The New Career and Technical Education

C&T program brings opportunities for Clarke County students

By Jess Clawson

This month begins a series examining career and technical education in the U.S. in order to help readers more fully comprehend the significance and potential impact of the new programs in Clarke County High School. This installment provides an overview of new local career and technical education initiatives. The next two months will give an overview of the history of vocational training, with insights into the progress of the programs at CCHS. Jess Clawson has a PhD in education history from the University of Florida.

Educators everywhere are concerned about improving the academic performance of students who struggle to achieve in schools, as well as the career and higher education outcomes for high school graduates. Clarke County Schools Superintendent William “Chuck” Bishop is no different. In the December school board meeting, he announced plans for Clarke County High School to begin a career and technical education program for CCHS students.

Clarke County High School has always had courses that filled the CTE role, and this year is incorporating a work-based learning program in partnership with local businesses and industry leaders. Clarke County High School Principal Dana Waring and Director of Curriculum and Instruction Cathy Seal have examined industry data to provide opportunities for students in fields that are hiring.

Twenty students this year will have the opportunity to work with professionals in their area of career interest. “Students will be able to meet with and observe whatever experience comes from those community partners, to determine whether it’s something they want to do and pursue,” says Waring. “For instance, the student who wants to be a physical therapist might realize ‘this might not be for me,’ and those experiences are just as valuable.”

Local business owners who are willing to let students shadow them can offer a variety of experiences to help the students confirm or deny their initial interest in the field. The school is working with about twenty participating businesses covering a wide array of interests, from exotic veterinarians to CPAs to agricultural businesses. They are hoping to expand into opportunities in food service, as well as locations in Winchester, particularly the Old Town Mall.

The degree of hands-on experience varies by placement. For instance, Seal says, a student interested in construction may not be able to do much on the site because of their age, but someone interested in architecture may get to learn how the software works. “They are going to be spending a significant number of hours with the employer in the field,” according to Seal. “We’ve left it wide open, so kids who are involved in sports and extracurriculars can tailor the program to meet their scheduling needs.”

The initiative at CCHS has two major partnerships: Valley Health and Lord Fairfax Community College. Students at CCHS can get their Certified Nursing Assistant credential, and each year three students in the nurse aid program have the opportunity to do a paid internship with Valley Health. This provides economic opportunity, as the pay starts at $15/hour, and supports their college application materials. Prior to placement, they will have completed coursework and other clinical experience like visits to the local nursing home. According to Waring, “the vast majority of [CNA] students go into nursing.”

The cooperation with LFCC will expand upon the hands-on technical education CCHS offers. The local high school may not have the equipment available to give students the chance to learn about things like HVAC, electrical work, or welding. Through their work with LFCC, students will get two certifications and a college credit.

The partnership with LFCC is a consortium agreement and will include students from Warren, Frederick, and Winchester schools, along with Clarke County. Lord Fairfax will take 15 students combined, and CCHS has been allocated three spots. As the program evolves, more spots may become available and more programs offered.

Seal sees this as a tremendous opportunity for students: “Being the size that we are with one high school and a little over 700 students, we have to look to those community partnerships and opportunities that are available, because we can’t offer the variety of pathways and the variety of course offerings within this building,” she says. “We don’t have staff, we don’t have budget, we don’t have space. So that partnership with Lord Fairfax and that partnership with Valley Health is a good attempt to provide kids career exposure.”

Some opportunities for dual enrollment with Shenandoah University are also possible for students, particularly through the sports medicine course at CCHS. The course, taught by sports trainer Lindsey Greigo, is a daily block class with high medical terminology that Waring describes as intense and challenging.

The state is putting increased focus on career and technical education, including widening its reach into middle school. Eighth grade students are meant to have a career pathway document completed with the assistance of a guidance counselor to bring with them to high school. This helps Waring and the high school counselors assist them in choosing the appropriate coursework.

