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Connect VA Spotlight: Cyndy Weldon-Lassiter, St. Andrew’s School


Tell us about yourself.

My name is Cyndy Weldon-Lassiter and I serve as head of school at St. Andrew’s School in Richmond. I hold an Ed.D. in curriculum and early childhood education and have been in the field of education for 23 years.

What is the focus of your work?

St. Andrew’s is a school for families living at or below 200% of the federal poverty level, and our students attend on a full scholarship. We provide a hands-on and engaging learning environment for students in grades K-5.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

I have an opportunity to interact with a diverse group of constituents, ranging from students, families and faculty to the board of directors, donors and community partners. The diversity of interactions makes my job exciting and rewarding.

ABOVE: Cyndy talks about the holistic approach that St. Andrew’s takes on developing their students.

What are some major challenges you have faced and how you handled them? 

In my first year, our families shared their concern about the school lacking a lunch program. Although it took a lot of financial support, paperwork and planning, within a two-year period we were serving breakfast and lunch to our students, along with a healthy morning snack. By no means was it easy to change attitudes about food, but with a clear philosophy on the importance of eating fresh, healthy and nutritious meals and snacks, we were able to create an outstanding nutrition program.

What’s coming next for your organization that really excites you?

I am excited about providing more time for student learning. As part of our strategic plan, we are moving to an extended year/extended day model, where the students will have an extra 20 days in August, as well as a full day of school from 7:30AM through 5:30PM. This year we will serve 75% of our student body in the extended day program, and next year we will complete the phasing of that initiative when we serve all of our students. We feel it is an important part of our overall program because it provides not just extra time in school, but extra time with quality learning and enrichment opportunities.

How are you leveraging ConnectVA to achieve your mission?

We utilize ConnectVA in a few ways. It is where we advertise for highly qualified employees because we feel it reaches the greatest pool of candidates. Several of our staff attend conferences and workshops regularly and come back enthusiastically sharing best practice

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Get to Know YNPN RVA + Interest Social


YNPN RVA is hosting an interest social and invite you to join us! Our leadership team will be on hand to introduce themselves and describe the various roles and skill sets that we are looking to add to our group and ways you might get involved with the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network RVA Chapter in 2017.  And of course, this is a social event as well – there will be food and drink available for purchase.

What: Come and hear about leadership opportunities with YNPN RVA

Who: All young and early career nonprofit professionals

When: Tuesday, October 11, 5:30-7pm

Where: Vagabond Tea Room, 700 E. Broad Street (right next to the National, hourly parking available in city lot at 7th and Broad and on adjacent streets)

Register: https://www.connectva.org/cva-event/ynpn-rva-interest-social-at-vagabond/

What is YNPN RVA?

YNPN RVA is the local chapter of the National YNPN, and promotes an efficient, viable, and inclusive nonprofit sector that supports the growth, learning, and development of the young and early-career professionals through professional development, networking, and social opportunities (check out and like our Facebook Page and Subscribe to our e-news event alerts).

 Why Get Involved with YNPN RVA?

We spoke with several of our YNPN RVA leadership team and committees about why they enjoy being a part of the network and what it means to them personally and professionally! Here’s what they had to say:


Caitlin Smith Hanbury, YNPN RVA Chair, VCU College of Humanities and Sciences

Why do you enjoy being in YNPN leadership?The group is a wonderfully diverse set of backgrounds, talents, and skills. Being a part of YNPN leadership means you are situating yourself for having professionally oriented friendships with creative, hard-working, and passionate people who by day do incredible work to support ambitious missions but also have the energy and enthusiasm to come together to find resources and opportunities to share with other non-profit professionals who might not already have those friendships.

Why do you think YNPN RVA is important?

As nonprofit professionals, we are typically great at relationship building and navigating resources for the benefit of our organization. YNPN RVA offers a new space for both of those opportunities to benefit the nonprofit professional while also strengthening the Richmond nonprofit community at large.

Why should a Young Nonprofit Professional want to be a part of a committee or get involved with YNPN RVA?

Becoming a part of any group, but particularly YNPN RVA, means that you have a new resource. That resource is what you make of it–career advice, professional development, getting to know the Richmond nonprofit community, and social opportunities.


