- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 4, 2002

Staff writer Denise Barnes interviewed Darhyl Jasper, eastern regional coordinator for the National Council of Urban League Guilds.

Question: What's the next big project for the Northern Virginia Urban League Guild?
Answer: Well, we just finished our annual Christmas ball in December, which turned out to be a huge success and we were very happy with it. I chaired last year's ball, and the money we raised was given to the Northern Virginia Urban League to support its many programs. Funds also were given to the Capitol Campaign Endowment Fund to help us purchase our headquarters at 1315 Duke Street in Alexandria.
We held a retreat at our headquarters during the first part of February and we talked about our new goals and objectives for 2002-2003.
At this point, we're working to determine how we can raise more money, host more fund-raising activities and sponsor additional programs for the youth. The Urban League's theme is "Our Children = Our Destiny."
During the retreat, we also discussed how we can help women who are coming off of the welfare rolls get back into the mainstream and the work force. We plan to team up with Suited for Success, an organization that enables [low-income] women to dress the part and land the job.
Of course, our annual dinner is coming up on April 12. The dinner really started out as a community event, where we recognized people in the community who had made contributions to the Northern Virginia area. Our annual dinner is the largest fund-raiser the Northern Virginia Urban League hosts. and that's how the organization is able to support the many activities and programs that it sponsors throughout the year.
This year, we're honoring Congressman Jim Moran and Rev. Lee Earl, the senior pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church here in Alexandria. Four Northern Virginia high school students, who are considered high academic achievers, will receive scholarships and also be honored during the dinner.
The guild's responsibility is to help raise funds for events such as this one. We were really fortunate last year because one of the guild members had been a vice president with Mobil Oil, so she gave a donation and Mobil Oil matched it.
So we're very excited and we're looking forward to the upcoming dinner. Tickets are currently on sale and people can just call the Northern Virginia Urban League for further information if they would like to attend.
Q: Where do you derive your greatest reward in terms of volunteering for the organization?
A: I have to say, working with the children. That's my area of expertise and that's what I enjoy doing. We've got any number of programs designed for youngsters and teen-agers, such as the Akoben Male Mentoring Project for young men ages 13 to 18. We have the New Horizons Club for children 8 to 14. Then, there's the Male Teen Responsibility Program, which focuses on the reduction in incidences of early parenthood and the Alexandria Resources Mothers program. The program provides support to pregnant and new mothers living in Alexandria.
Q: Are there any special projects the Guild is focusing on at this time?
A: The guild plans to focus on the Capitol Campaign Endowment Fund to help us purchase our headquarters at Duke Street. All monies that we're able to raise will go towards the building's mortgage. The site is a former slave market that's now called Freedom House and it's the home of the Northern Virginia Urban League since 1990.
When you think about what it stood for in the past and what it stands for today I don't know how we cannot raise the funds to pay off the mortgage. We should feel obligated to purchase it for the freedom it now represents.
When I first learned we were going to buy the building, I was in awe, because I didn't know the history of the building. All of us who were a part of the guild were very enthusiastic about purchasing the site because of the historical importance. And, I think we all members of the guild and members of the Northern Virginia Urban League feel it is our history and we want to do our best and make it a continued history of great achievement.
The city and the community as a whole should look at the building's past and appreciate its historical significance. We want to focus on the positive impact the Northern Virginia Urban League can have on the community as a whole.
The organization works for all people whether they're black, white or foreigners coming from other countries. It's amazing, the multitude of people who come through the doors of Freedom House looking for a better life. The Northern Virginia Urban League offers training. We help women who are entering the job force for the first time or women who are re-entering the job force make a favorable impression because they're appropriately dressed. There's just a multitude of programs coming out of the Northern Virginia Urban League to help people.
Q: I understand the Northern Virginia Urban League established a program called the Alexandria Resource Mothers (ARM) to assist new mothers. In what way does the guild lend a hand to those who participate in the program?
A: There's a room at headquarters that's full of everything a new mother might need for her baby. Guild members restock the room every month with diapers and baby clothes anything and everything for a baby. That's our responsibility for that particular project. For example, the young lady who runs the program compiles a wish list and guild members try to stick to the list as much as possible. But members can bring whatever they choose.
The Alexandria Resource Mothers program is extremely important to us. We're all educators in one form or another, and we see young women who are new mothers, but they are really children themselves. The guidance they receive from the Alexandria Resource Mothers project helps them to improve their parenting skills. We want the young women to recognize the importance of an education by returning to school and completing their education.
Q: What's your favorite program?
A: The NULITES [National Urban League Incentive to Excel and Succeed] program is my favorite. It's national in scope, and the program directs its energies towards children in the eighth through 12th grades. The youth participate in lots of community projects and they take field trips to educational and cultural events. It's a great way to expose them to different cultures and different places. For example, NULITES spend time at Camp Atwater in North Brookfield, Mass., during the summer. If the Northern Virginia Urban League sends four children to camp, the guild sends four children. Whatever number the Northern Virginia Urban League sponsors, we try to match.
A week prior to the National Urban League conference, the NULITES host a conference of their own, where they participate in workshops, tour historically black university campuses to get a feel for the schools, plus there are lots of social events for the teen-agers to attend. During the National Urban League conference, the NULITES participate by forming a choir and staging performances for conference attendees.
I'm particularly drawn to this program since I'm a nurse and I've always enjoyed working with children and young people. I work as one of the public-health nursing managers for the Alexandria Health Department and I focus on adolescent health. I'm always interested in anything that can better the lives of children.


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