Transcripts

This Week On Metro Connection: Learning

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

Welcome to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir and it's about this time of year that we start hearing a sound most of us haven't heard in months.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

That's right, the unforgettable sound of the school bell. School's back in session folks. And as students across the D.C. region hit the books, we're tipping our hats to them with a show all about learning. Over the next hour we'll find out D.C. public schools are giving physical education a makeover. To make sure all kids are breaking a sweat, we'll explore the increasingly intense competition in local private school admissions and we'll talk with people engaged in other kinds of learning, like learning how to till the land and how to be mobile, culinary entrepreneurs.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

But to get things started today...

DR. ARTI MEHTA

Okay, so everybody's seen chapter two and has read it or will have read it by the quiz let's say on Friday.

SHEIR

Let's head to the classroom.

MEHTA

Okay. So we were talking about ancient Mesopotamia, and these 30 or so city-states that sprang up all around the same time give and take.

SHEIR

In this case, at D.C.'s 145-year-old Howard University, one of the most well-known, historically black colleges and universities in the United States. And in this particular classroom, Dr. Arti Mehta is teaching a course called Cultures of the Ancient Mediterranean.

MEHTA

What is it that makes a city-state?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE

I think it comes down to like the independence and also maybe perhaps it's location and like the villages around it and things like that.

MEHTA

As they say, location, location, location, right?

SHEIR

Cultures of the Ancient Mediterranean is a brand new offering in Howard's Department of Classics, or as the department may soon be known, says associate professor, Dr. Norman Sandridge.

DR. NORMAN SANDRIDGE

Ancient Mediterranean Studies.

SHEIR

And here's why. Not long after Dr. Sidney Ribeau became Howard's president in 2008, he instituted what he called an academic renewal program. He wanted to breathe new life into the university, which had experienced its share of turmoil prior to his election. He also wanted to enable Howard to go toe-to-toe with the nation's other HBUCs. To do this, he created a commission of more than four-dozen faculty members including Norman Sandridge to examine Howard's 180-some academic programs.

SANDRIDGE

And then sort of figure out which were going to be viable, which were going to be important for the future of the university.

SHEIR

Then last summer the commission recommended to the administration that certain Howard programs be merged, transformed or all-out eliminated. The commission zeroed in on the classics department as one in need of some major transformation. So the classics people were like whoa, we gotta do something and we gotta do something fast. And what they did was expand their offerings beyond the usual ancient Greece and Rome stuff.

SANDRIDGE

And study the ancient Mediterranean world in its totality, with all of its fluidity and continuity. And also think very seriously about its relevance for today.

SHEIR

And actually, that relevance for today, Norman Sandridge mentions? That's another key part of academic renewal, says Dr. Wayne Frederick. A Howard alum who now serves as provost.

DR. WAYNE FREDERICK

As the fields change, as technology advances, we have to get to a point where we're doing as many relevant things as is possible. And even the things that we're offering that are still relevant, we have to make sure that we're offering them in a way that's still relevant as well.

SHEIR

A prime example, Frederick says, is the proposed reorganization of the School of Communications.

FREDERICK

For instance, an undergraduate program now puts several of the majors into two groups, one being media journalism and film, and the other being strategic, legal and management communications.

SHEIR

And remind me what it was like before in the undergraduate program.

FREDERICK

All right. So prior to that there were departments of journalism, radio, TV and film and communications and culture, as well as mass communication, media studies and communication and culture. And so they brought those in and developed these two undergraduate programs.

SHEIR

Frederick says when people ask him about academic renewal, they often pose the same question. Namely...

FREDERICK

Would there potentially be some financial gain?

SHEIR

And the answer, he says, is maybe.

FREDERICK

There possibly will be, but it's not one that was a calculated decision in the process. I think what's more important is that the allocation of resources is more attuned to what we feel the contemporary needs are of our students and faculty.

SHEIR

And again, at Howard, some of that allocation has led to program elimination, including many degrees in the School of Education, as well as the masters programs in philosophy and art history. The criteria for the cuts, Frederick says, were things like...

FREDERICK

Are we still getting a lot of applicants in?

SHEIR

And...

FREDERICK

Are we putting out a lot of graduates that are doing great things in the different fields, et cetera?

SHEIR

But despite the program cuts, Frederick says there haven't been any faculty cuts, just few adjunct hires. Now I should mention that at this point academic renewal is in different stages all over campus. The Classics Department, for instance, won't fully morph into Ancient Mediterranean Studies until a final vote by Howard's Board of Trustees. But Rudolph Hock...

RUDOLPH HOCK

I'm associate professor and chair of the Department of Classics. Soon to be Ancient Mediterranean Studies.

SHEIR

Well, obviously, he's full of hope that the vote will pass.

HOCK

We have eight full-time faculty, two of whom are year-to-year appointments. And we just found out that they have been rehired for another year. So I think it's fair to say that if the administration had wanted to send us a bad signal, they would not have reappointed our two year-to-year appointees, nor would they have given his tenure.

SHEIR

Hock is talking about Norman Sandridge, who's feeling pretty good after being awarded tenure in August. But as for how Sandridge feels about the future of his department, are you breathing a sigh of relief right now? Or are you biting your nails? How are you feeling?

SANDRIDGE

I always bite my nails, just compulsively.