Seal believes this effort should be moved into the elementary division. “We certainly know kids aren’t going to decide in fifth grade what they’re going to be for the rest of their lives,” she says, “But if we can help them start to understand what their strengths are and what they’re naturally interested in and guide them down that path, it would be really helpful.” Seal is part of the Top of the Valley Regional Chamber Committee, and as a function of work on the strategic plan, proposed a project to get fourth and fifth grade students exposed to more career and industry pathways. While teachers might bring architects or other professionals to their classes to talk to students, the entire school is not necessarily exposed to those ideas. “We need to firm up more consistent efforts for kids to realize the vast array of careers,” Seal says.

The school system is doing more career exploration at earlier ages. In the fall semester, for instance, all of the seventh grades in Clarke County, as well as surrounding counties, went to the sports complex in Winchester for a middle school-appropriate career fair. Students would go through the fair and do activities that simulated work in the field. As Seal described it, “They didn’t have a firefighter talking to them about what it was like to be a firefighter…They actually suited up and went through a tunnel that was like a smoke/heat simulation to see what it was like.”

Beginning with the graduating class of 2017, all Virginia students on a standard diploma need a CTE requirement, but are not actually required to take CTE courses. This requirement is fulfilled through a standardized CTE exam. “The interesting piece to me is that they did not mandate that you have to take a CTE course,” says Seal. “They just said you have to pass the test. So I think they have some work to do in that area.” Clarke County will mitigate this problem through having all students take economics and personal finance—also mandated by the state—and using the accompanying standardized exam as their certification.

Subsequent installments will cover more details of the CCHS CTE initiative as well as the historical background that gives context to the local innovations. Next month, the history of Reconstruction and the debates over black education will feature the Josephine School Museum and its place in the vocational versus classical liberal arts education debates.

A Bird In The House

An adventure with a Carolina wren, a kitchen in winter, and bright white pied piper

Story and illustration by Doug Pifer

A Carolina wren got into the kitchen. We found it fluttering against the window pane when we came down for coffee this morning.

My wife, who has quicker reflexes than I, tried to quietly catch the bird so we could let it outside. She had it in her cupped hands but it managed to escape through a small space between two of her fingers and flew to the top of the kitchen cabinet. There it stopped to rest, panting with stress.

When a bird gets into the house, the best way to get it out is to open a door or window and leave the room so the bird can find its way out calmly on its own. But this was a twenty-five degree Sunday morning in January and we didn’t want to lose all the heat in the kitchen. And I didn’t want to stress the bird further by chasing it around.

The way outside was down a set of stairs through the cellar way. And to put as much distance between itself and danger as possible, a bird usually wants to fly up, not down. To solve the problem I went to the studio and found a white, 20 by 30 inch canvas stretched on a wooden frame. By the time I returned to the kitchen the wren had flown to the brick wall above the kitchen door. So far, so good.

Very slowly I opened the door and sneaked back up the stairs while the bird quietly watched from its safe perch.  I continued to move slowly. I picked up the canvas and raised it as high over my head as I could without waving the canvas around. The bird calmly moved down the brick wall towards the door. Continuing to hold the canvas still, I slowly moved down the stairs. The bird hitched its way toward the open space below and quickly flew out, heading towards the woods across the paddock.

The wren was apparently none the worse for its experience other than the loss of a few tail feathers. We found the feathers behind some plants on the window sill. Our cat had evidently pounced on the bird when it came in, knocking the pots in disarray. Cleaning this mess up, I also discovered how the bird had gotten into the house. Between the brick wall and the window frame was a small hole, through which I could see outside. Thanks to that Carolina wren, we’ve discovered part of the heating problem in the kitchen!

Living in old farm houses for many years, my wife and I have had our share of visits by birds. Chimney swifts and starlings enter through the chimney, usually by accident. Wrens come in voluntarily, following their mouse-like tendency to explore dark crevices. Other birds fly in through an open door or window. While we’re honored to have them, we realize they probably don’t want to be there. We help them escape as soon as possible. And in every instance we’ve been able to learn something new about the birds.

Some people believe a bird in the house is a bad omen or are afraid of birds. However you feel about this, move slowly and be aware a bird will panic if it feels trapped! To resolve things with minimal stress just open a door or window, then take yourself, family and pets elsewhere, and relax. The bird will probably find its own way out in a very short time.

