‘How Headwaters changed my life’

Rappahannock County High School graduate Brittany Dwyer, who has worked with the Headwaters Foundation over the years as a student, volunteer and employee, gave the following moving speech to the crowd at the foundation’s annual “Taste of Rappahannock” fundraiser dinner Saturday:

Good evening. My name is Brittany Dwyer and I am a lifelong resident of Rappahannock County. I have had the privilege of working at Headwaters for the last two years and I would like to share some of my experiences with you this evening.

Brittany Dwyer speaks to the assembled at Saturday’s “Taste of Rappahannock” fundraiser at the Miller Barn in Sperryville. Photo by E. Raymond Boc.
Brittany Dwyer speaks to the assembled at Saturday’s “Taste of Rappahannock” fundraiser at the Miller Barn in Sperryville. Photo by E. Raymond Boc.

When I first set foot in the Headwaters office, I was a rising junior in high school with little more on my mind than the disappointment of yet another summer coming to an end. Prior to joining the Headwaters team, I had very little experience in an office setting. Needless to say, I had no clue what to expect when I agreed to take the job. After two years with this remarkable organization, I am proud to share my journey that saw me through my last two years of high school into college.

During my junior year, Headwaters launched the After-School Program at the elementary school. Since we were in need of teen mentors, I was asked to lend a helping hand. My initial thought was, “Great, I get to be a babysitter for every Tuesday and Thursday for the next six weeks.” Much to my surprise, After-School turned out to be one of my favorite aspects of my junior and senior year.

I got the opportunity to work with so many children who never failed to appreciate my help. Quite possibly the greatest feeling in the world is when a third grader comes running up to you yelling, “I got an ‘A’ on the spelling test you helped me study for!!” Not only was this program a valuable learning experience, but it was also a life lesson that I will never forget.

The second Headwaters program experience I had was with the Next Step program. Along with the help of the Next Step Director, I was able to develop a college and career plan that met every expectation for my own lifestyle. Without her advice, I would have struggled to decisively determine which path best fit my future goals.

Along with After-School and Next Step, I was also granted an opportunity to work closely with the Farm-to-Table program. With other workers and volunteers, we were able to mulch and weed the Young Garden at the elementary school as well as the raised beds and gardens at the high school.

During my junior year, I was fortunate enough to gain a mentor through the Starfish Outreach Program for high school students. With my mentor, I was able to visit a college campus, create a plan for the next four years and gain access to many valuable pieces of advice. Most importantly, my mentor offered an encouraging attitude and never-ending support system for my educational and personal life.

I could stand up here and talk about these wonderful programs for hours, because I am so passionate about my work at Headwaters. But more than anything, I’m here to explain how Headwaters changed my life. Without this valuable resource, I believe many doors would have remained closed for me.

I come from a family who has inhabited Rappahannock County for five generations. I am the first person in my family to be attending a four-year college. Before I became acquainted with Headwaters and all its connections, my dream was to attend community college for two years and earn my Associates Degree in Business Administration while also working part time.

Today, I am enrolled at George Mason University as a full-time student aspiring to earn my master’s degree in a field I have not yet chosen. What stood between my dream and my reality was one thing: money. As many of you know, college costs are rising dramatically and there were little funds for me to cover the cost of a quality education. Moreover, I never envisioned myself going to a major university; I never believed that opportunity was a possibility.

During my junior and senior year in high school, Headwaters motivated me to do exceptionally well with my school work. I earned a place in the National Honor Society, was elected as junior class president and ended up graduating eighth in my class of 67.

Without Headwaters and people with goodness in their hearts, such as yourselves, none of this would have been possible. I would not have been inspired to pursue my education at a top-ranked university. My tuition costs would not be enhanced by over $3,500 in local scholarships.

This organization offers more than support to the children of Rappahannock County, as its mission states. Rather, Headwaters truly changes the lives of so many people. My perspective about Headwaters is one of an employee, a volunteer and a student. Oddly enough, I couldn’t tell you which of those three roles have impacted my life the most.

Without you, I would not be the ambitious student I am today. I would not be prompted to take full responsibility for my future and achieve my lifelong goals. I believe I speak for every elementary and high school student when I say: thank you. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to achieve our dreams, no matter how big or small they may be. Without your assistance and generosity, my life and the lives of many children in this county would not be positively impacted and forever changed.

Thank you.

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