Community School News

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Winter 2016

JazzReach Visits Community School

On February 11, the Metta Quintet performed some jazz classics for our students while explaining and illustrating some of the musicians' ideas and personal insights about the many facets of jazz performance. The musicians in the quintet are part of JazzReach, a New York-based organization created 20 years ago to educate students about music, and jazz in particular. Many thanks to the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech for arranging this special program.

CS Recognizes 2016 Local Hero

On February 4, Community School honored Monique Ingram with our Local Hero Award. This award, inspired by the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is an annual learning experience for our middle school students. They seek nominations from across the valley, decide on the recipient, write speeches, create an an original work of art, and host award ceremonies for the general public and our school community.

The students chose to honor Monique for her work as a health educator and her volunteer efforts with Girls Rock Roanoke, Project: Real Talk, and Showtimers Community Theater. Below, Monique displays the mosiac created by our students for the award.


The students were impressed by other nominees and wanted to honor them as well. Sam Rasoul was nominated for his dedication to Roanoke, and specifically for his work in supporting refugees in Roanoke and around the world. Sam could not attend our award ceremony because he was in Richmond for the General Assembly, but his family came to accept the award in his honor.

The students also recognized J.T. Clark who was nominated for showing grace and forgiveness in a time of pain and sorrow. After J.T.'s brother and sister-in-law were killed in a car accident, J.T. paid the fines of the man who was driving the other vehicle. At the award ceremony, he shared how he has developed a friendship with this man, and how communities were brought together by this tragedy.

CS Schedules Information Sessions for Parents

Community School will host two information sessions for parents interested in enrolling their children for fall 2016.

Preschool & Kindergarten

March 1 at 6:30 PM

(Snow Date: March 8)

Elementary & Middle School

March 31 at 6:30 PM

(Snow Date: April 7)


Join our teachers in their classrooms for discussions about our curriculum and philosophy. Teachers will explore those features that distinguish Community School's program from other options in the valley: experiential learning, arts integration, Spanish studies, outdoor learning, student responsibility and goal setting, off-campus and service learning, multi-age groupings, mentoring, and an innovative program of middle school electives. Free childcare is available during the sessions. To attend the sessions, call 540-563-5036 or email the Admissions Director.

Fall 2015

Roanoke Ballet Theater on Campus

On Monday, December 7, Roanoke Ballet Theater will be on the CS campus to provide our students with a ballet demonstration, a behind-the-scenes look at the day of a dancer, and a sneak peek at some of the dances featured in their upcoming performance of The Nutcracker.

CS Alumna Receives Preservation Award

Congratulations to CS alumna Celine Anderson (Seminar class of 2011) who received the Roanoke Valley Preservation Foundation Award for Education at the organization’s annual meeting on November 19. The award recognized her creation and publication of The Roanoke Rover magazine, her senior project at Community High School. As she is currently attending Swarthmore College, the award was accepted on her behalf by CHS Academic Director and Celine’s faculty advisor Josh Chapman. For more information on The Roanoke Rover, visit For information on the RVPF’s annual preservation awards, visit  

It's Time to Nominate Your Local Hero!

Each year, Community School recognizes people and organizations in the Roanoke Valley that have a greater effect on their larger community while demonstrating the humanitarianism, altruism and social conscience exemplified by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The 2016 Local Hero Award Ceremony will take place on the evening of Thursday, February 4. There is a daytime event for Community School students on Friday, February 5. Both events will take place in the Activity Room on Community School's campus.

For more information and to nominate your local hero, visit The deadline for nominations is Monday, December 14.

Award-Winning Children's Author On Campus

Award-winning children's author and Community School alumna Ayn Cates Sullivan was on campus on October 30 to read from her book A Story of Becoming, which was recently honored at the Paris Book Festival. Ayn, who attended CS in the 1970s, donated copies of her books to the school and shared memories of her years on campus.

For more information on Ayn Cates Sullivan, her children's books and the many awards she has received, visit

Alumna is Finalist for State Literary Award

Community School alumna Corrie Williamson is one of three finalists for the Library of Virginia’s 18th Annual Literary Award in Poetry for her book Sweet Husk. These awards were created to recognize the best books published the previous year by Virginia authors or on a Virginia theme. Williamson is the winner of the 2014 Perugia Press Prize for First or Second Book by a Woman and the James Boatwright III Prize for Poetry. She holds a M.F.A. in Poetry from the University of Arkansas and currently teaches at Helena College in Montana.

