“Our members value education and they know how essential it is to a happy, successful life. … When we see an opportunity to help young students along that same path, we are glad to take it.” — Encore Learning executive director Marjorie Varner
For the more than 1,000 community members of Encore Learning, an Arlington-based nonprofit educational organization, the chance to help deserving students is a satisfying complement to the organization’s primary purpose: providing its own members with opportunities for continued learning and fellowship.
Founded in 2002, Encore Learning offers a variety of college-level non-credit courses, clubs, and special events for a modest fee. Anyone over age 50 and living in the D.C. metro area is eligible to join.
Most classes are held on Mason’s Arlington Campus, where the university provides both office and classroom space. Several Mason faculty volunteer to teach courses, sharing their expertise with adult students who are typically knowledgeable and highly interested in the subject matter. This semester alone, the group offered nearly 1,400 seats in 30 courses in fields such as fine arts, history, law, public affairs, and literature.
An important partner in Arlington’s education community, Encore Learning sponsors several scholarships as part of its commitment to fostering education. The group has donated more than $44,000 to support George Mason University students over the past decade or so.
That total includes two scholarship funds. The Dr. John T. Sprott Encore Learning Scholarship, established in 2014, provides a $1,500 award each year to a graduate student at the Schar School of Policy and Government, which is centered in Arlington.
Honoring the service and leadership of the founding president of Encore Learning, the John T. Sprott scholarship has been awarded to four students, including the 2018-19 recipient, Aubrey Perry, a graduate student in public policy.
The group has also established the McCracken Memorial Scholarship Endowment, which will be awarded to a Mason undergraduate who graduated from an Arlington County public high school and demonstrates community and civic commitment in the county.
Scholarship recipients are selected on the basis of academic merit and financial need.
Furthering its philanthropy, this year Encore Learning became a generous donor to the Schar School Alumni Association’s own scholarship endowment. Finally, the group funds a scholarship managed by the Arlington Community Foundation that is awarded each year to an Arlington public high school senior who is enrolling at either George Mason or Marymount University.
Encore Learning’s support for George Mason students is more than just a recognition of the value of its partnership with the university, explains executive director Marjorie Varner. “Our members value education and they know how essential it is to a happy, successful life. That’s why we ourselves never stop learning,” says Varner. “When we see an opportunity to help young students along that same path, we are glad to take it.”
April 22, 2019 / Rob Riordan