” [The Washington Post]
Wolf Trap Welcomes First Go-Go Band — When it takes the stage on Sunday (July 18), Trouble Funk will officially be the first go-go band to ever play at Wolf Trap National Park’s Filene Center, according to frontman “Big Tony” Fisher. The band has been making music for over 45 years and will perform with guests Sugar Bear and DJ Kool. [WTOP]
Metro Starts Testing New Faregates — As of Friday (June 25), Metro has installed new faregates at six rail stations, including the ones at Dunn Loring and West Falls Church, as part of a one-month pilot that will eventually see more than 1,200 gates replaced systemwide. The new faregates have “enhanced safety features, larger displays, and faster processing that will make passing through the gates quicker and easier.” [WMATA]
Telecom Company Settles Kickback Lawsuit — Level 3 Communications, a telecommunications and Internet service provider company with offices worldwide, including one in McLean, will pay a $12.7 million settlement in a civil lawsuit alleging that its managers accepted kickbacks to direct government contracts to specific contractors. [Patch]
Madison Wins Baseball State Championship — James Madison High School’s baseball team won the fifth state title in school history, the most for any Northern Virginia school, on Saturday (June 26) behind a dominant performance by senior James Triantos, who pitched a complete game with 12 strikeouts and gave up just one hit and one earned run to the Colgan Sharks. [WDVM]
Vienna Seeks Playwrights for Festival — “The Town of Vienna is calling all Actors and Playwrights ages 16+ in the DMV! The Vienna Playwriting Festival is looking for 6 actors and 6 short plays. Please email [email protected] for details. Submission deadline is June 30.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]
Metro to Phase Out Diesel Buses — The Metro Board of Directors approved a plan yesterday (Thursday) to phase out buses powered by diesel and natural gas over the next two decades with the goal of having a zero-emissions fleet by 2045. The transit agency will start adding electric buses in 2023 and cease purchases of emission-producing buses by 2030, a timeline that critics argued is too slow. [The Washington Post]
Approval of West Falls Church Plan Anticipated — “The Fairfax County Planning Commission, at its scheduled meeting next week, is expected to endorse the proposed amendment to the county’s comprehensive plan that will open up the potential for a large-scale coordinated development of WMATA’s West Falls Church Metro station property and adjacent property occupied by Virginia Tech.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Mosaic District to Open Rollerskating Rink — The Mosaic District in Merrifield will hold a grand opening celebration for its new Skateland rink from 5:30 to 10 p.m. tomorrow (Saturday). The disco-themed event will feature live music from the band Groovalicious and support Pride Month with 50% of ticket sales going to FCPS Pride. [EDENS]
Madison Baseball Vies for State Title — James Madison High School’s baseball team is set to compete in the 2021 Virginia High School League Class 6 state tournament tomorrow after defeating Lake Braddock 6-0 on Tuesday (June 22). If the Warhawks win, it would be the program’s first state championship since 2015 and its fourth ever. [Sun Gazette]
Capital One Center Nears Next Opening — The Washington Business Journal toured Capital One Center as the mixed-use development prepares to open more facilities, including The Perch, a skypark set to open this summer, and Capital One Hall, the performing arts venue that will open in October. The complex will accommodate about 10,000 Capital One employees, but it’s also intended to appeal to local residents like The Boro or The Wharf in downtown D.C. [Washington Business Journal]
Fairfax County Introduces Transportation Debit Card — The new Transportation Options, Programs & Services (TOPS) initiative replaces the county’s existing taxi voucher programs. Serving older adults, people with disabilities, and low-income residents, TOPS provides a transportation debit card in lieu of paper vouchers and supports more transportation options, including rideshare, Metro, and public buses. [Fairfax County Neighborhood and Community Services]
Wolf Trap National Park Superintendent Leaves — Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts Superintendent George Liffert left the role he’d held since 2016 in May to take over Prince William Forest Park in Triangle, the National Park Service announced yesterday (Tuesday). Wolf Trap Deputy Superintendent Ken Bigley is now serving as acting superintendent until a permanent successor is selected. [NPS]
Madison HS Seniors Graduate — James Madison High School held an in-person graduation ceremony for its Class of 2021 at Jiffy Lube Live in Prince William County. Principal Greg Hood invoked the many musicians who have performed at the outdoor amphitheater in a speech to the new graduates, who were commended for their perseverance and motivation in an unusual year. [Madison HS/Twitter]
Falls Church City Wins Mayor’s Fitness Challenge — The City of Falls Church bested the Town of Vienna and Fairfax City in an eight-week competition to determine the “Most Fit Community.” Falls Church participants averaged 1,622.28 minutes of exercise, followed by Vienna with an average of 1,484 minutes and the City of Fairfax with an average of 1,289.25 minutes. [Town of Vienna/Twitter]
