Collegiate 8th Graders Embark on Grade-Level Capstone, Envision Richmond

This week, Collegiate School’s entire 8th Grade will take part in Envision Richmond, the grade-level Capstone program, now in its seventh year, that takes students out of the classroom and immerses them in the local community with an intensive focus on leadership and civic engagement. 
This morning, students traveled to Reedy Creek to raft on the James River to foster team building. They spent the afternoon at the downtown YMCA listening to Collegiate alum Ethan Wirt ‘01, founder of HourWise and 89 Paint, who spoke to them about three lessons he uses in his own business ventures: Put values first, Get out of the building and Fail forward. He encouraged students to empathize with those they would meet this week and to come up with inventive solutions.

“Don’t be afraid to look silly in front of your friends,” he said. “Be courageous and throw your ideas out there. Hopefully, those ideas will change the world a little bit.”

On Tuesday, students will visit more than 30 nonprofits in the Richmond area and interview individuals who work there. Examples of nonprofits include Beyond Boundaries RVA, Virginia Home for Boys and Girls, Shalom Farms, Home Again, Groundwork RVA, Tuckahoe YMCA, United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), Doorways, Richmond Hope Therapy Center, Tricycle Gardens, Tuckahoe Rescue Squad, Ronald McDonald House, Sitter & Barfoot Veterans Care Center, Virginia War Memorial, SOAR 365, Sportable, SpeakUP/CKG Memorial and Voices for Virginia’s Children.

The place-based education that Envision Richmond offers is incredibly rich, says Dr. Wendi Moss, Collegiate Middle School English teacher and Capstone co-coordinator. 
“How else can you best learn about the issues that affect our city if you're not immersed in the city meeting people who are tackling them every day?” she said. “Understanding people is rooted in empathy. It takes patience, humility, creativity and resolve to spend time getting to name and understand the challenges that so many people in our community face.”

For the rest of the week, the 8th Graders will work in teams and use the five stages of design thinking — discovery, interpretation, ideation, experimentation and evolution — to research and imagine big ideas. On Friday, each student group will present their creations to their peers, community leaders and School administrators and teachers.

Envision Richmond 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 targets an immediate need they discovered from their work in the fall.

By the end of this week, Dr. Moss hopes the 8th Graders will recognize the needs of those in their community and feel confident that they can make an impact by using strategies that they learn.

“Tasked with the challenge of collaborating in small teams, students discover the most important thing: They can make a difference in the world around them,” she said. “It is truly an honor to watch them change over the course of this week.”
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