Bolivian Exchange Students Arrive on Campus

For the eighteenth year, we are delighted to welcome students from Santa Cruz, Bolivia, to our school. Twelve visiting students arrived in October and will stay with our families and attend classes here through early December. Some of our middle school students will travel to Bolivia in the spring, attending classes at Colegio Domingo Savio for one month.

This longstanding exchange creates a wonderful opportunity for our students to broaden their knowledge of Spanish, immerse themselves in the culture of another country, and gain confidence and independence.

Spring 2015

Community School Voted "One of the Best Independent Schools in Southwestern Virginia"


For the third year in a row, the readers of Virginia Living have voted Community School as one of the Best Independent Schools in Southwestern Virginia, as part of the Best of Virginia Reader's Survey. The survey results will be published in a special issue, Best of Virginia 2015.

Students Participate in Service Project Days

As part of Community School's ongoing outdoor education and service learning programs, all our students will participate in community service project days in April. The projects are designed to help connect students to the greater Roanoke community by taking them to different outdoor sites around the valley and providing them with age-appropriate opportunities for community service. Project locations and activities include weeding the wildflower garden near the Blue Ridge Discovery Center and cleaning up parking lots and trails around Carvins Cove  and the Mill Mountain Watch Tower and Ridgeline Trails.

Thornfield Farm to Sell Produce on CS Campus

Susanna Thornton and Thornfield Farm will be hosting a farm stand at Community School on Tuesdays from 3:30-6:00 p.m. starting April 7. Susanna will be bringing fresh vegetables and flowers to Community School from then until December. The opening week she will have fresh spinach, arugula, lettuce and bok choi for sale as well as flowers and plants for your early gardens or indoor planter boxes. Susanna is a Community School alumna, and we're excited to have her back in the area serving our community! All of her vegetables are organically grown on her family farm in Botetourt County. In addition to the farm stand, Susanna is offering a farm share program with a pick up location at Community School. For more information, visit and stop by to see her next Tuesday. If you have any questions, you can reach Susanna at 540-520-1803 or

The Big Release












This year, our elementary students participated in Trout in the Classroom, a nationwide environmental education program. Volunteers delivered a 50-gallon tank and 300 trout eggs in October. The tank has been located in our STEM lab so that all our students, from preschool through middle school, could study and observe the life-cycle of the brook trout. Throughout the trout-rearing process, students have learned about conservation, habitat, life cycles, water quality, and macroinvertebrates.

On March 30, our middle and upper elementary students traveled to Roaring Run to release the trout that they raised this year. They were joined by volunteers from Roanoke Valley Trout Unlimited who assisted with the release and organized a variety of learning activities including bug identification, trout identification, and a nature hike.

Winter 2015

Officer Travis Akins Receives Local Hero Award

Text Box:  Community School honored Roanoke City Police Officer Travis Akins this year with the 2015 Local Hero Award. Officer Akins was instrumental in bringing Project Lifesaver to Roanoke, a free service for families that helps save lives and reduce potential injury for adults and children who wander due to Alzheimer’s, autism, and other related conditions or disorders.

During his work on this project, Officer Akins saw a need for adults with cognitive disorders, such as autism or Down syndrome. He started working on such a program in 2013, and in November of 2014, Growth Through Opportunity officially launched at the Roanoke Police Department. These young men currently volunteer inside the police station learning a variety of skills, and in turn the police officers are able to interact with them in a non-emergency situation.

Our hero worked hard to find funding and insurance for a program like this. He connected with the Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center to find job coaches. Tracy Morris, who nominated our hero, said that “by giving these young men and women a role within the police department, our officers will have the unique understanding and set of skills required” to work with this particular population. The GTO Cadets receive job skills, which can help them gain employment, but also an opportunity to be a part of the community in which they live.

For over a decade, Community School has recognized a local hero in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Our middle school students study the life of Dr. King, solicit nominations from the public, and then choose the honoree they feel best represents the characteristics of altruism, humanitarianism and social conscience.

At two ceremonies last Friday, Officer Akins reminded the audience that we all have choices to make in life and echoed the sentiment of Dr. King that “the time is always right to do what is right.”


CHS Students Invited to Exhibit Artworks

As part of its Young Artist program, The Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech is exhibiting student works from three current Community High School classes. Margo Crutchfield, the curator at large for the Center, says that the exhibition has received more media attention than any other exhibit the gallery staff has coordinated. Narratives and Persuasion: Puppets, Prints, and Manifestos is showing in the Miles C. Horton Jr. Gallery and Sherwood Payne Quillen ’71 Reception Gallery through January.