Adding Value Through Renovation

By Wendy Gooditis

I know I am not alone in my fondness for TV shows about renovating houses. My attachment is long-standing, beginning with long ago how-to shows on PBS — in particular, This Old House series and its descendants. When HGTV came along, the abundance of these shows almost satiated my appetite. Almost.

Oh, the glorious new kitchens, gleaming bathrooms, acres of hardwood floors, and elevations of stairways —  and all completed in 30 minutes! And afterwards, all the houses had doubled, nay, tripled in value. What paradise for the homeowner. It was heavenly allowing myself to believe in all of it.

Most of those hours of enjoyment occurred before I became a real estate agent. These days, my enjoyment of these shows is still extant, but I am more educated about what I’m seeing. So I want to explain how the quality and the extent of the renovation really affect the value and marketability of a house.

First of all, a house and grounds should be clean, neat, and in good working order to attain its top value. Without these conditions, the house has a chunk cut out of its market value — sometimes that chunk is a huge one. Secondly, there are fairly simple, cosmetic updates that can truly add value. For example:

  • Fresh paint in currently popular shades (not necessarily all neutral),
  • Refinished hardwood,
  • New carpet and flooring,
  • New faucets and fixtures in  bathrooms and kitchens,
  • New kitchen countertops.

And again, clean, clean, clean! Corners and edges of woodwork and baseboards, power-washed decks, scrubbed or freshly grouted ceramic tile in the bathrooms.

But beyond the simple things, how can you do a renovation that makes your house the one everyone wants when it comes time for you to sell?

We recently sold a house in a lovely quiet neighborhood in Winchester which had started life as a humble brick ranch house sometime in the 1950s. But through the years, the changes made by various homeowners gradually enhanced it. The most recent homeowners did such a fantastic and thorough job that the house sold for top dollar within a week. The house isn’t huge, and it isn’t exactly fancy, but it is really appealing. Here are some features that made the house so desirable:

Gorgeous kitchen and bathroom renovations. Of course, kitchens and bathrooms probably matter the most, but this kitchen and these bathrooms are original and bold. They are built with good materials, and more importantly, the design is thoughtful, well-planned, with nothing cookie-cutter about it.

Beautiful floors. Some of the floors are wide hardwood, some are good carpet, and some are stone or ceramic. What they have in common is their quality and the design impact they make wherever they are. For example, the hallway along the bedrooms and bathrooms is done in a gray stone: very original. It’s a way to give real interest to what would have been a boring little space.

Handsomely designated spaces. The rooms in this house have been truly defined, and those definitions have been enhanced with built-ins which invite use. The small laundry area downstairs would in many houses be enclosed by standard louvered folding doors, but in this house is hidden behind huge sliding doors with tops of frosted glass. The doors are dramatic and beautiful, and add architectural interest.

Truly fantastic landscaping. The outdoor spaces have been attended to as much or more than the indoor spaces, with the result that one doesn’t know where to go first: the lovely rustic table under the pergola (Provencale style), the sweet swing tucked into a beautiful corner of the yard, or the front porch so gracefully adorned by the ivy cultivated in a trellis pattern on the shabby chic brick wall.

As a rule, the spaces in this house aren’t large, and they don’t appear elaborate to the point of fussiness. It is all eminently livable and relaxed. In my opinion, most of what the owners have done, they did to please themselves — risk-free for those gifted with impeccable taste! So they had their cake — living in their redone house — and ate it too by selling it for top dollar. Not everyone has such perfect taste, it’s true, but buyers do actually like a house with personality.

There is another way to do renovations, an all too common one. People try to please the greatest number of potential buyers by trying not to offend. The results: all the carpet is tan, all the granite counters are tan, all the ceramic tile in the bathrooms is tan, all the … well, you get the idea. Neutral colors have their place, but that place is rarely at the top end of the market.

