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Community Leader Inspires and Motivates Impoverished Youth to Strive for Social Greatness

"WETA Hometown Heroes" Features Gillian Kilberg Hodge in October

Washington, D.C.­— Gillian Kilberg Hodge, president, executive director and founder of Grandma Rita’s Children, Inc. (GRC), and an elementary school teacher, will be the focus of the month-long WETA Hometown Heroes profile airing in October on WETA TV 26. WETA selected Hodge for creating GRC, an organization that provides summer outreach programs and educational opportunities to dozens of underprivileged children between the ages 5 and 14 in Alexandria, Virginia each year. This profile will premiere on October 6, just prior to the 8 p.m. broadcast of Antiques Roadshow on WETA TV 26, and will repeat throughout the month.

At age 16, Hodge received a $20,000 inheritance when her Grandmother Rita passed away. With that money and subsequent private donations, Hodge founded GRC and began volunteering in her community, hoping to make a significant impact on children’s lives by opening their minds to opportunities and possibilities that exist outside their impoverished neighborhood. She showed the children — referred to as campers — career and service opportunities in their community.

Twelve years ago when Hodge began the program, her goal was to educate neighborhood children who were neither inspired nor challenged and had little understanding of the broader world around them. GRC continues to offer campers new perspectives on life by providing them with learning opportunities that help build their character and give them a sense of self-worth. If prospective campers do well in school, both with their grades and behavior, they can attend the program; if not, they attend summer school. Through GRC, Hodge also runs a scholarship program that provides both financial assistance and direction through the college application process for former campers who excel in high school.

GRC helps to motivate campers by placing them with mentors and role models and introduce stability into the lives of children of single parents who cannot afford to take time off work for educational field trips. Hodge is proud of the impact that GRC has had on the children both academically and socially. “If we can expand our campers’ perspectives on life, if we can show them that people care about them and that opportunities exist for them when they work hard, then we can make a lasting difference in their lives,” said Hodge.

Hodge’s summer program consists of more than 20 day trips to various local museums and historic sites as well as other activities that the children would not otherwise have the opportunity and resources to experience. Recent summer activities have included trips to the Richmond Children’s Museum, the Virginia Science Museum and a Washington Mystics basketball game. In addition to the summer program, Hodge also introduces the group of campers to community role models such as government and community leaders.

Hodge’s successes with GRC are best illustrated by the former children of the program, some of whom have gone off to college and return as volunteers each summer. For more information about Gillian Kilberg Hodge and GRC, visit www.grandmaritaschildren.org.

Celebrating its 10th year, WETA Hometown Heroes is an Emmy-Award winning multimedia project that spotlights individuals who improve their communities and encourages others to volunteer service. Visit the website www.weta.org/heroes, where you will find volunteer opportunities at area organizations and archived WETA Hometown Heroes features. Hodge’s WETA Hometown Heroes profile will also be featured on the WETA media player, WETA Watch Online, at www.weta.org/video. Featuring more than 100 videos, WETA Watch Online includes the latest videos from WETA local productions such as The WETA Guide, WETA All Access and WETA Extras.

WETA Hometown Heroes is made possible through the generous support of Park Foundation, Inc.; The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation; and The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation.

WETA supports educational and culturally enriching opportunities for local youth through programming and outreach workshops such as Reading Rockets and Ready To Learn. To find out more about these projects, visit WETA’s community website at www.weta.org/community.

WETA TV 26 and Classical WETA 90.9 FM are public broadcasting stations serving Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia with news and public affairs, educational and cultural programming and related services, including four digital channels. WETA is committed to producing programs that highlight the history and people of the Greater Washington area. WETA produces WETA All Access, The WETA Guide, WETA Around Town, WETA Neighborhoods and WETA Extras, spotlighting local people, places and events. WETA’s headquarters is located in Arlington, Virginia. For more information on WETA and its services, visit www.weta.org. Sharon Percy Rockefeller is president and CEO of WETA.

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