The WMCCAI Scholarship Program is open to all high-school seniors within the immediate Washington metro living within a community association (i.e. homeowners association, condominium association, or cooperative association).
The 2019 Scholarship Program was solely funded by WMCCAI members, along with our two sponsors, DoodyCalls and Mutual of Omaha Bank, and two generous donations by Rees Broome, P.C. and Windows Plus, LLC. Thank you to all who donated this year!
Question: If You Were a Community Association Board Member, What Changes Would You Like to See in Your Community and How Would You Implement Them?
Ava Naski of Reston, VA is the 1st Place recipient of the 2019 scholarship award from WMCCAI and was awarded $2,000. She will be attending University of Mary Washington this fall.
“Live, Work, Play”. That is the motto for my hometown. Having lived here for 18 years, I can tell you that the planned, self-contained community of Reston, Virginia lives up to that motto. Designed with the idea that Restonians would want to work and play within their community, it has been an idyllic place to grow up. Neighborhood communities were built near village centers, which can be easily accessed via walking trails nestled next to open spaces for ball playing or impromptu picnics. Here in Reston, riding my bike to and from elementary school was a reality! But like many other aging communities, Reston is not without its challenges.
Like other planned communities, properties in Reston are part of an association, which ensures the beauty of this hamlet is maintained and that the covenants are followed. Reston Association homeowners are also given voting privileges for board elections, giving every household a voice. Many of the neighborhoods within Reston are also part of cluster home owners’ associations, or HOAs. My home sits in a cluster HOA and in the 18 years that I have lived here, I have seen my neighborhood change in many ways. I know firsthand the challenges our HOA board faces and the benefits that our community has earned from their hard work.
As a board member for our home owner’s association, I would like to see more residents take ownership in their community. For several years, our annual meetings have struggled to achieve the quorum needed to have an official meeting. As a board member, I would personally reach out to the neighbors on my street and encourage them to attend the meeting and learn more about their community. I fear that some neighbors view an annual meeting as an arena for neighbors to complain and if they don’t have any complaints, they see no reason in attending. An annual meeting is often a time where new board members are elected, and yearly budgets are approved. These meetings can also be an opportunity to hear from special guest speakers, such as local police discussing crime in the area. Residents are generally notified about these meetings through a mailed announcement, but I believe speaking directly to my neighbors and encouraging them to come out to the meetings would make a difference. I would encourage my fellow board members to do the same and with this group effort, we would see a rise in our attendance numbers and achieve a quorum once again.
Our community is approaching the 25-year mark and it is starting show its age. Maintaining the integrity our neighborhood should go beyond our HOA guidelines and be something in which all neighbors take pride. As a board member, I would encourage neighbors to take part in bi-annual cluster clean ups. This could include sprucing up the entrance to our neighborhood in the spring and fall, canvassing common areas for debris, or helping out neighbors who could use some extra help maintaining their yard. These are activities in which all residents, young and old, could take part. And by incorporating these clean ups in a cluster wide potluck or block party, it would also foster community bonding. We need to go beyond a wave and brief hello as we hurry into our homes each day.
By encouraging attendance at annual meetings and supporting community wide clean up sessions, these changes would make a significant impact on the community. The overall appearance of the neighborhood would be more pleasing and the people living in it would have a more active presence. If I were a community association board member, seeing these changes implemented would give me the hope for other changes down the line and motivate me to continue serving my community.
Sagar Varma of South Riding, VA is the 2nd Place recipient of the 2019 scholarship award from WMCCAI and was awarded $1,015. He will be attending Virginia Tech this fall.
When I was five, we moved to the Riding of Blue Spring community in South Riding, Virginia. It was a new housing development with a number of homes still under construction. It reminded me of springtime, where the flowers were blooming, the grass sprouting and most important; the budding of new life. Now as a senior high school student, twelve years later, I reflect on the changes I have seen in the community over the years. I love my community as it represents familiarity, security, and a sense of belonging. A big reason is from the hard work put in by the community association, who have met the mission of providing an atmosphere fostering a common bond amongst the residents.
If I was on the board of the Riding at Blue Spring community association, I would work with fellow board members and residents to implement the following three ideas with the continued goal of uniting the community and its families across various backgrounds (socioeconomic, race, religion, age, gender).
The first idea would be to initiate a recurring international gathering where food/traditions/culture from different parts of the world would be celebrated. This could be accomplished in several ways:
- Request a resident/residents take the lead for their respective cultural event.
- Request the HOA to take the lead for each event with support from residents. This would allow the HOA to establish the tone as compared to a resident, where the resident may feel overwhelmed for the success of the event.
- Request a local merchant/restaurant take the lead. This would provide marketing visibility for the merchant while taking the pressure away from the resident and/or HOA.
The second idea centers on a current hot environmental topic of responsibility raised and organic foods. The ability to support the local community by initiating a local farmers’ market would demonstrate the association commitment to the cause. The clubhouse parking lot could support the vendors and could occur during the spring-fall timeframe. The event would be a terrific opportunity to bring the community residents and perhaps even non community residents together in a common venue. The frequency could be determined based on other association activities and the effort required by both HOA/residents and the vendors. Every month or every other week seems to make sense. Where I have seen communities that offer this type of event, it establishes a proactive precedence and promotes healthy living. One of my friends, who lives in a Farm to Table community said it is an extremely popular offering, as it showcases clean foods free from chemicals/pesticides used by large mass scale producers.
The final idea is organizing volunteer day(s) within the community. There is no better way to give back, while obtaining a feeling of accomplishment. The volunteer day could focus on a specific area of the community and could further be broken out into different age groups. The younger kids and perhaps the elderly could plant flowers, tidying up the landscape while the adults work on the rebuilding/assembly type projects including painting, fencing, play lots, etc. All the volunteers could unite after the work for a celebration meal with music & games. The volunteer day would serve as a philanthropic event, teaching the younger kids the importance of giving back, especially to their local community. It would also raise the pride factor as a resident, seeing the outcome of the hard work.
I have seen when the HOA works hard to engage the community, the value and lives of the residents are enriched and I am proud to have been part of such an organization during my childhood.