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Wrapping Up, both Figuratively and Literally


July is almost over, and for me that will end my internship experience with the VCE of Alexandria city. The season brought new experiences in dealing with scores of summer camp kids, as well as honing my container garden skills and knowledge. The kids learned how to plant, water, and tend their container gardens, along with identifying new plants and of course getting their hands dirty!

The pizza garden idea was very admirable; however, the amount of kids and lack of a bountiful harvest proved otherwise. At home base in the Nannie Lee Center, I experimented in harvesting the loads of basil that grew with three different methods: The first was air drying several leaves at a time by hanging them from the stems inside a perforated paper bag. The microwave also proved successful in drying the herb; and the final method was simply freezing the leaves (which hasn’t been tested yet).

At the Arlington-Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless leadership academy, the kids have been slowly coming alive as we traveled to the Natural History Museum last week, and are making welcome baskets for the carpenter shelter this week. The B2i summer program will also finish up this next week, before joining the other members once school starts

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Volunteer Spotlight: Desiree Kaul

Each month Extension’s financial education program is profiling an outstanding volunteer. To nominate someone, please email Megan Kuhn at

Name: Desiree Kaul

Lives: Annandale

Works: part-time merchandizer, full-time mom

Master Financial Education Volunteer Desiree Kaul

Master Financial Education Volunteer Desiree Kaul

Desiree Kaul has volunteered as a Master Financial Education Volunteer since April 2014. She and Donna Brazier recently provided training for social workers. The training provided case workers with information and materials to use with their clients as they help them to resolve their financial problems.

Q. What do you do to relax?

A. I like to read.

Q. What’s on your summer reading list?

A. Mysteries and children’s finance books.

Q. What’s your favorite thing to save for?

A. I’m saving for retirement. It would be nice to have the option to retire earlier.

Q. What’s your favorite splurge?

A. I don’t splurge for myself, but I’m willing to spend more on an item that will last a long time, like a nice pair of jeans. If I do splurge, it’s probably on my kid.

Q. How did you become interested in financial literacy?

A. I got into trouble when I was in college. I was one of those people who only made minimum payments, and I had 10 credit cards. I bought things for other people. Half the things I owed money on I didn’t own anymore. I was using credit cards to pay for other credit card bills.

When I got married, my husband and I looked at our credit reports. He said, “What’s going on?” and I went to a financial counselor. I enrolled in Power Pay to pay off my credit card debt.

[Editor’s note: Power Pay is a free, self-directed debt elimination plan from Utah State University Extension. It is an especially helpful tool for clients with multiple credit cards because the client can enter information about multiple debts in one place, and the system will generate a payment schedule in order of highest interest rate.]

I’m one of those people who like to set goals. Power Pay made it easier to see how fast I was paying things off because it was more of a visual tool.

Q. What advice would you give to a client who is in a similar situation to when you were a newlywed? 

A. If you’re willing to put in the time to repair your credit, it will benefit you greatly. If you spend the year or two to get things in order, it is amazing what you can do later. I was debt-free in two years. I was lucky that my husband paid for housing so I could pay my debt.



Arlington County VCE Summer Intern

Hello everyone!

First off, I would like to introduce myself… My name is Van Do, and I am a rising senior double majoring in Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise and Psychology at Virginia Tech. I am the current summer intern for Virginia Cooperative Extension in Arlington County. 🙂 I will be blogging through the summer about all of the experiences I am going through during my 10-week internship.

I began my internship at the beginning of June, and one of my tasks that I have been working on the past few weeks is creating lessons and short activities to teach at AFAC food distributions! One of the first boards I made was a lesson on sodium, and I attended a food distribution last Wednesday and helped out the volunteers to present the lesson. Look out for future lessons on fats, fibers, and sugar, etc…


Stay tuned for future posts on my experiences!


Summer Begins!

The school year is over and many kids are transitioning from school time to rec time. As the summer thermostat increases, the heat is on to organize and gather the hundreds of kids ready to learn and play.

