To Our Readers
When I first moved to the Washington area in 1989, I lived for a year in Friendship Heights, D.C. I loved the hustle and bustle of the neighborhood, and the two-block walk to the Metro station.
I spent the next 12 years in Chevy Chase Section 5, where I was drawn to the neighborliness and community spirit. My two sons and I marched every year in the Fourth of July parade that winds its way up and down the few streets in the neighborhood—and ends with participants singing patriotic songs.
Twelve years ago I moved to the Rollingwood section of Chevy Chase, where our house overlooks Rock Creek Park—and where I feel like I’m living far from the hustle and bustle. Most nights I hear an owl hooting in the trees behind us.
I loved all three neighborhoods for different reasons, at different times in my life. It was because of my experiences that I decided to organize our cover story on great neighborhoods based on the elements people are looking for when they’re deciding where to live. Our story presents desirable neighborhoods in 10 categories, including “Big Yards,” “Access to the Outdoors” and “Community Amenities.”
One of the things that makes life interesting and exciting (and sometimes scary) is that you never know when something is going to happen that will change the course of your life, for good or bad. In 2013, something very good happened to me.
That fall I started mentoring Nichole Land, who was a senior at the time in the University of Maryland’s communications program at The Universities at Shady Grove (USG). I am a member of the USG Board of Advisors, and we are encouraged to mentor a scholarship student each year.
I thought I would be able to help Nichole figure out a career path and make some contacts. Little did I know how much Nichole would inspire me.
In our first meeting, Nichole told me her story. She was the second oldest of nine kids. Her family didn’t have much while she was growing up, so they relied on government assistance and the generosity of nonprofit groups in Montgomery County. At one point, Nichole lived with 11 other members of her family in a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment in public housing in Silver Spring.
Her twin brothers are autistic, and other brothers got in trouble with the law. For much of her life, Nichole was like the second mother to her younger siblings.
Nichole worked her way through Montgomery College (it took her eight years) and was able to get her bachelor’s degree at USG thanks to a full scholarship from the USG Kendall Scholars Program.
During our first meeting, she told me that she had two goals: to give back to the community that had provided so much to her family, and to get her own apartment. Nichole’s first job after USG was as a constituent relations assistant for Interfaith Works, from which she and her family had received much of their clothing when she was growing up. She now works at Montgomery College. She moved into her apartment in Rockville last June.
Nichole was appointed recently to the USG Board of Advisors, and she is a member of the alumni association board of governors at Montgomery College. She is invited often to tell her story to potential donors, students and government officials.
Nichole’s determination, compassion and optimism have inspired me since the day I met her. I thought her story would inspire our readers, as well.
My experience with Nichole convinced me of the transformative power of mentoring (both for the mentee and the mentor). With that in mind, I recently co-founded MentorPrize, a nonprofit that matches people who are interested in mentoring with area nonprofits that are looking for mentors. To learn more about MentorPrize, go to www.mentorprize.org.
I hope you enjoy this issue of Bethesda Magazine.
Editor-in-Chief & Publisher