Easterlyn and her ten-year old son Eli like the beautiful parks, easy access to everything, wonderful schools, and local kids’ soccer and basketball teams. But the thing they like most about Arlington is the people who live here. When the parents of Eli’s school friend invited them to watch the Super Bowl – Easterlyn is a diehard Patriots fan – she knew they had found a community to call home.
The pair lived in lots of places between Richmond and Woodbridge for Eli’s first nine years, scraping by on the kindness of friends and working very hard to barely make ends meet. So when The Springs – an Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) development – was finished in 2016 and Easterlyn was accepted for a two-bedroom apartment, this presented an opportunity to change their luck.
Easterlyn’s family immigrated to the United States from Sierra Leone when she was eight years old. Life in Virginia was foreign and unsettling but Easterlyn and her four siblings were grateful to attend school and have some sense of a future. At 18, Easterlyn left home for college in Richmond. She didn’t realize at that moment that she was fully starting her life as an adult, responsible for herself and – within a couple of years – for her infant son.
Every life decision for Easterlyn centers around what’s best for her son. Eli is a bright boy who was unchallenged and unmotivated until they moved to Arlington. Now, he is serious about his homework and his extracurriculars as a 5th grader at Barrett Elementary School, knowing that Swanson Middle School is just around the corner. He is ready.
Easterlyn studied Theology and now works at Rock Spring Congregational United Church of Christ. She thinks deeply, writes poetry, and enjoys reading and talking about politics and history. As an immigrant, she is filled with admiration for this country, that it is still the greatest experiment in the world, and feels a responsibility to put current events in a richer context. She adamantly wants Eli to develop his own ideas, his own interests, so when he announced recently that he had some thoughts for his platform as a candidate for governor of Virginia one day – it was ok by her! They turn the TV off after 7 pm and play games, read, bake, paint, or talk.
The day they moved into The Springs was the best day of Easterlyn’s life thus far. Her path has not always been easy. She recounts that one of her middle school teachers recognized something in her, told her she had potential that needed to be realized. Easterlyn feels an obligation to pass this message on. She hopes one day to open a counseling center that will help children who have been abused or neglected. In the meantime, she is loving this community and is grateful to be a part of it.