All the container gardens have been delivered and several of the centers have also set up other gardens as well. Some of the kids were able to help in the planting and initial set up of the garden and enjoyed getting their hands dirty and took pride in the plants they watered and will be taking care of this summer.

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The 4-H program will be implemented next week as well as the start of the B2i leadership academy program. B2i helps kids connected to the Arlington-Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless gain leadership skills and build confidence through various activities, trips, speakers and spending time together.

Volunteer Spotlight: Donna Brazier

Each month Extension’s financial education program is profiling an outstanding volunteer. To nominate someone, please email Megan Kuhn at

Name: Donna Brazier
Lives: Alexandria
Works: Financial Management Consultant and Trainer, Retired Foreign Service Officer for U.S. AID

Donna Brazier has volunteered as a Master Financial Education Volunteer since 2009. She and Desiree Kaul recently provided training for social workers. The training provided case workers with information and materials to use with their clients as they help them to resolve their financial problems.

Q. What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A. I love to cook. I love to bake.

Q. What is your go-to recipe?
A. Lasagna.

Q. What was your most interesting overseas posting?
A. Even though I’m retired, I still take contract assignments. I went to Madagascar between 2010 and 2011. It was one of the poorest countries I’ve been to, but one of the most beautiful. It was the first time I saw Jacaranda trees in full bloom. They have pink flowers.

Q. What is your favorite thing to save for?
A. Trips.

Q. What is your favorite splurge?
A. I’ll splurge on travel, and I love perfume.

Q. Why do you volunteer?
A. It bothers me how people are taken advantage of for not knowing about finances.

Q. What has your experience been as a volunteer?
A. One of the most positive experiences I had was teaching financial literacy at the Alexandria Community Shelter. I had a woman cry, “had I talked to you a year ago, I wouldn’t be in the shelter.” People appreciate what I’m trying to do.

Q. What’s been the biggest challenge as a volunteer?
A. Working with one-on-one clients because they don’t always show up, and working with people who don’t want the help.

Q. What keeps you motivated?
A. I know there is a need. I know I’m helping. I also do different things. There are many ways to help: teaching classes, training social workers, counseling clients one-on-one and taking continuing education.

Training Session for 4-H Summer Program

This past Monday Reggie, Megan our nutrition specialist, and myself held a training session informing the different Rec. centers about our program package this summer for the kids. At the meeting we gathered to discuss ‘what the heck is 4-H?’

After finding their seats with a plate of mixed veggies and a special bag of a homemade popcorn, Reggie informed our Rec. center officials about the diverse programs including public speaking, gardening, nutrition, and STEM among others. 4-H is geared to help the kids grow in confidence and skills hands on, as well as better prepare them for community involvement as a citizen and neighbor in the future. Many different components make up the program and frankly would take a powerpoint from me to explain all that it entails.

After this we split up into three groups and had demonstrations of three of the different activities that could be conducted throughout this summer program. The training session gave the opportunity for leaders to evaluate and become accustomed to the purpose and teaching skills involved, as well as any immediate modifications that would better suite their individual kids.


We then ventured outside to our bustling greenhouse, and with many helping hands, we put together our first container garden that each Rec site will hopefully be hosting this summer and throughout the year, as the kids will take primary responsibility of tending the garden daily with a couple weekly check-ups by yours truly.


On The Move


Two weeks down and a fifth of my summer internship is over, as it’s crazy how fast time goes especially since I feel like I’m just getting started (which we are to some degree). We had a board meeting with the Arlington and Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless (AACH) and discussed the growth we plan to implement in the program this coming year.

Later on we had our biweekly meeting with the group of highschoolers that included gathering all the necessary paperwork for camp, skyping with a former professional football player (Euro football), and a very tasty taco dinner.

More recently I ventured to my first Rec Center and we did a little project on electro-magnetism with the kids. This was my first encounter with the kids at Mount Vernon Rec but not my last as the container gardens are almost ready to be shipped out to the different sites allowing the kids to help grow their own pizza (1)

One of the things I have noticed from hanging out with Reggie are the many different meetings that he is invited to like the All-staff Parks and Rec meeting we had in the Lee Center the other day, and then a Regional 4-H meeting in Harrisonburg yesterday (I’m not sure on the titles of these meetings btw).

