HDR Foundation Helps Aspire! Expand Facilities, Impact
The third floor of a community center in Arlington, Virginia, sat empty and unfinished, waiting for the right tenant. Concurrently, Aspire! Afterschool Learning was in dire need of expanded facilities to better serve its participants: low-income, elementary-aged children and their families. Following an agreement with Arlington County and a substantial grant from the HDR Foundation, Aspire! will soon be opening its doors at the Arlington Mill Community Center.
Aspire! Afterschool Learning, a nonprofit that expands learning opportunities for young people through afterschool and summer learning programs, will be moving into the space in the coming months. And with the help of the HDR Foundation, that 10,000 square feet will be equipped with a fully furnished classroom and library space.
The HDR Foundation recently awarded Aspire! with a $72,200 grant as part of its 2017 grant cycle thanks in part to the support of HDR Managing Principal Steve Manlove. Steve has served on the Aspire! Board of Directors since 2013, including the last two as the board chair.
“It’s been an outstanding privilege to serve with Aspire!,” Steve said. “The organization is making a profound difference in the community, and the HDR Foundation grant will help us expand that impact even further.”
In addition to Steve’s leadership on the Aspire board, the Arlington office has been supporting Aspire! in a number of ways since relocating from Alexandria to the Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington. The staff has hosted annual toy drives, volunteered at local events and fundraisers, and continued raising awareness of the organization throughout the community in order to aid the cause.
Aspire! reaches about 1,000 students each year through its five school partnerships and serves 80 at-risk students each day after school and in the summer. The results speak for themselves: 90 percent of students in the program have seen improvements in their reading skills each year. With the new space and new furnishings, the number of afterschool and summer students will reach 150.
The HDR Foundation grant will pay for the furnishings for four classrooms, including tables and chairs, smartboards, five laptops with storage, student storage spaces and décor. The library will feature tables and chairs, special window seating, shelving and two computer stations.
“The new space is outstanding,” Steve said. “It increases the number of students that Aspire! can reach, which is much-needed as the organization continues to grow. Secondly, it will have new equipment and technology that will make for a better learning experience.”
The HDR Foundation’s 2017 large grant cycle was its largest round of giving to date, totaling $327,247. Each grant is sponsored by an HDR employee who is highly involved in the applying organization, and the grants fall into one of three categories: bettering the environment, creating healthy communities and, in the case of Aspire!, education.
“The ability to read is one the most basic educational tools that an individual needs to be successful,” Steve said. “Aspire! is able to improve that skill for the children in the program, and it makes a lifelong impact —from getting into college to having a successful career. This is truly a life-changing program.”