On the other hand, it is foolish to overspend on renovations in an area or in a market where you can’t make your investment back, much less profit from it. It is a good idea to make a study of recent sales in your neighborhood, perhaps with the help of a real estate professional, to plan the amount of effort and money that has the best chance of bringing you a good return. Meanwhile, I suggest you make changes that really please you, and do them as well as you can.

Wendy Gooditis is a real estate agent on the Chip Schutte Real Estate Team with ReMax Roots at 101 East Main St., Berryville, VA 22611, phone (540)955-0911. Wendy would be happy to answer any questions you may have about real estate; reach her at or at (540)533-0840.


Home modifications that make sense

By Karen Cifala

We have a lot of beautiful older homes in Clarke County, and sometimes these homes cannot safely accommodate people as they age. Your home is where you feel most comfortable and it’s no wonder that more people are looking for a way to ensure that they can stay there. To meet the specific needs of people living in or visiting the home, renovations and adaptations can be made.

Depending on your budget and the type and style of your home, modifications can be as simple as removing rugs and thresholds to prevent tripping, or installing grab bars at various locations. Replacing the old flip light switch to a motion sensor, remote control or a rocker-wall light switch can make all the difference in the world to some people. Some of these can be done by you at a low cost, but many require a professional.

Making the home barrier-free can take some resourceful thinking.

Let’s start with no-step entries. Ramps can take the place of stairs; or a garage lift for someone who uses a wheelchair. Ramps don’t have to be unsightly. They can be landscaped to blend with the home.

Wider doorways are a must for a wheelchair or a walker. Consider replacing standard 30” or 32” door with a wider 36” or larger doors to accommodate a wheelchair or a walker.

Bathrooms and Kitchens: If you do end up fully remodeling your bathroom or your kitchen, try to get a full 4’ or more of turning radius for a wheel chair as well as some of the following brilliant modifications.

Roll-in showers, wet rooms or larger showers with low thresholds can be installed to accommodate a wheelchair, stool or a sitting chair. A wet room allows for no curb, barrier-free showering. They are fully tiled walk-in shower rooms with no need for a tub or shower enclosure. Planning a wet room with a wall hung toilet and sink would truly make your bathroom barrier-free. Height- adjustable handheld shower heads are great as well. The walk in bathtubs are great for some people who want or need the hydrotherapy, but they still have thresholds and may still create an obstacle getting in and out.

Anti-scald valves, known as pressure-balance valves compensate for sudden changes in both hot and cold water lines. If your old home is prone to sudden changes in water temperature this might be an option to prevent a person from jumping or losing their balance in the shower, not to mention getting scalded.

Replace older style bath and kitchen faucets handles with paddle style handles or touch faucets that pull down and turn the hot and cold on with one hand.

Elevated toilets can help prevent falls. A 19” toilet means that the seat is 19 inches from the floor, compared to a standard which is 15”. Four inches might not seem like a big difference but it makes it easier for the elderly to get up and down, coupled with an assistance railing. They also make different kinds of flushing mechanisms which could make it easier.

Lower wall-mounted bathroom and kitchen sinks with no vanities will make it easier to roll a chair underneath, but be mindful of the possible hot or sharp sink connections underneath that might need to be covered. If needed, you could consider replacing the standard 36” high countertop with a lower one.

Lower roll-out shelves in both the bath and the kitchen work well as do walk-in closets with different heights of storage.

A Stair or Chair Lift can be installed if your old colonial home lacks any place to install a bathroom on the main floor or all of the bedrooms are upstairs. Chair Lifts fit to the stairs, not the wall and can be made to fit just about any staircase.

Air quality is important and needs to be safeguarded. Your basement and roofs need to be checked for water infiltration. Mold can accumulate over a short period of time. Common areas for mold growth in homes are in basements, showers and areas around heating and cooling appliances. The best way to guard against mold is to ensure that are no active leaks or areas where moisture is collecting regularly. Ductwork, in particular, can be a source of unhealthy air.