Rebecca Butler, YNPN RVA Membership Chair, Family Lifeline

Why do you enjoy being in YNPN leadership?

YNPN Leadership is a fantastic way to get involved in something meaningful beyond you day-to-day work.

Why do you think YNPN RVA is important?

YNPN is the only group specifically focused on the needs and interests of early-career nonprofit professionals. It fills the void of professional guidance and mentorship that is often lacking in most of our work environments.

Why should a Young Nonprofit Professional want to be a part of a committee or get involved with YNPN RVA?

It’s an opportunity to grow your sphere of influence in a safe, supportive niche of like-minded individuals who have similar passions and face similar struggles.



Laura Pilati, YNPN RVA Program Co-Chair, St. Andrew’s School

Why do you enjoy being in YNPN leadership?

Plain and simple, it’s a group of intelligent, like-minded folks who encourage one another and understand the value of working hard and playing hard together.

 Why do you think YNPN RVA is important?

In the nonprofit field we often take care of ourselves last. YNPN RVA not only brings young nonprofit professionals together but celebrates both the successes and the challenges of the nonprofit field, and that’s a community space we really need to be able to self-care.

Why should a Young Nonprofit Professional want to be a part of a committee or get involved with YNPN RVA?

I think that many of us are drawn to the nonprofit field because it feels like a place where one can really make an impact and be creative. But, as a young professional, it’s often challenging to find a place in which to grow and develop solid skills that turn that drive into success. As a small, grassroots group, joining YNPN leadership is an opportunity to test those skills and learn in a non-judgemental, low-pressure environment that encourages creativity.


Elle Street, YNPN RVA Program Committee, Capital Area Health Network

Why do you enjoy being in YNPN leadership?

I get to meet monthly with a group of people that is passionate about young pros in the field and the meetings aren’t so serious that it feels like we’re not hanging out with friends.

Why do you think YNPN RVA is important?

There isn’t another organization that helps specifically build up young professionals in the industry. We are often undervalued.

Why should a Young Nonprofit Professional want to be a part of a committee or get involved with YNPN RVA?

To realize that they are not alone in the struggle to be a major player in the industry. Together we are a voice that’s heard.


Holly Gordon, YNPN RVA Communication Committee, HandsOn Greater Richmond

Why do you enjoy being in YNPN leadership?

The ability to help shape this group to be what we want and need and to support the sector I love.

Why do you think YNPN RVA is important?

I wish there had been something like this when I was starting my career. The nonprofit sector is large and robust, especially for the size city we’re in. There is a wealth of talent and opportunity to learn from and support each other to make Richmond a fantastic place to be.

Why should a Young Nonprofit Professional want to be a part of a committee or get involved with YNPN RVA?

To be a part of a community—these are my people. Sometimes you just need people to talk shop with. It’s affordable, easy, useful, and fun. I’ve developed many professional and personal relationships because of it.

Make sure to register for the upcoming YNPN RVA Interest Social at Vagabond on 10/11.  See you there!


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Nonprofit News: Emerging Nonprofit Leaders 2016-2017 Announced


The Community Foundation serving Richmond and Central Virginia (TCF) is excited to announce the selected participants for the 2016-2017 cohort of Emerging Nonprofit Leaders.  Earlier this summer, TCF announced the merge with the capacity building programs of the Partnership for Nonprofit Excellence through a strategic restructuring of the two organizations, which includes the Emerging Nonprofit Leaders Program.  Sherrie Brach Armstrong, President & CEO of The Community Foundation praised the program, saying, “our local nonprofit sector depends on a strong, well-supported network of leaders to create a better future and lasting results for our community. The Emerging Nonprofit Leaders Program creates connections among individuals who have a desire to create positive change and further empowers them to grow in their careers. We congratulate the Class of 2017 and look forward to the many ways they will help shape our region in the years to come.”

What is the Emerging Nonprofit Leaders Program (ENLP)?

Now in its 10th year, the Emerging Nonprofit Leaders Program is a dynamic eight-month experience for the next generation of nonprofit leaders in the metro Richmond area. In this engaging program, participants have the opportunity to foster a deeper understanding of their leadership capacity, advance their understanding and practice of leading in the nonprofit sector, and strengthen their network of nonprofit colleagues.

