This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Dumas Hotel Legacy Ball, an event designed to celebrate what the Dumas Hotel meant to our community, and to remind us of the contributions made by members of our African-American community and the legacy they helped build. This caused me to think about legacies and wonder what future our community is building today.
Legacy of Education
So much of the future of our community and our residents is shaped by education. A legacy of success for our children depends greatly on their ability to learn, especially in the fields of science and technology. Interestingly though, research has shown that to succeed in science and technology—the realm of numbers and experiments—one must be able to read well. It is for this reason that our community has placed such an emphasis on early childhood reading through the Star City Reads initiative. Ensuring by the time children enter the Third Grade they are reading proficiently is key to their future success as scientists, mathematicians, artists, and engineers. As important as early childhood learning is, so too is access to quality education at all age levels. It is for this reason more tax revenue is invested in the public schools of Roanoke than any other funding category. This investment has contributed to all our public schools being accredited, which in turn has led to increasing graduation rates and test scores regardless of where one lives. It is this same focus that has led to the Community College Access Program, which makes college available for area high school graduates who do not have sufficient financial aid to pay tuition costs. Students who qualify for assistance can attend tuition-free at Virginia Western Community College for up to three years. This program has been a great asset in helping to ensure all students have access to education beyond high school. These are but a part of the legacy of education we are forming.
Legacy of Arts and Culture
Arts and culture help make our City vibrant and enrich our lives. Investments have, over the years, been made in world-class museums such as the Taubman Museum of Art, the O. Winston Link Museum, the History Museum of West Virginia, and the Science Museum of Western Virginia; as well as Jefferson Center with its Shaftman Performance Hall. Not only do such places provide ready access to knowledge and entertainment, but in many instances they offer opportunities to dig deeper, allowing us to gain an even greater appreciation for something specific or even perhaps to learn something entirely new. The Historical Society’s upcoming “Fights for Freedom” bus tour is an example, as is the Taubman Summer Arts Program, the Music Lab at Jefferson Center, and the Robotics and Science Girls Camps offered by the Science Museum. Places such as the Harrison Museum of African American Culture and the Virginia Museum of Transportation highlight both the great achievements and great struggles that have shaped our Star City. Each of these, and the many other arts and cultural institutions present in our community, ensure a legacy of remembrance and creativity.
Legacy of Collaboration
None of these examples happen without the collaboration of many individuals and organizations, and it is perhaps this spirit of collaboration that is the greatest legacy we could help shape and leave for those who will follow. For it is through this collaboration that we will achieve the best and overcome the worst. Collaboration has helped to ensure educational opportunities are available for all in our community, to get great museums built, and to see that wonderful programs are available; and it will be collaboration that will enable us to recognize the contributions made by those we have marginalized or discriminated against for so long.
These are but some of the legacies we are building, some of what will continue to ensure Roanoke remains great many generations into the future!
-- Bob Cowell