Paying for these modifications is what’s next on everyone’s mind. Basically, unless you fall under one of the following categories (veterans, low-income or vocational rehabilitation) your sources for funding assistance are limited. You can save some money through tax deductions, second-hand products and senior discounts. Depending on your insurance policy, there might be some equipment and home modification coverage available. Paying for the modifications yourself, taking out a home equity line of credit, finding a low-interest rate loan or setting up a reverse mortgage are also options.

Changes that you make to your home, if designed and executed well, will enhance the value of your home. A big thanks to Randy Sprouse, a local Class A General Contractor for his help and suggestions. You can reach him at 540-664-9100.

Karen Cifala is a Realtor with Remax Roots in Berryville. She welcomes your suggestions on other topics and she can be reached at Remax Roots in Berryville, 540-955-0911, (cell 303-817-9374) or you can email her at


Not My Father’s Vo-Tech

By and large, the way we go about educating young people today is not substantially different than it was 100 years ago. Sure, modern kids learn to use computers — basically word processing and how to make slide presentations. Think how much the world has changed in the last 60 or so years, yet our education model is still old-school, typically involving one teacher talking to students seated for the duration.

Our public education system was crafted to shape factory and industrial workers. Its goal was to give workers some basic reading, writing and arithmetic skills, teach them how to show up on time, listen to directions, and stay put for several hours at a stretch. Back then, there was a teacher’s creed that went, in effect, “Sit down, shut up, and listen to me.”

It worked for a while. One of the reasons our manufacturing economy was the envy of the world for so long, some education researchers say, was that the system worked. Into the middle of the 20th century, dropping out of high school was not unusual.

My own father was forced to leave high school after ninth grade after his father died. He had to work to help support the family. In 1947, that’s what kids in his situation did. Fortunately, thanks to his stint in the “vocational” high school, he was ready for the marketplace of the day. He was able to put seven children through college and retire at the age of 53 with a nice pension.

The space age, the information age, and the global economy — everything has changed since the ‘40s. Except the way we train teachers and teach kids. You could take a kid from 1947 and drop her or him into a modern classroom, and the routine would offer comforting familiarity.

One area of public education, though, has changed with the times. Career and technical education has continued to evolve and innovate. First came the shift toward programs to prepare students to earn a postsecondary credential or industry-recognized certification. Now programs are emerging that create that bridge within the high school classroom.

In this edition, we offer the first of three articles by Jess Clawson on new and — we think — exciting changes underway in Clarke County. It’s a lot different than it was in Dad’s day, as it should be.

A Home for the Holidays

By Wendy Gooditis

I love old movies. Black and white movies with Myrna Loy, Fred Astaire, Rita Hayworth, Clark Gable — and many more. Even as a little girl, I was fascinated as much by the portrayal of a different era as I was by the stories themselves, and my greatest fascination was with the houses: huge rooms, big windows, seemingly endless places to put family members and guests. Movies with Katherine Hepburn often have lovely outdoor spaces — pools, tennis courts, plenty of countryside to gallop horses across. Barbara Stanwyck sweeps into spacious dining rooms in gorgeous sleek gowns, or reclines near a roaring fire. Robert Taylor smokes pipes in rooms lined with bookcases, with magnificent views from the huge windows. And now that it’s December, I’m watching my favorite Christmas and holiday movies again, and am noticing the rooms and fireplaces and views, as always.

So I started to think about perfect homes for the holidays, and one on Springsbury Road just on the outskirts of Berryville came to mind. It’s a spacious and gracious brick house on 36 acres with lots of the usual comforts, along with a number of unusual luxuries. This property is the perfect setting for holidays.

Let’s start with Christmas: the two rooms most important for our celebrations are the expansive living room and the adjoining large dining room. The Christmas tree gleams before the immense bay window, and the stockings are suspended from the mantel above a roaring fire. Through the double doorway, the dining table is set for Christmas dinner, with holly entwined in the chandelier. The wood floors gleam and the snow outside invites gazing out at the unobstructed view of blue and white mountains. The dogs and children, still smelling of the snowy woods where they have been playing all afternoon, chase each other through the rooms, but there is so much space that Uncle Scott doesn’t drop the pie, and Aunt Laura composedly continues to pour the cider.

