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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Germanna’s first academy cohort graduates May 5

At 17, Ashley Hodges is already a peacemaker.

“I feel like I like to see both sides of a problem and tackle it,” said the James Monroe High School senior. “I don’t like it when there’s an elephant in the room either so usually I suggest coming together and solving the issue.”

Hodges is one of 21 students in the first cohort of Germanna Community College’s Gladys P. Todd Academy expected to graduate during a ceremony that will take place at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg on May 5.

Ashley will receive her associate’s degree before obtaining her high school diploma on June 9.

“I think it’s really exciting and makes me want to finish out this school year strong,” she said when asked about receiving her associate’s degree before her high school diploma.

After Germanna, Ashley is headed to Princeton University to study political science with a minor in African-American studies. So it’s only fitting that she would pursue a career in diplomacy.

These students were able to attend the academy thanks to the $2.1 million philanthropist Doris Buffett donated to the mentoring, tutoring and scholarship program slated to help at-risk area children who needed help and willing to work hard to succeed.

The Gladys Todd Academy—named after a longtime Fredericksburg educator and Civil Rights activist—provides scholarships for the dual enrollment program for students at Walker-Grant Middle School and James Monroe High School in Fredericksburg and Post Oak Middle School in Spotsylvania.

Germanna will also acknowledge the Gladys P. Todd Academy students during the academic awards ceremony at the Daniel Technology Center in Culpeper at 6 p.m. on April 20, recognizing these students as the first graduating cohort, according to Germanna spokesman Mike Zitz.

Zitz said the program—which started in August 2015—is for underserved students who will be the first in their families to go to college, with a special focus on African-American males. The goal is for the students to earn associate’s degrees by the time they graduate from high school.

“Too many young men are dropping out or barely making it through high school,” said Buffett, during an interview in 2015. “Too many are headed toward a life of poverty and hopelessness.”

Buffett, now 89, added that it’s time to get involved.

“As the grownups, we have responsibility to our children and our grandchildren. It’s time for us to have some skin in the game. We need to reach these young men [and women] early. With this program, we have a chance to do something to revolutionize the way higher education engages young people.”

Buffett considers her supporting Germanna in this effort as “the most important thing I’m doing in our area.”

“My brother and I have always made education a priority. We believe in the power of education,” said Buffett, the older sister of philanthropist and businessman Warren Buffett.

Germanna President David A. Sam praised Buffett for her generosity.

“She’s dedicated her life to giving others hope and Germanna is in the business of hope and our missions are often parallel,” Sam said. “Germanna and the Fredericksburg area owe her a deep debt of gratitude.”

Germanna also offers a similar program open to all Culpeper County and Eastern View high school students. The Germanna Scholars Program is an academic advancement program in which students can complete 62 credits and graduate with an Associate of Arts and Sciences Degree in General Studies from Germanna while concurrently enrolled in high school. GCC has partnered with Culpeper County Public Schools to offer the Germanna Scholars Program, generously supported by Joe Daniel. Students should see their guidance counselors to inquire about the Culpeper program.

Germanna has locations in Culpeper, Locust Grove, Fredericksburg and Stafford.

About Gladys Todd

As a child, Todd attended Fredericksburg Colored School (now the site of the Fredericksburg Fire Department) until the age of 12. Then, she attended a boarding school for high school students at Virginia State College in Petersburg, completing her college education there in the teacher training program. When she returned to Fredericksburg, she taught in a one-room schoolhouse for black students in Stafford before teaching first-grader at the old Walker-Grant School.

Todd later worked as a substitute teacher and a home-school coordinator for the city school system. After becoming a mom, Todd refused to accept segregation, becoming a life member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She worked tirelessly urging the city of Fredericksburg to build a playground for black youth in City Park (now Hurkamp Park) in downtown Fredericksburg. She also helped organized the Youth Canteen for the area’s black teenagers to gather for theme parties, formal dances and other activities.

During the early 1960s, Todd coordinated several sit-ins at lunch counters in Fredericksburg at a time when phones and transportation were limited.

Todd died at the age of 101 in January 2015.

Rhonda Simmons can be reached at or (540) 825-6397.


Link to original article in Culpeper Star*Exponent here.