Virginia Holds Vaccine Day of Action — Virginia wants residents to support COVID-19 vaccination efforts by joining a statewide “It’s Our Shot” Day of Action today. Ways to participate include making a plan to get vaccinated, sharing your vaccine story on social media, and becoming a COVID Community Ambassador. [Office of the Governor]
NRA Still Considering Leaving Fairfax — The National Rifle Assocation is still planning to open an office in Texas, though the organization has not determined whether it will entirely relocate its Fairfax headquarters. Last week, a federal judge dismissed the NRA’s bid for bankruptcy protection, taking issue with the group’s secrecy and lack of disclosure. [Washington Business Journal]
Ribbon Cut on Suffragist Memorial — “A memorial honoring the women who fought for their right to vote was dedicated in Fairfax County, Virginia, on Sunday. The Turning Point Suffragist Memorial aims to tell the entire seven-decade story of the suffrage movement…It’s located at Occoquan Regional Park in Lorton on former prison grounds where organizers said the “Night of Terror” took place more than 100 years ago.” [WTOP]
Madison Students Paint Vienna “LOVE” Sign — “Check out the LOVE sign by the W&OD Trail the Madison High School SGA decorated yesterday [May 16]. They worked hard (even in the rain) to display #local #love for each of Madison’s classes represented by a color.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]
COVID-19 Vaccine Could Soon Be Approved for Teens — The CDC is scheduled to discuss recommending COVID-19 vaccinations for 12 to 15-year-old individuals on Wednesday (May 12). If it is approved, the Fairfax Health District says it will have vaccine available, and state and local appointment scheduling systems will be updated accordingly. [Fairfax County Health Department]
Falls Church Man Arrested for Threatening People at Mosque — 41-year-old Jonathan Lincoln faces assault and disorderly conduct charges after reportedly threatening people with a knife and trying to stab a security guard at the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Seven Corners. The incident occured around 3 p.m. on Saturday (May 8), and there were no injuries. [WTOP]
Virginia Republicans Hold Nominating Convention — Virginia Republicans cast ballots in 39 different locations across the state on Saturday in a convention to select the party’s nominees for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general. The results could take days to materalize, but turnout was expected to surpass the party’s last gubernatorial convention in 2013, when about 8,000 of 13,500 approved delegates cast ballots. [The Washington Post]
Falls Church News-Press Announces Endorsements — The Falls Church News-Press has thrown its support behind Terry McAuliffe, who is seeking to return to the governor’s mansion in November. It also endorsed Del. Mark Levine (D-Alexandria) for lieutenant governor and incumbent Mark Herring for attorney general. [Falls Church News-Press]
Vienna Farmers Market Kicks Off Season — “It may be cloudy and chilly but the Farmer’s Market hosted by our local Optimist Club in @TownOfVienna is open! Pleased to help cut the ribbon to open this season of fresh foods and goods!” [Del. Mark Keam/Twitter]
Construction on Madison High School Addition Continues — “Tearing the roof off the place, literally! If you watch until the end you can see a sheet a of steel be pulled down. One at a time, they came down today. Making room for the third floor!” [James Madison High School/Twitter]
Strong Winds Take Out Power for Thousands — About 4,000 people across Northern Virginia lost electricity yesterday (Wednesday) due to strong winds that prompted the National Weather Service to issue a Wind Advisory for the D.C. area until 8 p.m. More than 1,000 people in the Vienna/Oakton area in particular were affected, according to Dominion Energy’s outage map. [Dominion Energy/Twitter]
Vienna Resident Dies in Route 29 Crash — Vienna resident Michael K. Ratzenberger was one of two drivers killed on Sunday (April 18) in a head-on crash on Route 29 in Culpeper County. Virginia State Police said he entered the highway in the wrong direction when his car collided with another vehicle driven by Jose B. Hernandez Solis, 50, of Culpeper. The crash also left four passengers in Solis’s vehicle seriously injured. [The Washington Post]
Fairfax County Judge Orders Release of D.C. Firefighter — “A Fairfax County Circuit Court judge has overturned the 2019 conviction of a Black D.C. firefighter, saying the case was built on false representations from the arresting county police officer.” [WTOP]
Falls Church Little League Awarded Grant for Batting Cages — The Fairfax County Park Authority Board voted on April 14 to approve the Falls Church Kiwanis Little League’s request for $12,737.25 in grant money to construct three hitting stations adjacent to field 2 at Idylwood Park. It was one of three grant requests approved at the meeting. [FCPA]
Madison Field Hockey Team Advances to State Finals — James Madison High School’s field hockey team is going to the state finals after beating W.T. Woodson 2-0 on Tuesday (April 20). A state championship win would be the first for the school’s field hockey program, according to head coach Carrie Holman. [LocalDVM]
Photo by Joanne Liebig