Thursday, December 10, 2015

City Partnership Highlights Poverty Reduction Initiative In Richmond Public Schools

The City of Richmond, in partnership with Richmond Public Schools (RPS) and the Richmond Public Schools Education Foundation, highlighted the poverty reduction initiative RVA Future Centers today at the Armstrong High School Future Center. RVA Future Centers have launched in all five comprehensive city high schools this semester.

Future Centers are dedicated classroom spaces within each school building that are resource hubs for connecting high school students and their families to college and career planning resources. Each Future Center is staffed by a full-time site coordinator, who develops and implements a school-specific plan to engage all students in developing a personal plan for life after high school, starting in their ninth grade year. Future Center staff work closely with RPS guidance staff and community organizations providing college and career planning assistance such as GRASP.

“Access to opportunity makes all the difference in a young person’s life. Making sure as many of our young people as possible leave high school with a plan to go to college or a solid career plan is one of the most cost-effective investments we can make in long-term poverty reduction,” said Mayor Dwight C. Jones. “RVA Future Centers are the first step in building a comprehensive support system, including financial and non-financial assistance, to benefit all Richmond high school students as they begin the transition to becoming productive adults.”

RVA Future Centers are the result of recommendations made by the Promise Scholarship Task Force assembled by the Mayor’s Office of Community Wealth Building, which included representatives from RPS, RPS Education Foundation, all four local colleges and universities, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, and other stakeholders. The City’s FY2015-16 budget provides $425,000 to the RPS Education Foundation to start the program. Additional support from private funders, including AT&T, Altria, Capital One, and the Mary Morton Parsons Foundation, has allowed the program to open in all five schools this year.

“We are appreciative of the support and energy both the City of Richmond and RPS have invested to make this terrific program a reality in a very short period of time,” stated Brendan McCormick, chair of the Richmond Public Schools Education Foundation.

RVA Future Centers will function both as a bold anti-poverty initiative and as a supplement to the academic improvement plan of Richmond Public Schools, which has set targets for increasing the proportion of its graduates going on to enroll in post-secondary education.

“RVA Future will meet a critical need in our schools and our communities—the need to provide youth the guidance and support needed first to set big dreams and then to realize them. The private support this initiative has already garnered speaks to the strength of the program concept, and I am very impressed with the caliber, enthusiasm and experience of the RVA Future staff that the Foundation has assembled,” said Dr. Thad Williamson, Director of the City’s Office of Community Wealth Building. “With continued support and the development of linkages to community college, support services for graduates, and eventually scholarships, RVA Future is poised to become a significant force for systemic change in our community.”

Monday, December 7, 2015

Richmond Speaks Draft Report Issued about Lumpkin’s Jail Site

~Respondents consistent about dire need to tell the city’s whole story~

In September of 2015, the City of Richmond launched a community conversation about the future of the Lumpkin’s Jail site. Spearheaded by Mayor Dwight C. Jones and the Richmond City Council Slave Trail Commission, the public conversation has reached more than 1,000 individuals through public meetings, classroom visits, in-person engagements, social media and direct outreach.

Additional public meetings are upcoming as the discussion continues. However, a preliminary report is now available detailing the work of the consultant team thus far, and sharing preliminary information that the process has yielded.

“While we know the importance of the Lumpkin’s Jail site to our city’s history, it’s another thing to understand how best to transform that importance to an active site that represents the priorities of the broader community,” said Mayor Jones. “I believe the methodology we have employed is yielding the diverse input of opinion that we desired and especially the input of young people.”

“What I found most exciting were the ideas presented by the community to bring the site to life,” said Delegate Delores McQuinn. “Developing the Lumpkin’s Jail site as a meaningful place that puts our history in proper context is a top priority for the Slave Trail Commission and this process is taking us closer to achieving that.”

Generally, Richmonders want the site to be expansive, to include as much of any other significant vestiges of Richmond’s history as possible. They want the site to be a place that brings community together, where issues of race can be addressed and dialogue can be ongoing while education and scholarship are hallmarks. The site also must be accessible and sustainable.

Upcoming meetings will give participants the opportunity to vote on priorities and recommend next steps. The next public meeting is Dec. 10 at the University of Richmond in the Jepson Alumni Center at 6 p.m. Plans are also underway to present the report to the Virginia State Legislature in January; a key source of funding for the project’s advancement.

To view the draft report, please visit