SHEIR

He says he's pretty positive. He's also thankful for academic renewal, he says, because it isn't just breathing new life into Howard's academic programs, but into its faculty. Faculty who can be he says, sometimes a bit averse to change.

SANDRIDGE

For example, you know I was trained primarily in ancient Greek you know, reading a lot of different ancient Greeks and trying to figure out how they relate to one another. But now, as part of this academic renewal, I'm taking a much more serious look at the way that Greeks interacted with ancient Persians or modern Iran and so that's both challenging, both exciting for me as a scholar to branch out.

SHEIR

And Sandridge hopes that excitement is contagious. And students will flock with newly restored vigor to the Department of Classics. Or, fingers crossed, the Department of Ancient Mediterranean Studies.

SHEIR

For more information on academic renewal at Howard University and for a link to a video about the commission's academic review process, visit our website, metroconnection.org.

SHEIR

We turn now from college education to independent education, AKA private schools. The Washington area has dozens and dozens of private schools. But in a highly educated region such as ours, supply doesn't always equal demand. In fact it falls a bit behind. So the process of applying to these schools can be a stressful experience. Both for families and for the admissions officers who decide who gets in. Jonathan Wilson talked with a few of these gate keepers at these institutions about how the process looks from their point of view.

MR. JONATHAN WILSON

A lot has changed at The Potomac School in McLean, Va. since I graduated in 1998, new buildings, new sports fields and a bigger student body. Yes, I'm an alum. And yes, that's probably one of the reasons Charlotte Nelsen, the school's director of admissions agreed to give me just a little insight into exactly what it's like to decide which children are Potomac material.

MS. CHARLOTTE NELSEN

We have a mission, and our mission is to be gender-balanced, our mission is to be geographically diverse as a school, to be ethnically and racially diverse, and to be socio-economically diverse. So those kind of guidelines really help you, direct you towards the students you're going to assemble as one class.

WILSON

Nelsen is one of the things that hasn't changed since my time at the school. She's been in her position for 23 years. And she says though a clear mission statement helps keep her and her team on task, one part of her job never gets easier.

NELSEN

Probably the hardest part of the job is disappointing people. There are many more people who are interested in a lot of our independent schools than we have room for them, from year to year. So it's hard to disappoint people.

WILSON

Annie Farquhar is Nelsen's counterpart at Maret, a K-12 independent school with an idyllic campus in Northwest Washington, not far from the National Cathedral. Farquhar's been at Maret for 24 years and she and Nelsen know each other well. Both say the supportive atmosphere among admissions departments at the area's competing schools is one of their favorite aspects of working in independent education here.

MS. ANNIE FARQUHAR

There's certainly a cone of silence during the time we're making our decisions, but we support one another and talk with one another throughout the year and help one another.

WILSON

But what exactly goes on when all the admissions departments St. Albans, Sidwell, Maret and Potomac, and the other elite private schools in the area retreat to their respective corners in January and February and start making actual decisions? It turns out that the cone of silence extends pretty far. Many schools simply refused to discuss the inner workings of their admissions process with me. Maret and Potomac at least use strikingly similar systems -- admissions committees made up of faculty members and different committees for specific age groups. Nelsen says anxious parents should remember that these committees aren't simply looking for nits to pick with a child's personality or academic record.

NELSEN

I mean, everybody's kind of rooting for the kids. They're really not looking for why they don't want a child. It's an admission committee, it's not a deny committee. It's a committee looking to take people.

WILSON

Farquhar says her job is to present an accurate picture of each child to the faculty members who'll make the final decisions.

FARQUHAR

We'll advocate for every kid and tell them what we think they'll bring to the table but again, defer and work with the faculty. So it's -- at the end of it all you feel really great about the class you've formed and the kids that we are able to accept.

WILSON

But the road to those final decisions isn't always without some bumps. Nelsen says it's not unusual for committee members to have strong and opposing positions on a particular student. Are there debates between admission committee members about, you know, I love this student, I love this student. Does that happen?

NELSEN

It does. It does. People can get pretty emotional. And there are -- I love it because there's a variety to the people in the room. And some people have an eye towards the academic promise and potential of a student. Others have an eye towards their citizenship and the kind of heart and addition they're going to make as a person in the grade.

WILSON

Decision letters are sent out at the start of March. And the top schools in the area synchronize the timing of these letters to make it easier for parents applying to several schools. But for Nelsen and Farquhar, relationships with families that are not accepted often continue beyond the weekend when the letters are sent out. Both consider it part of their jobs to help families find the right school for their children, even if it isn't Potomac or Maret. Nelsen says that part of the process can be rewarding as well.

NELSEN

It feels like you're not just stopping shy of completing a relationship and a conversation. You don't want to cultivate people, show off your school and then just kind of have this verdict that comes down and not continue the conversation.

FARQUHAR

It's listening to what they think their child needs and what school fits them best, and then acting as a resource for them to help them find that particular school if it isn't Maret.

WILSON

So the job of an admissions director at a selective private school is personal, painful, rewarding and challenging. And both of these women would probably be doing something else if it wasn't all of those things. Of course, it's probably even harder to be the parent of a child dearly wishing to make the right impression on a prospective school. But Nelsen has a mantra she tries to impart to each and every anxious parent that walks through her door.

NELSEN

Children are going to really be more resilient than parents think. And children are going to really flourish in a lot of settings and it isn't the end of the world that they won't be here for a particular grade in a particular year. And that's one of the things I like to help parents feel better about.

WILSON

So parents of young children -- stop worrying. As if it were that easy. I'm Jonathan Wilson.

SHEIR

If you're the parent of a private school student, how was your experience with the admissions process? Send us an email. Our address is metro@wamu.org.

SHEIR

Time for a quick break, but when we get back, goodbye dodge ball, hello Pilates.

MS. HEATHER HOLLIDAY

If you're not able to compete on the level of everyone else, then you're not getting the same benefits from the class.

SHEIR

Physical education in D.C. gets a brand-new workout. That and more in a minute on "Metro Connection," here on WAMU 88.5.

SHEIR

I'm Rebecca Sheir. Welcome back to "Metro Connection." Today, we are all about learning. We just spent some time in our local private schools. We're going to switch gears now and talk about the D.C. public schools. DCPS began this new school year with more than 450 new teachers, dozens of new principals and nearly 90,000 new text books. And as we look at the year ahead, we can no doubt expect a lot of talk about students scores in reading and math. But that's not what we're going to talk about right now. No, right now our focus is physical education. And joining me in the studio to jabber about gym is WAMU's Kavitha Cardoza. Kavitha, thanks for being here.

MS. KAVITHA CARDOZA

Thanks for having me.

SHEIR

All right. So we've watched for years as school systems around the country have cut physical education from student's schedules, but DCPS is trying to improve the way it teaches phys. ed. How so?

CARDOZA

The most basic change has to do with the types of games children play, Rebecca. Here's Heather Holliday who's in charge of physical education for DCPS.

HOLLIDAY

Physical education of the past would involve games like dodge ball, elimination games, and if you're not able to compete on the level of everyone else, then you're not getting the same benefits from the class. Those games, you know, sort of exclude the kids that really the class is for, and that's those kids that are overweight or obese.

CARDOZA

So instead of dodge ball, for example, students are asked to compete against themselves. Each child has an individualized plan and goals. So for example, in running, if they can do five laps, the next time they try and do six laps. They're trying to beat their previous scores. Students also have individual heart monitors or pedometers so they can track how they're doing.

SHEIR

Wow. So students are just doing their own thing?

CARDOZA

Mm-hmm.

SHEIR

Does that mean you won't find kids playing say, volleyball or basketball? Team sports, for example?

CARDOZA

You'll still find those sports, but teachers may modify the games. So for example on a volleyball court, teachers may use half the number of players so students are forced to move around a lot more. And PE teachers are for several types of sports including golf, archery and tennis. And high schools often have giant Wii screens that students can use to learn say, yoga and Pilates.

SHEIR

Wii, yoga and Pilates. We have come a long way from the days I was in school. But I have to ask. Is anyone voicing concerns that all this time spent on phys. ed is time that could otherwise be spent on things like reading or math.

CARDOZA

Well, I did a series on obesity last year.

SHEIR

I remember it well.

CARDOZA

And researchers said that children who are more active, or who actually participate in physical education, can concentrate better in class. They sit still, they don't go as much to the nurse's office. I checked back in recently with Yolandra Hancock. She's the doctor I interviewed for that series. She works with children who are overweight or obese. She says weight problems actually affect how these children do in school.

DR. YOLANDRA HANCOCK

Some researchers believe that there may be something physiologically that's affecting the child's ability to learn. Others believe because of self-esteem issues and bullying, it makes them less eager to attend school and participate in school activities.

SHEIR

Well, while we're talking about physical activity and phys. ed., what about the nutrition side of things. I mean nutrition and exercise do, after all, go hand-in-hand. And I know DCPS has revamped the entire school lunch menu. But is nutrition something that's being taught in health class in the public schools?

CARDOZA

Yes, in health class, students now have to learn how to create a meal plan for themselves and their families. As Heather Holliday points out, they learn how to advocate in their families for healthier choices, such as low-fat milk.

HOLLIDAY

We teach skills like reading a food label. We teach refusal skills. Starting in middle school all of our students every single year are required to create a personal fitness plan. They're also required to create meal plans for themselves and/or their family.

CARDOZA

Some schools also have family activity night where they teach families how to cook a nutritious meal or they exercise together. At the end of the day though, Rebecca, the point is, are these students becoming healthier and, in many cases, are these students losing weight?

SHEIR

Excellent question. Kavitha Cardoza, thanks so much for bringing us up to speed on what's happening in the D.C. public schools.

CARDOZA

You're welcome.

SHEIR

And we want to know, do you think phys. ed is working in your local schools? If not, how would you revamp things? You can reach us at metro@wamu.org or send us a tweet. Our handle is wamumetro.

SHEIR

Speaking of physical activity, here's a job that's chock full of it, farming. But if you've never farmed before, the learning curve for growing crops or caring for livestock, well, it can be pretty steep. That's why a growing number of farms are taking on newcomers, willing to work for little to no pay for a chance to apprentice on the land. Sabri Ben-Achour headed to St. Mary's County in southern Maryland to take us inside a process known as WWOOFing.

MR. SABRI BEN-ACHOUR

It's apple season on Christina Allen's organic homestead farm. And as she trudges through her orchard, she grabs a piece of fruit from a tree and cuts it for ripeness.

MS. CHRISTINA ALLEN

Mm-hmm. It's almost ready.

BEN-ACHOUR

She's looking at the seeds. If the seeds are black, then it's ready. If they're not quite black, then it's not quite ready.

ALLEN

Ninety percent. We could probably make the cider.

BEN-ACHOUR

One of Allen's inquisitive and rare beige color jersey buff turkeys stares longingly at the core.

ALLEN

That's Wilma. Hi, Wilma. I'm leaving this for Wilma. Is it good? Yeah, she likes it. They love the sound of that.

BEN-ACHOUR

Allen is showing her farmhands how to harvest apples.

ALLEN

Take the apples off. Make sure you get it completely so it's stripped clean of apples.

BEN-ACHOUR

The farmhands, Bob Geisel and Erin Salsbury, have been up since 6 a.m. They've weeded, they've harvested.

MR. BOB GEISEL

I'm raking all of this off because this is the mulch that keeps the weeds and moisture in.

BEN-ACHOUR

They've processed applesauce and made vinegar. They spend some days with the chickens.

MS. ERIN SALSBURY

Create dried manure with crud on it from the chicken coop.

BEN-ACHOUR

Now these aren't farmhands from like a John Steinbeck novel, they're doing this for fun.

SALSBURY

To tap out of the rat race for both of us and having a little slower lifestyle and better for the environment. There's a lot of things happening to the earth right now, wanting to go back to basics.

BEN-ACHOUR

Salsbury and Geisel stay for free in a small yellow cottage on this homestead. And in return they help Christina Allen and her husband Frank on the farm and learn a thing or two about organic farming and living along the way.

SALSBURY

And we're looking at homesteading, too, as a couple. So this is good practice for us.

BEN-ACHOUR

This thing that they're doing. This sort of organic farming, tourism/apprenticeship is a real thing. It's called WWOOFing, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. It started in the '70s and there's a whole U.S. organization devoted to matching volunteers with the 17,000 farms looking for participants.

BEN-ACHOUR

Under the apple trees a few five-gallon buckets are full of apples now and so are a few turkeys. And now it's on to the cider press.

ALLEN

Because it's a drought this year, they've been a little drier. I'd say if we get three quarts, that'll be good.

BEN-ACHOUR

There is an incredible amount to learn on this farm. The turkeys and the sheep eat the bad apples and the grass in the orchard. Their manure fertilizes the trees, their bones go into a compost heap that makes larvae to supplement the chicken feed.

ALLEN

It's a lot for people to get. They think they can get it in a day or two or even a week or a few weeks. And it really is a year for a full cycle.

BEN-ACHOUR

In house it's time for lunch. A spread of orange watermelon, zucchini and turkey casserole is on the table.

ALLEN

Okay, this is Dale.

BEN-ACHOUR

The turkey.

ALLEN

Yes. And our potatoes. We got lots of potatoes this year. Our onions, our garlic, everything in here's ours.

BEN-ACHOUR

Christina and Frank, the WWOOFers and some neighbors, sit around the dining room over their delicious and home-grown lunch.

ALLEN

Who says you aren't what you eat? You are. Of course you are.

BEN-ACHOUR

Frank and Christina Allen get all kinds of people who come through here to learn about what they do.

MR. FRANK ALLEN

It's an incredible spectrum. We had one that was one -- had just graduated from high school. He did a deferred enrollment for college. Then you have some people that are, you know, they're having trouble finding jobs, they're trying to find themselves. You have some people that are doing this as vacation.

BEN-ACHOUR

A lot of people do it because they're starting their own organic farms. And other people do it just as a cultural experience.

ALLEN

And then we had a guy from South Korea who was a city kid and he was way over his head. He was terrified of electric fences. He was terrified of chickens. He was terrified of everything, you know. But he was a good sport and he was -- had a nice personality.

BEN-ACHOUR

For Bob Geisel and Erin Salsbury, now out picking aronia berries, it's about centering themselves.

GEISEL

I'm semi-retired. I left the corporate world. I used to be an electrical engineer at Northrop Grumman. So I got tired of it. And I'm just -- anything I can learn about self-sufficiency without being dependent on other products and people for you to survive.

BEN-ACHOUR

Salsbury's also looking for something, something very basic. Something she says she'll find in being close to the earth.

SALSBURY

I'm a trauma specialist. So I work with survivors of severe trauma. And it's so fascinating 'cause I found that when I explore their life to try to find something that will help calm their trauma system, the fast heart rate, the flashbacks. I try to find something in their childhood that was really powerful. And it is always something related to nature, and it is always so grounding to them.

BEN-ACHOUR

And for Christina and Frank Allen, it's about sharing their way of life. It's about passing on what they know before they die.

ALLEN

We're just trying to live a good, decent life I guess. And trying to, you know -- maybe by example some people might be interested in what we're doing. And if they're interested, fine. And we're willing to help them. But, no, we're not trying to change the world I think. Or we're just trying to change our part of it. Our little oasis here.

BEN-ACHOUR

Soon it'll be time to water the animals, bring in the flocks, close up the green houses and start all over again tomorrow morning. I'm Sabri Ben-Achour.

SHEIR

For more information on organic farming and WWOOFing -- I just love saying that word, WWOOFing. And even a recipe for cantaloupe ice cream, check out our website, metroconnection.org.

SHEIR

We go from the rural to the urban now as we bring our weekly transportation segment, "From A to B."

SHEIR

Last week, reporter Martin Di Caro visited neighborhoods in Northwest D.C.'s Ward 1 to explore the relationship between new development and access to public transportation. Today, we'll visit the Deanwood area of Ward 7, which as Martin tells us, is finally seeing some of the growth taking place in other parts of the city.

MR. MARTIN DI CARO

Take the Orange Line east of the Anacostia and you'll arrive in what looks and feels like a different city in one significant respect. While other parts of D.C. have exploded with new condos and retail space, the area around the Minnesota Avenue Metro Station is only starting to transform.

MR. DENNIS CHESTNUT

We are getting young African-American as well as other racial people moving into the area. One reason is because right now it is still relatively affordable, more affordable than some of other parts of the city received development and growth a lot sooner.

CARO

Sixty-two-year-old Dennis Chestnut runs the grass roots group, Groundwork Anacostia.

CHESTNUT

I've been in this neighborhood since I was born.

CARO

He's trying to guide the Ward smoothly into the next chapter of its history.

CHESTNUT

Very rapid growth has its drawbacks.

CARO

Three metro stations serve this part of the city, four, if you count the Capital Heights station just over the Prince George's County border. So it's fertile ground for new development.

CHESTNUT

You know, there is opportunity here for Metro and transit-oriented retail that could support, you know, this community in a lot of ways.

CARO

The city built a Department of Employment Services building next to the metro station last year. In Ward 7 there are at least seven major projects in the works receiving city subsidies. At the intersection of Benning Road and Minnesota Avenue, developers just broke ground on a $67 million mixed-use real estate project that will include mostly affordable rental housing among its 370 apartment units, a key to protecting existing residents from rising property values.

MS. CHERYL CORT

The people who are most vulnerable are renters because their rents can keep going up and up. Now, D.C. does have a moderate rent-control law for older buildings, but there are ways that building owners to get around that.

CARO

Cheryl Cort is the policy director at the Coalition for Smarter Growth. She accompanied me and Dennis as we made it to the busy intersection that also see more than 20,000 square of new retail space.

CORT

The city had originally acquired this whole area to put in a couple of government buildings but then decided that it would sell this parcel at the corner of Minnesota and Benning, which is kind of the heart of the, the commercial core of the community.

CARO

This part of the city may also get street cars. A study by the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University found that neighborhoods that get new rail transit systems like streetcars see housing become more expensive. In some places the unintended consequence is that renters and low-income households get priced out.

CARO

In this neighborhood, the District Department of Transportation is proposing an extension of the H Street/Benning Road streetcar line east of the Anacostia River. Octaviah Holt, is a 21-year-old professional and has lived in this Ward for five years.

MS. OCTAVIAH HOLT

I feel the change. I feel that it's really dramatic because one day a building there and the next day its, you know, a construction site for something new. So I just don't feel as though it's right to change so rapidly.

CARO

She says when she first heard about the street car project she thought...

HOLT

Who would put a trolley in this neighborhood, right? I don't feel as though there is a lot of crime but a lot of people wouldn't want to ride a trolley, the people that I know. And I feel as though it's not for us, it's not meant for us, the people that's in the neighborhood. It's meant for the newcomers.

CARO

Dennis Chestnut believes Ward 7 can indeed handle the changes that arrive with new residents and rail lines as well as the needs of the residents already here. He says the Ward's slow development has turned out to be helpful.

CHESTNUT

It wound up being a blessing in disguise for this particular area. Because of how rapidly it happened in some of the area and on the east side of the city in Ward 8 was one example of how rapidly it took place there. It has allowed the residents here in this area of Ward 7 to witness that and to prepare to some extent.

CARO

You can get a bird's eye view of the traffic roaring by on Route 295 by standing on an old pedestrian bridge connecting Deanwood to Kenilworth, a neighborhood that Chestnut says has been isolated from its neighbors ever since the highway was built through here.

CHESTNUT

This bridge is the only connection for this community to Minnesota Avenue.

CARO

And the Metro?

CHESTNUT

Well, and the metro.

CARO

Kenilworth is also starting to grow, but this pedestrian bridge is not considered adequate to meet its needs. Again, here's Cheryl Cort.

CORT

This pedestrian bridge was built a while ago and it's time for it to be rebuilt. But basically it doesn't feel like a very safe place.

CARO

There are plans for a new pedestrian walkway to connect the neighborhoods of the Minnesota Avenue Metro Station and the large government office building next to it.

CHESTNUT

It's very close to breaking ground.

CORT

It'll deter crime basically. That's what we really need for this connection.

CARO

The people of Ward 7 face the challenge of balancing the good that'll come with higher property values and more shopping choices with the negative consequences of gentrification, namely that long-time, lower income residents will be pushed out. Peter Tatian is a senior researcher at the Urban Institute. He says public perceptions may be key to the pace of change here.

MR. PETER TATIAN

There are definitely changes coming and if people who come out here to look will see the changes, but the problem is getting the people to come out here in the first place. There's still this perception that's out that this not a good place to be, I mean it's not a desirable place, but that's starting to change slowly.

CARO

Change slowly. Those words are usually not synonymous with D.C. anymore. I'm Martin Di Caro.

SHEIR

After the break, learning how to succeed as the owner of a one-of-a-kind business in D.C.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE

My purpose is to make a place where people feel nurtured.

SHEIR

It's coming your way on "Metro Connection," on WAMU 88.5.

SHEIR

Welcome back to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir and now that school's back in session we're bringing you an entire hour about learning. We visited Howard University where academic renewal is changing things up, campus wide. We've meet tourist farmers who put in long hours learning to work the land and in just a bit we'll head to D.C.'s only full-service music store for some lessons on music and life.

SHEIR

To kick off this part of the show though, we're going to learn the ropes of a very particular business as we take a little road trip.

SHEIR

Hello.

MS. CORI BRYANT

How are you? Thanks for coming.

SHEIR

Well, thanks for taking me along with you on this adventure.

SHEIR

My fellow adventurer here is Northeast D.C. resident Cori Bryant.

BRYANT

Do you need more room for your stuff?

SHEIR

I'm good, I'm good.

BRYANT

Okay.

SHEIR

And actually, today's adventure was kind of unexpected.

SHEIR

So where are exactly is this place?

BRYANT

All the way in Manassas.

SHEIR

Here's the story. Cori Bryant is about to launch a new business. A breakfast, lunch and late-night food truck, with a vintage/retro/1940s theme, called "Pinup Panini." See, Cori has spent years working in the food industry.

BRYANT

I used to work down here.

SHEIR

Did you really?

BRYANT

Yes, I was the catering manager for a lot of these potbelly sandwich companies through here.

SHEIR

She's also put in time for Disney and Hard Rock Café. These days, she manages and bartends at Open City in Woodley Park. But about a year-and-a-half ago she thought why not take all this expertise and start a food truck. Then last week when Cori was finally driving her tricked out 1988 Chevy Box truck home from East Coast Custom Coaches in Manassas.

BRYANT

I'm listening to like victorious music and I'm so excited and all of a sudden I realize I have flip-flops and my foot is very hot and I literally lick the little, the gauges, so I can see and I cleared the dust out and it's on "H," it's overheating. So I blew a water pump and there's a limited amount of places that you can take it because they have to have bays big enough in order to take a truck that size. So I ended up taking it to a place called Donald Rice Tire.

SHEIR

And this morning, Cori and I arrive at Donald Rice Tire. But her truck, whose walls feature a 1940s pinup girl and whose name, Cori tells me, is Betty.

BRYANT

Betty Grable, Betty Paige.

SHEIR

Isn't ready to come home.

BRYANT

Hey, what's going on? How are you? Do you have any information?

MALE

I don't have it yet. I mean, the parts are ordered, they're coming in today.

BRYANT

Okay, cool.

MALE

I'll get it.

BRYANT

We're just going to go look at the truck then, okay?

MALE

Okay.

BRYANT

Thank you.

SHEIR

Now, again, this is not how this interview was supposed to go. With Pinup Panini's original launch date of October 1st, Cori and I had planned on driving Betty around, noshing on dulce de leche and bacon paninis, but as a newbie to the food-truck biz, Cori Bryant is quickly learning that things don't always go as planned. So after we climb into Betty's compact stainless steel kitchen.

SHEIR

Anyone in here?

BRYANT

Yes, this is where the magic happens.

SHEIR

Wow.

SHEIR

Which is decked out with a cooler, refrigerator, sinks, a flattop.

BRYANT

And then the granddaddy of all panini makers.

SHEIR

The Panini Supremo.

BRYANT

Very special.

SHEIR

Cori talks about the surprising things she's learned so far. like, say, the price of generators.

BRYANT

I just sort of thought, oh you get this big RV generator and that's how your truck works. But it's a dollar a watt. So if you have, you know, 10,000 watts worth of equipment that needs to be run, you have to buy a $10,000 generator. So, you know, you go in, and you have all these wild dreams and then you sort of like scale back a bit.

SHEIR

What generator did you end up going with?

BRYANT

I have an 8,000-watt generator so if I have my two panini makers on and my refrigerator that always has to run, when I brew coffee, I've got to turn down the panini makers. So it's a little bit like, you know, your studio apartment and flushings. You know, you just gotta do what you can with what you have.

SHEIR

So you're going to be breakfast, lunch and then like late night. There's not a whole lot of that going on in Washington.

BRYANT

I know, you know, I've managed restaurants for years, but I've also been a bartender for years. So, I love being out in the mix but there's also regulations about that. I think most of our regulations are pretty fair, and they're there to keep people safe. But I would like to go on record saying that I'm not really sure why we're not allowed to be out on Friday and Saturday nights later than 1:30. Our bars don't close until 3:00 and people get hungry.

SHEIR

Something that I found surprising, I was speaking with you a couple of weeks back because we were planning this interview and you mentioned you share commercial kitchen space?

BRYANT

Yeah, yeah. Bayou Brothers and Stella's Popcorn's in there in Pleasant Pops. I have a freezer and I have a refrigerator and I have prep space. But it's divided like a commissary. You, like, everyone has their own area, but we all share soaps and things to keep clean and then we also share time. One thing is that I got a little bit of a break in the price because I was able to prep at night because everyone else wants morning prep hours.

BRYANT

Well, I'm going to be serving breakfast in the morning so I'm going to prep from 2-6. And they're all going to be gone and so that's why it works. But it's all shared space and every single food truck works out of a commercial kitchen. It's part of the D.C. regulations.

SHEIR

All right, so at this point in your education in the food truck world, what advice would you give someone else who's maybe tossing around the idea of starting a food-truck of his or her own?

BRYANT

Menu development. If you walk into any restaurant whether it's a food truck or a fast food, it's all about your menu. And I had my menu pretty set because you can waste a lot of money not knowing what you want on your truck. If you just put like a flat top and, oh I need a refrigerator and maybe I need a fryer, it adds up really, really quickly.

BRYANT

And then find something you're passionate about. I love breakfast. I'm going to be happy making that and I'm going to feel good about giving that to DC. So I'm hoping that they'll show me some love back, you know?

SHEIR

Cori Bryant is hoping to get Betty up and rolling next month. In the meantime, for more on Pinup Panini and to read about what it takes to start a food-truck in Washington D.C., visit our website, metroconnection.org. And if you're a food truck fan, here's an event that may be up your alley, the Trucktoberfest Curbside Cook off is being held September 22nd, from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm at the brand-new Union Market. We have more details over at metroconnection.org.

SHEIR

So as Cori Bryant can attest, learning to trust your instincts and dive into the world of entrepreneurship, it can be tricky. But when a neighborhood music store was on the verge of closing its doors, D.C. resident Myrna Sislen decided to go with her gut, and her efforts to save the store changed her life in ways she'd never expected. Heather Taylor brings us the story.

MS. HEATHER TAYLOR

Can one phone call really change your life? If you're Myrna Sislen, owner of Middle C Music, D.C.'s only full-service music store, the answer might just be yes. Ten years ago, Sislen had already spent decades enjoying two successful careers simultaneously, as both a college professor at George Washington University, heading the classical guitar department, and as a local musician. At George Washington...

MS. MYRNA SISLEN

I had a concert series, I had many, many students. It was a wonderful time.

TAYLOR

And as a working musician...

SISLEN

I had been with the Washington Guitar Quintet, with Charlie Byrd.

TAYLOR

The legendary classical guitarist. And then Sislen learned that Middle C Music Store, tucked in an office building in Tenleytown, would be closing. Suddenly, she felt compelled to save it.

SISLEN

Something came over me and said, you've got to do something to keep this store open. I didn't know exactly what.

TAYLOR

And drawing on the same energy and determination and skill that helped her to become a professional tap dancer and champion wind surfer, Sislen began contacting people. Did anyone want to buy the store? At first, she got no takers. But that's where the phone call came in. The caller had a unique proposal.

SISLEN

The previous owner called me and said, this guy has walked in here. The two of you would be my dream team. Why don't you come and meet him? We met on Saturday, and signed the papers that Friday.

TAYLOR

Unfortunately, the partnership didn't last long. But when it ended, Sislen decided to go solo, and retire from her job at GW, to focus on running Middle C.

SISLEN

I was ready for something new, something different. And that's why when this presented itself, I went through the door.

TAYLOR

And it worked. The store has doubled in size, and this year, Middle C Music celebrates ten years of operation under Sislen's ownership. In March, the D.C. City Council passed a resolution recognizing the store as a community resource. And what does it mean to be a full service music store?

SISLEN

You have retail, you have print music. Bach, Bon Jovi, Brahms, Coltrane, Green Day, Lady Gaga, Stan Getz. You have lessons, we have approximately 400 a week.

TAYLOR

From acoustic, electric and bass guitar, to piano, strings, brass instruments, baritone, ukulele and voice.

SISLEN

And you rent band instruments. We also sell all the instruments.

TAYLOR

Running Middle C is clearly a busy job. Still, after decades as an artist, does Sislen miss the creativity of a musician's life?

SISLEN

I have found that it can be very creative. It has enabled me to pursue music in a different way. I have hopefully created a different kind of music store. Wanting to study music, it comes from a place that's deep inside, my whole purpose is to make a place where people feel safe. Where they feel nurtured.

TAYLOR

And sometimes, that includes discovering music you didn't know you'd love.

MR. BRENDAN LEVY

I wasn't even thinking about playing classical guitar.

TAYLOR

That's Brendan Levy, one of Sislen's former students. She encouraged him to try classical guitar, and...

LEVY

I immediately loved it. But not only did I learn classical guitar, I also learned flamenco guitar, I learned some Brazilian styles of guitar.

TAYLOR

Over the years, Middle C Music has become a family affair in the Levy household.

MS. KEILY LEVY

I had two kids taking lessons. Now I've got both kids out of the house and it's my turn.

TAYLOR

That's Brendan's mother Keily.

LEVY

I decided to take voice lessons for the last couple of years. On my birthday, I decided to start piano lessons. My comfort zone is Middle C.

TAYLOR

And Sislen in turn credits the community for the store's success.

SISLEN

If the neighborhood did not want us to be here, we would be gone in a heartbeat. And that is my greatest accomplishment, to make it a place that the neighbors want. That's really, really important.

TAYLOR

In remembering the path to her newest career, in Sislen's mind's eye...

SISLEN

The train stopped, the doors opened and I got on the train. And I figured, I'll just ride it and see where it goes.

TAYLOR

Spoken like someone who's learned to trust her instincts. I'm Heather Taylor.

SHEIR

Which of your neighborhood establishments would you miss most if it was at risk of closing its doors? And would you take action to save it? Let us know. You can reach us at metro@wamu.org, or tweet us. Our handle is @wamumetro.

SHEIR

And now our weekly trip around the region. On today's "Door to Door," we Morningside, Md. and Eastland Gardens, in Northeast D.C.

MAYOR KAREN ROOKER

My name is Karen Rooker. I'm 52 years old, and I've lived in Morningside since 1987. And I've been mayor since 2007. We're right at the main gate of Andrew's Air Force Base. For years, all the foreign dignitaries, presidents would go down the main street to get to the airport or to get back into D.C. Morningside's name is because we're on the eastern front of Washington, D.C., or the morning side of Washington.

MAYOR KAREN ROOKER

We do have a lot of seniors still in the area, and those are some of our best treasures. You could sit down and talk with them for hours and find out stuff that you would not even believe happened around here. And we need to get this history down somewhere, or at least get it passed down so that somebody else can say, oh yeah, this happened, or that happened.

MAYOR KAREN ROOKER

It's a very sweet little community, and you get to feel like, oh, this is a hometown, not just a hustle-bustle, do this, do this, do this place, some place you can chill out, relax, call home.

MS. ZERLINE HUES

My name is Zerline Hues, and I've been an Eastland Gardens resident for just about five years. Eastland Gardens is located east of river, we're divided by the 295 freeway, so on one side, we've got Deanwood, on the other side we've got Eastland Gardens, Paradise, Mayfair, Kenilworth, and a few other communities. Particularly in the Eastland Gardens Flower Club, we like to think of Eastland Gardens as one of the old school neighborhoods of the '60s.

MS. ZERLINE HUES

Having worked with Lady Bird Johnson, manicuring the lawns, helping to upkeep the park. Even though those days are gone where we used to wear the white gloves and the hats and have teas in our front yards, we're still trying to maintain a little bit of that history and that culture. There was a racetrack here, nothing but dirt roads. This was primarily where the African-Americans were supposed to live, so many of the pioneer African-Americans moved here, they settled here, they built their own homes.

MS. ZERLINE HUES

There were African-American architects, their projects were basically here in Eastland Gardens, many of them were professors or students at Howard University. We're just really excited to know that we still have a rich history here, we're maintaining it, and many of us try to maintain that style of the '60s, and even the '50s, and you know, manicuring our lawns and keeping things really beautiful and having a garden club.

SHEIR

You heard from Karen Rooker in Morningside, and Zerline Hues in Eastland Gardens. If you think your neighborhood should be part of "Door to Door," send an email to metro@wamu.org, or visit us on Facebook, that's facebook.com/metroconnection.org. And you can see a map of all the doors we've knocked on so far on our website, that's metroconnection.org.

SHEIR

And that's "Metro Connection" for this week. We heard from WAMU's Kavitha Cardoza, Jonathan Wilson, Sabri Ben-Achour and Martin Di Caro, along with reporter, Heather Taylor. Our acting news director is Meymo Lyons. Our managing producer is Tara Boyle. Lauren Landau is our editorial assistant. Our intern is Raphaella Bennin. Jonna McKone, Lauren Landau and Raphaella Bennin produce "Door to Door." Thanks, as always, to the WAMU engineering and digital media teams for their help with production and the "Metro Connection" website.

SHEIR

Our theme song, ''Every Little Bit Hurts" and our "Door to Door" theme "No, Girl," are from the album "Title Tracks" by John Davis and used with permission of the Ernest Jennings Record Company. You can see all the music we use on our website, that's metroconnection.org. Just click on a story and you'll find information about its accompanying song.

SHEIR

Also on metroconnection.org you can find our Twitter and Facebook links, you can read free transcripts of stories and if you missed part of today's show, have no fear, you can hear the whole thing by clicking the "This Week on 'Metro Connection'" link. To hear our most recent episodes, click the podcast link or find us on iTunes. We hope you can join us next week when we'll go theme-free, with one of our wildcards shows.

SHEIR

We'll do some diplomatic dining, as we continue our "Eating in the Embassies" series. This time, in Guinea. We'll meet an artist who may very well be painting you right now. And find out why she's got a thing for capturing random strangers on canvas. And we'll hang out with an unstoppable icon of the D.C. jazz scene.

MALE

And we do things all the time that ain't worth a nickel, but they feel good.

SHEIR

I'm Rebecca Sheir, and thanks for listening to "Metro Connection," a production of WAMU 88.5 News.
Transcripts of WAMU programs are available for personal use. Transcripts are provided "As Is" without warranties of any kind, either express or implied. WAMU does not warrant that the transcript is error-free. For all WAMU programs, the broadcast audio should be considered the authoritative version. Transcripts are owned by WAMU 88.5 FM American University Radio and are protected by laws in both the United States and international law. You may not sell or modify transcripts or reproduce, display, distribute, or otherwise use the transcript, in whole or in part, in any way for any public or commercial purpose without the express written permission of WAMU. All requests for uses beyond personal and noncommercial use should be referred to (202) 885-1200.