The program has demonstrated measurable results, building a cadre of talented leaders for the future of the Greater Richmond community.

Susan Wilkes, who has been the lead faculty for ENLP over the past 10 years said, “On October 18th, twenty-two rising stars in the nonprofit sector will gather for the launch of ENLP 10!  I’m thrilled with the leadership potential in the new cohort and with the impact a decade of this powerful program is having.  Having spoken nationally about the program, I’m proud of the uniqueness of our focus on emerging leaders and the distinctive nature of leading in the nonprofit sector.  Very few days go by that I don’t hear or read about something awesome one of our nearly 200 alumni are doing to make our community stronger and more vibrant.”

In addition to participating in engaging sessions on topics including strategic leadership, organizational change, collaboration, and coaching others, participants:

  • Experience team building through a rigorous and challenging outdoor course setting
  • Increase awareness of their leadership through a thorough assessment process
  • Benefit from individual leadership coaching, provided by professionals with experience in leadership development and nonprofit management
  • Interact with five local exemplary Executives-in-Residence in a forum where they share their experiences and perspectives

ENLP Class 9 in June 2016 after Graduation. Photo Credit: Kim Lee Photography

Selection Process

Nonprofit applicants were selected based on their potential to make a significant future contribution to the nonprofit community through assuming higher and increased levels of leadership, show substantive history of involvement in the nonprofit sector through employment, volunteerism, or board service and demonstrate a commitment to ongoing professional development, continuing education, and lifelong learning.

In early September, a committee comprised of local nonprofit leaders, past ENLP Alumni and Community Foundation Staff thoroughly reviewed applications to ensure that the 10th cohort met above criteria and that the group would be a diverse and comprehensive representation of the local nonprofit sector.

The 2016-2017 Emerging Nonprofit Leader Participants

Congrats ENLP class of 2016-2017!

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ConnectVA Spotlight: Terry Dozier, VCU School of Education


Tell us about yourself.

My name is Dr. Terry Dozier and I’m the Director of the Center for Teacher Leadership (CTL) and the Richmond Teacher Residency Program (RTR) at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Education.  I also serve as the National Teacher-in-Residence and Associate Professor in the School of Education.

A major highlight from my career was when I served as the senior adviser on teaching to former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley.  During this time, I was the top policy adviser on all teaching issues during the Clinton Administration and was responsible for developing and implementing a strategic plan to improve teacher recruitment, preparation, and ongoing professional development, including overall leadership in research, evaluation, and data collection on teacher quality.

I have 19 years of classroom teaching experience in settings as diverse as inner-city Miami, suburban South Carolina, and the Singapore American School and was named the National Teacher of the Year and the South Carolina Teacher of the Year in 1985.

What is the focus of your work?

Richmond Teacher Residency is an innovative partnership between Virginia Commonwealth University and Richmond Public Schools (RPS) to disrupt the cycle of poverty in our community by creating a sustainable pipeline of highly-effective teachers who are committed to the students of RPS for the long term.

Despite overwhelming research that teacher quality is the most important school-based factor in student achievement–and that teacher effects on student learning have been found to be cumulative and long-lasting–our poor and minority students consistently get the least prepared, least experienced teachers.

This results in a constant churning of teachers in urban schools that comes with a huge price tag—$6 million each year for RPS according to the 2014 National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future Teacher Leaver Calculator–and most importantly, the cost to students in terms of the lack of stability in schools and its negative impact on student achievement.

RTR is designed to end these educational inequities related to teacher quality by recruiting, preparing, supporting, and retaining highly effective teachers for our most challenged communities.

ABOVE: Dr. Dozier, participants, collaborators and teachers talk about the importance of Richmond Teacher Residency – a partnership between VCU & Richmond Public Schools

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

I’ve had the opportunity to see education from many different perspectives and vantage points since having the incredible honor of representing the teaching profession as the National Teacher of the Year.

But all of these experiences have simply confirmed what I have always known, and that is, making a difference in education means making a difference in teaching.  The highest standards in the world, the strongest accountability measures, the latest technology, and the most beautiful facilities, will do little good unless we have talented, dedicated, and well-prepared teachers in our classrooms.

