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Learning Life Skills and Leadership

Langston Hughes eighth graders prepare for life after middle school.

Langston Hughes principal Deborah Jackson has dreamt for two years of holding a summit for students at the school, to prepare them for life after middle school. On Thursday that dream came true.

"This is a very dynamic and caring community," Jackson said about Reston. "Whatever we dream comes true."

Langston Hughes’ eighth graders participated in a daylong summit at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Reston. Speakers and other presenters taught the students life skills they will need once they leave the school.

"I learned a lot about how to manage money, how to cooperate with others and how to be successful and accomplish something in life," said Matthew Allen. The eighth grader will be a freshman at South Lakes High School in September, and said he felt the summit helped prepare him for the high school experience.

Jackson said the summit served the students while incorporating Fairfax County School Board’s strategic goals of teaching academics, life skills and responsibility. She attended a countywide meeting for principals on Thursday morning where those goals were discussed, while the summit was happening. "All I could think about [during the meeting] were the choices you had here today," said Jackson.

Fairfax County Supervisor Catherine Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) said she was the seventh of eight children in her family growing up in Arkansas. "I grew up in a family where you had to take responsibility, and you had to take responsibility very early," said Hudgins. She told the students that success in life comes from hard work and knowing what they want to do. "In a couple of months you will be in high school and I know your teachers prepared you," said Hudgins. She then quoted Mahatma Gandhi, "Live as if you’re going to die tomorrow, and learn as if you’re going to live forever." She told the Langston Hughes eighth graders not to delay doing things they want to do. "Do them now, because they prepare you for tomorrow," said Hudgins.

LANGSTON HUGHES International Baccalaureate Middle Years coordinator, James Albright, said the summit was a day of instruction for the students. He said the challenge presented to the teachers was to keep the students engaged in the activities in what is essentially a daylong field trip. However, the eighth graders remained active and engaged throughout the day. "We picked the right topics," said Albright, adding that it was uncharacteristic that 420 eighth graders go through an entire day without raising problems or issues. "The activities were meaningful and the kids ate it up," said Albright.

Franklin Kyle, the after school specialist and building coordinator at Langston Hughes, said the summit was a great success. "It was better than I envisioned it to be," said Kyle. He also said that the topics of the summit kept the students engaged. "The topics were things that the kids needed to hear, real life topics," said Kyle. "I was surprised that they [the students] responded as well as they did. They seemed genuinely interested," he added.

Kyle also credited the support of the Reston community for the success of the summit. "The community in Reston really stands behind the school and what we’re doing," he said.