Fall 2014

Community School Hosts Social Media Presentation

Have you ever wondered:

  • What are the latest trends in texting and social networking?

  • How to be informed of your child’s “screen time” habits?

  • What to expect when your child enters middle school?

Parenting can be tricky, especially as our children enter the middle and high school years, and new technology can be a challenge! Community School is hosting a Social Media Presentation for Parents & Youth (ages 8-14) by the Prevention Council of Roanoke County on Tuesday, November 18, from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. Class size is limited to 25 participants. Childcare is not provided. To register, please contact Linda Roth at

New Book Spotlights Community School

Connecting Children to Nature: Ideas and Activities for Parents and Educators, edited by Michael L. Bentley, Michael P. Mueller, and Bruce Martin, spotlights Community School’s success and its commitment to developing children’s naturalist intelligence (see chapter one).

From camping trips to raising chickens, from daily outdoor recess to creek walks and water testing, our students experience and study the natural world in depth throughout their school years. While so many children spend their days indoors, tethered to electronic media, our students actively connect with nature every school day.

Homeschool Enrichment Classes Expanded

In addition to our regular classes in art, music, drama, Spanish, and technology, older homeschool students (ages 10 through 14) are now invited to participate in our innovative elective program known as Friday Groups. Topics range from scientific field studies to filmmaking, creative writing, robotics and service learning. For detailed information on our semester classes and Friday Groups, please visit the new Homeschool Enrichment pages on our website.

Alumna Receives National Award

Community School alumna Corrie Williamson has received the 2014 Perugia Press Prize for a First or Second Book by a Woman for her new book Sweet Husk. Corrie, who teaches at Helena College in Montana, writes stunning poetry about nature, family, and her experiences growing up in Southwest Virginia.

Community School Adds Transitional Kindergarten

This fall, Community School has added a transitional kindergarten class to meet the needs of children (and parents!) who may not be ready for a regular, full-day kindergarten program. Perfect candidates for this class include students:

  • with late summer and fall birthdays;

  • who are developmentally younger;

  • who still need a quiet rest or nap in the afternoon;

  • whose parents prefer to give them an extra year before kindergarten.

The transitional kindergarten class offers a greater emphasis on literacy and math skills than our normal preschool classes while maintaining our focus on differentiation, social and emotional development, and enrichment activities. Families can choose either half- or full-day enrollment. Maximum enrollment for the class is eight students.

New Addition Filled with Music and Learning

Our new building addition, completed last spring, is now in full use. The addition houses a music lab, a STEM lab, and a multi-purpose space that hosts both special events and daily classes.

All of our students, from preschool through middle school, benefit from the new, larger area for their music classes. The music room provides space for our Yamaha Music in Education Keyboard Lab, as well as additional instruments, and enables younger students to engage in creative movement.

Our students also enjoy regular classes and special activities in the STEM lab, which features a kitchen area, greenhouse window, grow lights and shelves, and workstations tailored for different ages. This fall, the STEM lab also boasts a fifty-gallon tank stocked with three hundred trout eggs as our students participate in Trout in the Classroom, a national environmental education program.

January 2014

Students Present 2014 Local Hero Award

Community School's Local Hero Committee is proud to announce Reverend Sue Bentley as this year's recipient of the Local Hero Award. Sue was nominated by her three children, Sarah, Alex and Matt, who noted how much time she gives to others. She regularly visits those in hospitals, nursing homes and retirement communities. Sue is a board member of the Mental Health Association of the Roanoke Valley and hopes to make a difference for those dealing with mental illnesses.

While these are important contributions to our valley, it is Sue's work with the South Sudanese population here in Roanoke that most impressed the committee. She started outreach programs for them, helping the immigrants cope with the challenge of leaving a war-torn country and adjust to their new lives. She assists with their daily needs, worked to provide them a place to worship at St. James Episcopal Church, and has become their priest. Sue inspires those around her, her children and us. In her acceptance speech, she shared an African proverb about the importance of working together--while it is easy to break a single stick, a bundle is stronger--and called for us all to bundle together.

Since 2002, Community School has sponsored the Local Hero Award to honor the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Our middle school students select the recipient, create an original art piece to serve as the award, and present the award during a student-led ceremony. Special thanks go to the members of the Westside Step Team for their performance at this year's award ceremony and for their leadership during a step workshop held for our students following the ceremony.