On New Year’s Eve, the family has invited friends and neighbors with an extra helping of teenagers for a New Year’s bonfire out at the patio with the stone fire pit. The fire blasts heat enough for comfort despite the freezing temperatures, and the jugs of hot chocolate and the makings for s’mores are handy on a nearby table. As midnight arrives, the younger generation sets off firecrackers as celebratory noises echo from the mountainsides.

Easter arrives with the early spring, and an egg-dyeing session is in full swing in the lovely bright kitchen, with cups and dyes and decorations spread on the large peninsula/island. The private yard with its mature plantings is ideal for a major egg hunt, which will take place with boisterous activity among the trees with the attractive brick house as backdrop. Later, the family will stroll through their fields, breathing the heady fragrances of spring in the country.

Fourth of July is fantastic here! The family convenes for tennis matches on the court, contested with great energy, with the winners pouring buckets of ice over themselves and everyone within range. Then all traipse toward the gorgeous pool, down the steps from the sunroom, where colorful towels and great coolers of iced tea and lemonade await. Grandpa and Grandma sit in the sunroom where they can be out of the sun and cooled by the ceiling fan yet still see and enjoy all the grandkids’ wild leaps off the diving board. As night falls, the family reclines in the lounges and watches the fireworks being set off on the mountaintops.

There’s nothing like Thanksgiving in a family-oriented house like this one. The dining room is again the center of the holiday’s culinary aspect, but the younger kids had been playing soccer in the side yard before coming back inside to settle in the den and watch the Thanksgiving Day parade on TV. Grandpa and the teenagers are playing pool downstairs in the other large family room, while Aunt Allison browses through the books from the shelves lining the walls there. The two family cats are down there too, periodically being let in and out of the sliding glass door, as is the custom of cats everywhere.

For all of these holidays, with four bedrooms and four full bathrooms, plus an extra room (office/bonus room) upstairs and the huge family room in the basement, the family can invite all the relatives to stay for the duration. With 36 acres, there is room for the horses too, of course, in horse-heavenly Clarke County. It is an extra benefit that the property is very close to town. Many Clarke County horse owners have to travel 20 minutes to pick up peanut butter and jelly, but this lucky family only has to go five, and pizza is even closer than that! With a two-car attached garage, an upstairs laundry and storage room, an extra storage room in the basement, and plenty of closets, this house has lots of room to store all those boxes of holiday decorations and paraphernalia.

It’s Christmas morning now, and the kids have run into the master bedroom just after dawn, and have scrambled onto the bed, along with the terrier and the Irish setter. Mom and Dad sit up sleepily, hugging the kids and trying to avoid wet doggy kisses without hurting doggy feelings too much. As their vision clears, they catch sight of the truly spectacular view of the Blue Ridge through the immense plate glass window directly across from the bed. It’s an experience that does not diminish with repetition. They look at each other, smiling — they know they have indeed found a home for the holidays.

So this house, fulfilling many of the requirements of my old-movie houses, is on the market now, and will become a holiday home for a new, very fortunate someone.

Wendy Gooditis is a real estate agent on the Chip Schutte Real Estate Team with ReMax Roots in Berryville. Contact her or or at (540)533-0840.

Carry Me Back, A Clarke County Family Chronicle

For over 60 years Arthur Pope has been engaged in a love affair with the legends surrounding his family history as it unfolded in the 19th and early 20th centuries in Berryville and Clarke County.  As a child growing up in Newhallville, an idyllic neighborhood in New Haven, Conn., he was beguiled by family legend filled with emotional tales of landscape, tradition and people.

In October he published Carry Me Back, An American Journey in Time and Place. It’s a Clarke County tale that travels from the Civil War to modern times. His great grandfather participated in the Third Battle of Winchester, the largest and bloodiest battle fought in the Shenandoah Valley during the Civil War.

Growing up, there was an old trunk in his attic that had been shipped North in the 1930s when the last family members to live in Berryville died.  The trunk was filled with photographs and memorabilia of Berryville, Clark County,  the Antebellum South, German immigration, Methodism, Stones Chapel, the Confederacy and its heroes, Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee, and American small town southern life.

