Brittany Dwyer started at Headwaters as a high school intern and will now serve as the director of its Starfish Mentoring Program. "I'm thrilled to work more closely with Headwaters and with the youth of Rappahannock County," Dwyer said.

Educational support organization adapts to pandemic

Headwaters is delighted to announce that Brittany Dwyer is joining the county’s Headwaters Foundation as director of its Starfish Mentoring Program.

“Brittany is a ‘Headwaters kid’ herself,” said foundation director Lynnie Genho. “It’s great to be welcoming her back in a leadership role. The stars aligned and we’re so excited to see her come full circle.”

Dwyer is a graduate of Rappahannock County Public Schools and actually began working for Headwaters as a 16-year-old intern. She continued to be involved with the organization for many years, previously serving as their Executive Assistant until 2016, and then volunteering for their After School Enrichment program after her departure. 

“I’m thrilled to have an opportunity to work more closely with Headwaters and with the youth of Rappahannock County. I’ve witnessed countless young lives being impacted through the presence of dedicated adults who offer a positive attitude, caring nature, helpful insight and boundless encouragement through Headwaters,” Dwyer said.

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Recently, Dwyer received her Master of Social Work degree from the University of Southern California, where she specialized in working with children, youth and families. In addition to her new position with Headwaters, she will continue to serve as the Community Education & Outreach Coordinator with the Mental Health Association, which covers Rappahannock and Fauquier counties. That role also includes working with Rappahannock’s public school administration to implement programs for youth. 

Genho said that Headwaters was particularly excited to have Dwyer join the organization at this time. 

“The COVID pandemic challenges all of us and that most definitely has been felt in the education field that Headwaters serves,” said the foundation director. 

“The school administration recently reported on the struggles students and families are facing as they adapt to distance learning. We also know that many students and their families are facing difficult social, financial, and mental health issues. That is why the Starfish Mentoring Program and Brittany’s involvement is so important at this time.”

Traditionally, the Starfish program has partnered adults and students in multi-year relationships to further educational and emotional success from grade school through high school. 

“This has been a very successful program for both the adult mentors and the kids,” said Genho. “But given the acute problems caused by the pandemic, we are adapting the Starfish program to deal with this unprecedented and urgent situation. Brittany will bring the leadership we need for this expanded initiative. We envision shorter, but perhaps more urgent relationships between the adult mentors and kids to deal with immediate challenges.” 

Approximately 80 percent of RCPS students participate in Headwaters programs at some time during their school years. 

“We have programs that serve all ages beginning with preschool, continuing through elementary and high school years, and culminating with scholarships for postgraduate education,” Genho said.

“But as with almost everything else these days, the pandemic has been a challenging time for Headwaters,” Genho continued. For example, in May of this year Headwaters was forced to cancel their enormously successful annual fundraising event normally held each September, the Taste of Rappahannock. 

Determined to still provide the same amount of scholarship help as previous years, the Headwaters Scholarship Campaign was launched and, with the generous help of the community, raised more than $50,000 in four weeks. 

Every penny of this and additional Headwaters reserve funds was used to distribute more than $100,000 in scholarships to the high school graduating class and past RCHS graduates in a socially distanced drive-through scholarship ceremony. 

The organization also funded four students in the Heavy Equipment Operators LFCC Workforce Solutions program and continues to financially support the Profile of a Graduate position in the high school that encourages life ready skills after graduation. Education Enrichment Grants, which help fund innovative classroom projects submitted by teachers, are also available even during these financially hard times. 

“The pandemic might have caused us to pivot but it hasn’t stopped us or even let us slow down!” said Genho. “We are collaborating with the Rappahannock Kids Coalition (RKC) and helped provide summer camps to over 100 kids this last July, as well as are continuing to support the Wonderful Wednesday childcare program offering enrichment opportunities to 110 RCPS students this fall. 

“We are happy to have restarted our After-School Enrichment Program that is providing learning support, physical movement, and social interaction for over 60 kids grades K through Seven, including a growing number of ESL students. This is all taking place because of the close working relationship Headwaters has with both the elementary and high school teachers and administrators.”

Looking beyond this fall, the 23-year-old Headwaters Foundation is planning for the COVID-free future, said Genho. 

“In addition to reinstituting many of our regular programs such as Romp n Ride, READ, and Summer Chorus, we’ll continue to partner with RKC and adapt our programs to what Rappahannock students need. The dedication Headwaters has for post high school education is evident with the Board’s decisions to continue to offer over $100,000 in 2020 scholarships. It’s a challenging time, but it’s also an exciting time that is bringing together our community to find unique ways to help our Rappahannock students.”