Fall 2013

Strawberry Festival News!

We are happy to announce that Hometown Bank has agreed to partner with Community School as a presenting sponsor for Strawberry Festival. They have agreed to a three-year commitment of $15,000 annually.

Strawberry Festival costs an average of $30,000 to produce. We generally receive $10,000-$12,000 in sponsorships each year. Our goal has long been to have Strawberry Festival paid for completely through sponsorships. This would mean that the money we bring in during the two days of the event would be 100% profit. Thanks to this new relationship, we may be able to finally reach this goal.

Please join us in thanking Hometown Bank for their vote of confidence in our event!

Winter 2013

Students Honor St. Francis Service Dogs with Award

Since 2002, Community School has sponsored the Local Hero Award to honor the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This year, the Local Hero Award Committee chose to honor a local non-profit agency whose efforts in the community have exemplified Dr. King’s peaceful efforts. The award committee, composed of middle school students chosen by their teachers, selected St. Francis Service Dogs for their dedication to providing trained service dogs to people with disabilities such as multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, autism, and brain injury.

The students will present the award, an original student-created art work, to St. Francis Service Dogs in February. The award piece represents Joseph Campbell’s monomyth or hero’s journey. The hero’s journey is a universal tale found across cultures. Each rung in the ladder represents a different stage in the hero’s venture.


A ladder presents this piece as a symbol of climbing to something we need to reach, growth and ascension. Naturally, this led the student artists to think of the symbolism of a journey. Each artist submitted ideas for the piece and voted to choose a peer’s design. Then the individual artists each created a single rung and, using a layered wood technique, brought the story to life.

To tell the story, the work emulates the style of Henri Matisse. Matisse, in his later years, became fascinated by the ability of simple lines to tell a story. His work became full of fantastic shapes and featureless figures careening, flitting or stretching across the canvas. These faceless figures could be anyone, as a hero can be any one of us.

Fall 2012

New Music Keyboard Lab Open for Classes

Our new Yamaha Music in Education (MIE) Keyboard Lab arrived this summer and is now set up and ready for class in the music room. All of our students, from preschool through middle school, began enjoying the benefits of this wonderful addition to our music curriculum during the first week of school.

Community School music teacher Kim Mucha, who attended a special training workshop during the summer, has been busy introducing all the students, staff, and parents to the lab's amazing features and potential for enhancing our students' music education. The state-of-the-art lab allows students to play and perform, sing, compose, listen, improvise, and read, notate, analyze, and describe music.

Many thanks to everyone who supported the fundraising effort for Community School’s new keyboard lab. Whether you donated funds, went to a concert, or attended the spaghetti dinner and talent show, you played a part in making this exciting addition to our children’s music education a reality. Please stop by the music room to see our new lab.

Spring 2012

Strawberry Festival Wins "Favorite Annual Festival"

We are thrilled to share the news with you about Strawberry Festival and the "Best of Roanoke 2012." The Strawberry Festival is the Platinum Award winner for "Favorite Annual Festival”! This marks the first time that the Strawberry Festival has placed above Festival in the Park for this annual “best of” award. We are grateful to all the volunteers who work so tirelessly to make our event the Berry Greatest in the Roanoke Valley. This year marks the 25th year of The Roanoker's annual reader poll "Best of Roanoke." The 2012 ballot consisted of more than 100 categories on many topics. There are never any nominees on the ballot, simply categories where voters must "write-in" their pick for the best. For more information on the Strawberry Festival, click on the berry at the top right of this page.

Fall 2011

CS Alumna is a Poster Child for Women in Science

The following excerpt is reprinted with permission from the Yale Alumni Magazine. To read the full article and link to the related Associated Press article, please visit the Yale Alumni Magazine. For additional information on the impressive achievements of our alumni, please visit our Alumni Updates page. Rebecca Allred is a graduate of Community School and Community High School of Arts & Academics.

A woman’s place is in the lab

When Rebecca Allred was college-hunting, Harvard president Larry Summers publicly expressed doubts about women’s aptitude for high-level science.

Allred who finished her high school requirements at age 16 and scored a perfect 5 on her AP chemistry test went to the College of William and Mary in Virginia. There she took a chemistry class with Elizabeth Harbron, who became a mentor, her lab an incubator for high-achieving young women.

Now Allred is a second-year doctoral student at Yale and, thanks to a recent Associated Press article, a poster child for women in science: “one of a new generation of young women who are helping change the face of the so-called STEM fields science, technology, engineering and math.