This week, Collegiate School’s entire 8th Grade will take part in Envision Richmond, an annual grade-level Capstone program that takes students out of the classroom Monday through Friday and immerses them in the local community to hone their leadership and civic engagement skills.
Beginning this morning, students boarded buses and visited Boomerang Air Sports to participate in activities that fostered camaraderie. They spent the afternoon at the downtown YMCA hearing from Kevin Tobin, director of Passages Adventure Camp - Peak Experiences, who shared how his passion for the outdoors led to developing programs on the James and advised students how to work collaboratively.
On Tuesday, students will visit more than 30 nonprofits in the Richmond area and try to solve various issues facing the organizations. Examples of nonprofits include Virginia Home for Boys and Girls, Shalom Farms, Home Again, Tuckahoe YMCA, United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), Doorways, Richmond Hope Therapy Center, Tuckahoe Rescue Squad, Ronald McDonald House, Sitter & Barfoot Veterans Care Center, Virginia War Memorial, Greater Richmond ARC, Sportable and Voices for Virginia’s Children.
At several sites, the 8th Graders will meet individuals with a Collegiate connection. Weldon Bradshaw, longtime English teacher and coach, will share his story about organ transplant at UNOS. At the Virginia War Memorial, students will listen to military mom and Blue Star Families of Richmond founder Paige Bartholomew; Collegiate graduates Capt. Scott Bartholomew ‘02 and Capt. Thomas Price ‘06; and Collegiate Facilities Manager Tammy Dunn, a retired U.S. Navy officer.
For the remainder of the week, using the five stages of design thinking — discovery, interpretation, ideation, experimentation and evolution — the 8th Graders will work in teams to develop a viable solution to the problems they discover. On Friday, each student group will present their creations to a panel of community leaders and School administrators and teachers.
The impact of Envision Richmond was solidified when several Collegiate 9th Graders spoke to the current 8th Graders at their first meeting this year about how the Capstone influenced them, said Laurie Shadowen, Middle School Humanities teacher and Envision Richmond Coordinator.
“They expressed how the experience made them realize that there are a lot of people with difficult challenges in our local community,” she said. “They felt that Envision Richmond gave them the tools to be better collaborators, stronger speakers, resilient problem-solvers, empathetic leaders and citizens that can make a difference. This is exactly the point of this program.”
Envision Richmond, now in its sixth year, strives to foster collaboration, empathy, creativity, communication and problem-solving techniques within students, so that they feel better equipped to improve the world around them. Groups continue to collaborate throughout the school year, and in the spring, they will design an outreach project for their community organization that supports an immediate need they identified from their work in the fall.
By the end of this week, Mrs. Shadowen hopes the 8th Graders will recognize the needs of those in their community and feel confident that they can make a difference by using strategies that they learn.
“I'd like our students to use Envision Richmond as another opportunity to be responsible citizens,” she said. “I want them to be empowered in helping others, even if it's just one person or one issue at a time. I want our young people to be inspired by the great American author and historian, Edward Everett Hale: ‘I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.’"