Volunteer Spotlight: Roger Brown

Each month Extension’s financial education program is profiling an outstanding volunteer. To nominate someone, please email Megan Kuhn at

Name: Roger Brown
Lives: Arlington, since 1975
Works: Retired U.S. Census Bureau civil servant

Roger Brown has volunteered as a Master Financial Education Volunteer since October 2011. He recently taught financial management classes at Arlington Correctional Facility.

Master Financial Education Volunteer Roger Brown

Master Financial Education Volunteer Roger Brown

Q. What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A. I do tai chi. I can say hello and goodbye in 20 languages.

Q. Why do you volunteer?
A. I believe you should give back. It’s very rewarding to help others, especially people having a hard time.

Q. Why is financial education important?
A. People need to know how to manage their spending so they can live within their income. They need to control their expenses to minimize the amount of credit they need.

Q. What is your favorite part about volunteering as a financial educator?
A. Kids’ Marketplace. [Editor’s note: Kids’ Marketplace is a financial simulation adapted for elementary and middle school-aged children.] When kids understand how their parents manage their money, they appreciate their parents more.

Q. What’s been the biggest challenge as a volunteer?
A. Volunteering at the Arlington Correctional Facility. You’re teaching in a cell block. There are guards. It’s a challenging place to teach a class even though the need is great. I wasn’t sure I was going to do it. I recommend it. You’re helping people who really need it.

Summer 4-H Intern and Pizza Garden Ready to Go!


Well, I would just like to start by introducing myself as the future weekly blogger for the summer. My name is Monte McCarthy and I am rising junior studying Environmental Economics in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech, and currently interning with the Alexandria extension agency under a Mr. Reginald Morris. Hopefully my blog posts will encapsulate our weekly goals and accomplishments and keep our readers in the loop for the summer!


My first day (May 19) I sat in on the bi-monthly ELC board meeting to debrief of the nova agent’s recent activities, and helped put together a green house in preparation for some 4-H kids. The end goal for these kids will be to use and grow their own pizza ingredients. These plants will include tomatoes, peppers, oregano, and basil, and eventually be used to have a pizza party at the end of the season. Not that we’re pizza masters, but I’m sure the finished product will be one of the better pizza pies the kids will have!


All in all it was a welcoming inauguration as we continue to set up for the approaching wicked-fun summer camp in Front Royal.


Enjoy Dark Leafy Greens

May is the time to buy fresh leafy greens at your local farmers’ market or grocery store in Virginia. Kale, spinach, collard greens, Swiss chard and many more; leafy greens are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals. If you have a spare spot of earth, consider growing your own, too.

The recent Master Food Volunteer cohort enjoyed making and eating a fresh kale salad. Kale is high is vitamins A, K and C, and provides potassium and calcium as well. Try this recipe for a tasty way to incorporate this powerhouse vegetable into your diet.

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Kale Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

Serves about 6, 1 cup per serving Ÿ Prep time: 20 minutes Ÿ Cook time: 0 minutes


2 bunches kale (12-14 ounces)

For Dressing:

2 teaspoons green onions

½ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 Tablespoons, fresh orange juice

2 teaspoons pure maple syrup

6 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil



  1. Wash and dry the kale leaves. Strip leaves from stems. Finely shred leaves with a sharp knife. Place in a serving bowl.
  2. To prepare the dressing, mince green onions. Put all the ingredients in a glass jar with a lid, and shake until emulsified.
  3. Add enough dressing to coat the kale lightly. Massage the dressing into the kale leaves with clean hands to soften the leaves.
  4. Add your favorite salad fixings.
  5. Can be made a day or even two ahead.


  • Use Tuscan, lacinato or dinosaur kale
  • Optional add-ins: toasted pine nuts or sunflower seeds, pomegranate seeds, dried cranberries, crumbled feta, chopped avocado, cooked quinoa.