As Pope grew older and moved beyond the mysteries and emotions that all of this evoked, many questions began to arise, such as how his family dealt with the larger issues of slavery and American apartheid and how the history of Berryville, Clark County, has evolved to the present.

The book describes how over the years he was to learn that his own family history was really a prototype of American history, and how we all are connected to our past in a myriad of ways that decades cannot erase.  He concludes, “Sometimes memories get twisted and sometimes the past is illusive, but to live again in its enclosure can be one of most enriching and enlightening experiences that life has to offer.”

Tundra Swans On Migration

By Doug Pifer

About ten minutes early, I parked the old truck in the gravel lane, waiting for the farmer to load up my hay. As I sat enjoying the quiet, I heard what sounded like a distant dog barking. But then I recognized it as the sound of a migrating flock of tundra swans filtering down though the crisp air of a beautiful November morning.

Immediately I hopped out of the truck, scanned the blue sky and listened. I finally picked out a twinkling silvery V.  A couple dozen tundra swans were just visible for a few seconds. They were very high, almost at the limits of my vision. I clearly heard their high bugling cries as they circled, then disappeared momentarily. They had turned away from the light, rendering themselves momentarily invisible in the slanted morning sun.

Then they reappeared, headed in a different direction towards the Potomac River which flowed just a few miles away. Now directly overhead, the V formation stretched. I easily counted twenty-four long-necked, flapping birds. As they passed over they changed their flight pattern, stretching out into a curved line. Then they disappeared into the southeastern sky, their calls still ringing in my ears.

Tundra swans are a wildlife conservation success story. In 1900 these all-white migrants from the north were called whistling swans. By that time they had been all but wiped out, shot by hunters as they migrated to their Atlantic Coast wintering grounds. There was little hope for their survival.

Hunting seasons became regulated, and it was illegal to shoot swans. Almost immediately, swan populations began to rebound. Then in the 1960s, just as the swans had begun to build their numbers up, industrial pollution of their wintering grounds nearly wiped out their winter food supply of eel grass or wild celery. But instead of succumbing to extinction, the swans adapted and changed their eating habits. Instead of the eel grass that used to grow in coastal waterways, they began to fly inland each day to feed on waste grain and winter wheat in agricultural fields. Whistling swans, presently known as tundra swans, are now among the most abundant waterfowl wintering along the Atlantic coast.

Over the years, waterfowl biologists have tried various ways to track the movements of swans between their breeding and wintering grounds. They first captured the birds on their breeding grounds and attached plastic sleeves onto their necks to mark and track individuals. This made it easier to track where they went but not the migration route they took. The biologists eventually determined that small satellite transmitters placed on the birds’ backs allowed them to be tracked over long distances with a minimum of stress.

Today, tundra swans can be seen all winter along the coast from the Chesapeake Bay to South Carolina. In the fall they begin passing over here at the beginning of November, and they leave their wintering grounds in late February. And swans can once again be hunted in limited numbers in many states.

So if you hear what sounds like a distant pack of hounds this time of year, look up. You might see a flock of wild swans.

Make history with an elder by recording an interview

By Karen Cifala

While in Baltimore in 2003 I was privileged to be invited to an introduction of StoryCorps, which is a public service and an opportunity for people to record and preserve the stories of their lives.  I had no idea what to expect but what I found out was an amazing reminder of how much everyone’s story matters.

Please take a moment and visit their website to hear some of the amazing stories recorded by and between families and their loved ones. After a recording session the participants may decide to archive their live recording at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress for future generations to hear.

StoryCorps’ is an old oral history tradition with a new twist.  A non-profit organization, StoryCorps mission is to record, preserve and share the stories of Americans from all backgrounds and beliefs.  Founder Dave Isay says “you can find the most amazing stories from regular people, just by taking the time to have a conversation. You can find wisdom and poetry in their words”.  Most people loved to be listened to, and great things can happen when you become a good listener.

