Bland-Graham Learning Den ribbon-cutting ceremony

Fauquier County School Board member Duke Bland, left, and former principal David Graham, Sr., were presented a plaque during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for their namesake “Bland-Graham Learning Den,” which opened its doors to an afterschool program Sept. 10.

Fauquier County Parks and Recreation and Fauquier County Public Schools recently dedicated Marshall Community Center’s newly renovated basement, giving it a new name and a new mission.

The “Bland-Graham Learning Den” opened its doors to an afterschool program for students on Sept. 10. Enrollment in the program stands at 32 students, according to a press release issued by Fauquier County schools last week.

The school division named the learning space to honor community leaders: Raymond “Duke” Bland and David Graham, Sr. Bland is a 1971 Fauquier High School graduate and a longtime coach of community sports teams. He is also an elected Fauquier County School Board member who was first elected in 2005.

Graham served as principal at Fauquier High and Marshall Middle during a career that lasted 32 years. Before his tenure in Fauquier schools, Graham was a professional football player for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Ceremony attendees witnessed the ribbon-cutting and presentation of the dedication plaque before touring the space.  According to the plaque’s inscription, the learning den was named to honor Bland and Graham because their “contributions to the Marshall community’s educational and civic programs have positively impacted thousands of students.”

Construction work on the renovation project took seven months, but the idea was initiated more than 10 years ago. 

Fauquier County Parks and Recreation Department received funding in 2007 to renovate the basement for a computer clubhouse, but the project was soon put on hold.

In the years that followed, small improvements were made, such as the 2011 addition of a pottery studio and bathroom and the 2016 addition of an interior ramp.

It was not until 2017 that Fauquier County Public Schools received the funding to move forward with the full renovation, the press release said.

Bland thanked the PATH Foundation and two anonymous donors for making the construction project possible. He also credited the partnership between Fauquier County Parks and Recreation and Fauquier County Public Schools, along with the support of the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors and the community, according to the press release.

Jennifer Armstrong, reading specialist at Claude Thompson Elementary School, also expressed her pleasure for the project’s completion. 

“Every day after school, teachers will help students with homework,” she said, according to the press release. “Students will also visit the library, enjoy crafts, engage in physical activities and celebrate first fun Fridays – when guests come in to do special activities with them monthly.”

This summer, the learning space was also home to a two-week literacy camp, offering about 25 students mentoring, tutoring, soccer, basketball and more.

Fauquier Public Schools Executive Director of Administration and Planning, David Graham, Jr., is already thinking about future possibilities now that the program has been launched. Graham also serves on the Fauquier Parks and Recreation Board.

“We’re looking to offer a more encompassing program as we move down the road. We’d love to offer field trips, weekend events and other opportunities to give our students the experiences they deserve,” he said.

Community members are encouraged to follow the after-school program at @mccafterschool on Instagram and Twitter.

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