August 25, 2020


Erin Hillert
Senior Marketing & Communications Manager
James River Association
(e) (c) 608.239.2644

Kellie Goral
Executive Director of Public Relations and Marketing
Hampton City Schools
(e) (o) 757.727.2011

Brittany Hall
Education Coordinator and Training Specialist
National Park Service Chesapeake

Education Program Celebrating Hampton’s Black History and Environmental Science Wins National Award

National Park Service Chesapeake, Hampton City Schools, and the James River Association Receive NPS Excellence in Education Award for outstanding contributions to education

On Wednesday, August 24, a terrific team of representatives from the National Park Service Chesapeake Office (NPS Chesapeake) , Hampton City Schools (HCS), and the James River Association (JRA), accepted the prestigious Excellence in Education Award, presented by the National Park Service (NPS) at the Department of Interior Main Interior Building in Washington, D.C.

This is the inaugural year of the NPS Excellence in Education Award, created by the National Park Service to acknowledge and honor NPS educators who have made outstanding contributions to the profession of education. The award recognizes innovation and adaptation within education program planning, development, and implementation. This year, the Excellence in Education Award honored those who exceptionally met the needs of teachers and students during the many educational challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. NPS received nominations for the award and selected seven teams across the country to receive the honor. HCS, JRA, and NPS Chesapeake are the recipients of this award for both the NPS Region 1 Northeast Region and the National NPS Excellence in Education Award winners.

The award recognizes the collaborative efforts of HCS, JRA, NPS Chesapeake, and local partners to connect every 5th grade student in the Hampton City school division with Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (or MWEEs) during the 2021-22 school year. The National Park Foundation provided funding for the program in September 2021. Approximately 1,600 5th grade students and 65 5th grade teachers participated in four events throughout the course of the school year, including a professional development day for teachers, virtual lessons about the cultural and historical significance of Fort Monroe National Monument, and boat trips on the Hampton River and the James River with a site visit to Fort Monroe lead by local partner, Shored Up. These lessons included a special focus on uplifting stories of African Americans in the Chesapeake Bay region, as students learned how the Africans who arrived enslaved in 1619 contributed to the developing nation with unique abilities originally learned in their homeland. Students ended the school year with stewardship action projects called “Paint out Pollution”, centered around reducing pollution to our waterways from stormwater runoff.

These experiences provided students with the skills, understanding and knowledge needed to become environmental and community stewards. The opportunities and lessons learned throughout the 2021-22 school year will help students make well-informed environmental choices that are key to sustaining the health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The partnership between HCS, JRA, and NPS Chesapeake will continue during the 2022-23 school year. Programming will again include professional development for 5th grade teachers and meaningful experiences for every 5th grade student in the division including field trips and environmental education conducted as part of JRA’s floating classroom The Longview, The Anne Worrell Education Program, as well as both environmental and historical education onsite at Fort Monroe National Monument

Click here to view a short video highlighting this partnership and the hands-on learning Hampton 5th graders were able to experience.

ABOUT HAMPTON CITY SCHOOLS: Hampton City Schools is the 14th largest school division in the Commonwealth of Virginia, serving nearly 19,000 students enrolled in 33 programs to include an early childhood center, 18 elementary, 5 middle, and 4 high schools, a gifted center, two combined PreK-8 schools, and non-traditional adult and alternative education programs. Additionally, the Academies of Hampton offers 16 wall-to-wall college and career academies with 43 pathways throughout the four high schools preparing all students to graduate college, career, and life ready. The division’s on-time graduation rate is 96.86%, surpassing the state average, and the dropout rate of 0.34% is the lowest of the 15 school divisions in the region, which includes all of the school divisions in Hampton Roads from the Southside, Peninsula and Eastern Shore.

ABOUT NATIONAL PARK SERVICE CHESAPEAKEThe National Park Service Chesapeake Office inspires and helps people discover, experience, and connect with the natural and cultural heritage and recreational opportunities of the Chesapeake Bay and the rivers, landscapes, and communities across its watershed. NPS Chesapeake works with people and partners to conserve and steward special places important to communities, visitors and the nation, for this and future generations.

ABOUT THE JAMES RIVER ASSOCIATION: The James River Association is a member-supported nonprofit organization founded in 1976 to serve as a guardian and voice for the James River. Throughout the James River’s 10,000-square mile watershed, the James River Association works toward its vision of a fully healthy James River supporting thriving communities. The James River Association believes that “when you change the James, the James changes you”. With offices in Lynchburg, Richmond, Williamsburg, and Scottsville, the James River Association is committed to protecting the James River and connecting people to it. For more information visit