Think about the stories that you and siblings tell over family gatherings and how you laugh and the joy it brought.  Those are the stories you need to record.  Or memories that might have been hard to discuss in a younger life, but as you grew older some of the stories leak out no matter how sad or how hard they might have been back then.


History of StoryCorps

2003: StoryCorps is born with the opening of a StoryBooth in Grand Central Terminal in New York.

2005: StoryCorps launches its two MobileBooths from the Library of Congress. Our weekly broadcast debut on NPR’s Morning Edition.

2007: StoryCorps receives a rare Institutional Peabody Award.

2008: StoryCorps’ Griot Initiative becomes the largest collection of African American stories collected in history. We launched the National Day of Listening, an effort to encourage recording with loved ones around the Thanksgiving holiday.

2010: StoryCorps’ first series of Animated Shorts premieres on public television and online.

2012: StoryCorps receives a Peabody Award for animations and audio commemorating the 10th Anniversary of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks.

2013: StoryCorps celebrates its 10th Anniversary with our inaugural gala, hosted by Stephen Colbert.

2014: StoryCorps launches Outloud, an initiative to collect the stories of LGBTQ people in America.


StoryCorps has made great strides in creating new initiatives since its inauguration in 2002 such as September 11th, Military Voices, and Memory Loss initiatives as well as the Griot initiative that ensures the voices, experiences and life stories of African Americans will be preserved.  The StoryCorps website describes a Groit (pronounced gree-oh) as a storyteller, a position of honor in West African tradition, who hands down family and community history from one generation to another.

There are many ways you can record your story.  One is to catch the Mobile Tour in your area of the US and schedule a reservation. You can call toll free: 1-800-850-4406.  You will have to have ready a preferred date and time, interview partner’s name and contact information, and a valid credit card, even though there is no fee to participate, there is a $50 cancelation fee to cancel within 48 hours. You can also add yourself to the wait list by filling out the online form at for your respective site.

Las Cruces, NM in partnership with KRWG – January 4 – 31, 2016

San Antonio, TX in partnership with Texas Public Radio – February 6 – March 4, 2016

Nashville, TN in partnership with Nashville Public Radio-WPLN – March 11 – April 8, 2016

Washington, DC in partnership with WAMU – April 4 – May 13, 2016

Baltimore, MD in partnership with WYPR – May 19 – June 17, 2016

Providence, RI in partnership with Rhode Island Public Radio – June 30 – July 29, 2016

Colchester, VT in partnership with Vermont Public Radio – August 4 – September 2, 2016

Buffalo, NY in partnership with WBFO – September 4 – October 9, 2016

Pittsburgh, PA in partnership with WESA – October 13 – November 11, 2016

Columbia, SC in partnership with South Carolina Public Radio – November 17 – December 21, 2016


Or you can simply download the mobile app ( either from the App Store or Google Play on your smart phone or ipad.  The app will walk you through the seamless interview process and provide all the necessary tools for a wonderful experience as well as tell you how to record, save and submit to the Library of Congress.  StoryCorps describes this new app as a “an app with a purpose – a way for individuals to connect in a meaningful way with those close to them, and to gain insight into the lives of others.”

Among the many wonderful aspects of StoryCorps there lies the StoryCorps Legacy program that provides people with serious illness of all ages and their families the opportunity to record, preserve and share their stories. These include hospice care, palliative care, and disease-specific centers. To learn more about this partnership call 646-723-7027.

There are many ways to give back to StoryCorps as well by making a donation in your loved one’s name, a gift of stock with tax benefits, bequests and planned gifts and matching corporate gifts.  For more information on this contact Brian Schumann at 646-723-7020 x 39 or bschumann@storycorps.og.

Make this holiday season a special one.  If you can’t record your conversation with a loved one through StoryCorps at least record it on your phone or any other recording device. There are many people that have passed away in my family that I would have loved to have had a recorded conversation with.

Karen Cifala is a SRES Realtor for Remax Roots in Berryville VA.  Her specialty is working with seniors in buying or selling their forever homes.  She can be contacted at 303-817-9374 (cell) or by email: