Archive for August, 2018

Council is Looking for High School Students Interested in Giving Back to the Community

​Prince William County Human Rights Commission is gathering applications for next year’s Human Rights Student Leadership Council and is looking for high school students interested in learning about local, state and federal government, civics and leadership.

Sophomores, juniors and seniors enrolled in Prince William County public, private and home schools are eligible to apply for the council, said Denise McPhail, staff advisor to the Human Rights Student Leadership Council.

The council offers students the chance to meet elected government officials and county staff to learn about government through the lens of human rights enforcement.  McPhail said, “We also use the Youth at Work program to teach students how to identify discrimination in the workplace.  The students then teach their peers at an annual student leadership conference hosted by Prince William County Public Schools.”

Each year, since the council’s formation three years ago, the students have visited the Virginia General Assembly to meet with their representatives. Last year, Delegate Luke Torian and Senator Jeremy McPike introduced the students on the floor of the General Assembly.

Andrew Diaz, a rising senior at St. John Paul the Great High School who is planning to return to the council this year, said being on the council was a good learning experience where he learned about government and human rights.  “The student leadership council has helped to increase my understanding of government by allowing me to see how the government works, specifically the Virginia Assembly. I got to know my representatives better and saw the different parts of the government.”

Kamilah Coleman, the council historian and a charter member of the council, said she too enjoyed meeting Virginia delegates and senators. “My number one favorite and most memorable experience was visiting our Virginia delegates.  Being able to express our concerns and having a platform to possibly make change was very good. Before joining the HRSLC I had very little knowledge about government, but through the program I have definitely grown more insightful on that topic due to field trips and networking with local government leaders.”

Coleman, a rising senior at Potomac High School, who has been on the council for two years, said she thinks she learned to be an effective leader by being on the council. “I can see the growth in my personal leadership skills.  I have become a stronger leader outside of the program like in my mentoring group at church, as well as on my track team at school.  I’ve become more assertive and bold in my opinions and have tried to be the example for my teammates and fellow mentees.”

Curtis Porter, chairman of the Prince William County Human Rights Commission, said teaching students about government and civics develops good citizens. “It really helps the community by getting young people, through a positive youth development perspective, to give back and learn about their community and serve in their community.”

Student Leadership Council meetings will be from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 1, Dec. 6, Jan. 3, Feb. 26, and March 26, with the final program on April 18. All meetings will be held at the Edward L. Kelly Leadership Center at 14715 Bristow Road.

Applications filed in person must be turned in to the Prince William County Human Rights Commission offices at the Dr. A.J. Ferlazzo Building, 15941 Donald Curtis Drive in Woodbridge, by 4:30 p.m. on Sept. 14. Students who wish to apply online have until 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 14.

For more information, visit the county’s website at, call 703-792-4680 or email

Classes Available to Learn More About the History of Your Community and Family

Did you know that Dumfries was the site of official importance during Colonial Prince William County? During that time, the town was a bustling port and the location of the county seat.

“It’s where the courthouse was, so all of the activities in Prince William County leading up to the beginning of the Revolutionary War happened in Dumfries,” said historian Jim Bish, a long-time social studies teacher who retired from Woodbridge High School. Bish will discuss the county’s involvement in the Revolutionary War during his talk “Revolutionary Prince William County, 1765 to 1781” at the Ruth E. Lloyd Information Center for Genealogy and Local History, or RELIC, at the Bull Run Regional Library at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 21.
A document called “The Prince William Resolves” protests the closing of Boston Harbor after the Boston Tea party. That document was signed in Dumfries, said Bish. “It was also in Dumfries where they began to form the first Prince William County independent cadet company, which was the independent company that preceded the official Virginia regiments. George Washington was the head of Prince William County’s independent company in 1774 up through the time he became Continental Commander in 1775.”
Also happening this month at RELIC, Don Wilson, will discuss “Genealogy 201: Beyond the Basics” at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 16. The class delves into the intricacies of advanced genealogy research, which can be a tricky business.
Old Census records, for instance, can be confusing, Wilson said. “When you’re using Census records, it’s not just a matter of plugging in a name and getting the answer,” Wilson said. “Many times you plug in the name you want and you don’t get any results because many of the old clerks didn’t ask you how you spelled your name; they spelled it phonetically. Then when the indexers got hold of the list, they misread the names. It could have ended being almost anything.”
Wilson said people who attend the class will also learn how to use newspapers, passenger lists, maps, books, military records and manuscripts for research and to add detail to family history. “It’s the kind of research you would be doing to write a biographical article about anyone whether you are trying to find someone in the 20th century or someone in the 17th century.”
Wilson said people find RELIC useful for the amount of documentation at the library. “We have access to a wide variety of research materials and have trained staff who can show people how to use those sources to find the answers they are looking for.”
While it’s not absolutely necessary, Wilson suggests that people attend “Genealogy 101: Getting Started” before attending the 201 class. RELIC tries to run both events about once a quarter.
To register for these events, call 703-792-4540 or email

Calling for Submissions for the Journal of Prince William County History

​The Prince William Historic Preservation Division, the Prince William Historic Commission and Historic Prince William are looking to scholars, teachers, researchers, historians and history buffs to contribute to the “Journal of Prince William County History.” The journal will focus on any topics regarding local history, including biographies and events, as well as histories of institutions or businesses.

Bill Backus, with the county’s Historic Preservation Division, said the journal won’t focus exclusively on the big stuff everyone knows about. “We’re going to be focusing on the general history of Prince William County. This is not just a Civil War or a Colonial publication. We’ll be focusing on everything from the Colonial era all the way up to the 20th century.”

Submitted papers will go before a panel to determine whether they will be included in the journal, Backus said.”

The printed journal will be in the form of a small booklet with about five papers, Backus said. “We’ll be trying to make sure that each issue takes a more holistic view of Prince William County, featuring papers that explore historic individuals, events and places. We don’t want to have five Civil War articles. We’re planning to do this as an annual publication, so if something is not chosen for this year’s, it might be rolled into next year’s journal.”

Publication of the journal is set for March 2019 to coincide with the March 25, 1731 founding of Prince William County.

The papers should be written in the “Chicago Manual of Style” and include endnotes with notation in the traditional historic form. The length, including endnotes, should be 5,000-7,000 words. Email the papers as a Microsoft Word attachment to Backus at The deadline is Dec. 1.

Backus said the journal will be published for people to get an appreciation for the county’s history. “We want people to have the chance to appreciate the rich history that we have here in our community.”