As the late John Stanford, a retired army general and the beloved Superintendent of Seattle so often reminded his community – “The victory is in the classroom.”  Helping to prepare the next generation of teachers for our most challenged schools and to support the development of teacher leaders is the most rewarding part of my work.

What are some major challenges you have faced and how you handled them? 

Our greatest challenge in the beginning was the hurdles that we had to overcome in bridging two very different cultures – a research university and an urban school system.  RTR is a very complex program that involves multiple partners who have different perspectives, priorities, and experiences. We overcame these obstacles by setting up structures that facilitated constant communication and collaboration among all partners and staff.  The growing pains we faced have made both organizations stronger and better able to meet the needs of our community’s K-12 students.

Our current biggest challenge is determining how we will sustain the program after our federal grant ends.  We have been working with local, state, business, and foundation leaders to create a diverse funding stream that can support RTR far into the future.


What’s coming next for your organization that really excites you? 

In addition to our secondary and special education track, we are piloting a track this year open to current VCU Liberal Studies in Early Elementary (LSEE) majors.  This expansion will ensure that Richmond children from kindergarten through high school will benefit from extraordinary RTR teachers.

How are you leveraging ConnectVA to achieve your mission?

ConnectVA is a great tool for our organization because it keeps us updated on upcoming events that could benefit us, as well as increases our involvement in the community.  We have benefitted from the professional development opportunities that we have been provided through ConnectVA.

In the future we are looking forward to utilizing ConnectVA to collaborate with like-minded organizations in the community.  Our number one focus is giving back to our community and ConnectVA provides us with the opportunity to stay in the know.


Anything else you would like to share?

I would like to emphasize the impact teachers have on our community and schools. Teaching is the profession that makes all other professions possible.  Richmond Teacher Residency has played a vital role in preparing teachers with the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed.  As an essential component of a comprehensive human capital strategy, RTR helps to meet the staffing needs of RPS, provides career advancement for experienced teachers to act as mentors/career coaches, and develops highly effective new teachers who will change lives and lift up our city from inside the classroom.

In June 2014, RTR was recommended as a long-term strategy to improve low performing schools in a legislative report to our General Assembly and Governor’s Office.   As a result, our state has committed resources to expand our work to transform teacher preparation for hard-to-staff schools throughout Virginia.

If you want to teach for change, we would love to hear from you.  For more information, please visit our website at www.richmondteacherresidency.vcu.edu or feel free to email us at teach4change2@vcu.edu.  Our fall deadline is October 24th.


Do you know someone who should be our ConnectVA Spotlight of the week?  Email us at admin@connectva.org for more information!

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Nonprofit Tips: 5 Ways To Foster Creativity in the Workplace


We teamed up with Lutheran Family Service’s Lori Long this week to share tips from one nonprofit leader to another on a few ways you can ramp up new ideas and insights into your work.  Here’s her advice:

Even at nonprofits, where you can be writing a blog post one minute and ordering supplies the next, it’s easy to get stuck in a creativity rut. While we all have several roles to play, sometimes even that variety can feel monotonous. If you’re ready to break free and get good ideas flowing, here are five ways to promote creativity in the workplace:

  1. Influential Leadership Style – Think about your leadership style. Does it overpower or stifle creative thinking? Authoritative leaders get employees who merely agree (at least while they are in the room), because employees feel it’s an avenue for acceptance. Employees should feel comfortable enough to express their opinions and unique ideas. An organizational culture that fosters open-mindedness and values creativity sets a valuable precedent.

To learn more about your style, take this Leadership and Emotional Intelligence Class on 10/28 with us!

  1. Drop Your Ego to Promote Problem-Solving – When employees ask you questions, change your perception that you must have (or do have) all the right answers. Drop your ego and provide opportunities for them to problem solve. Employees do not always need immediate answers, and will be much more successful and less dependent if they develop some problem-solving skills for themselves.  Ask “What do you think would work?” “What do you consider a solid resolution here?” “Do you have some ideas to make this better?” Then recognize and praise their creativity, innovation, and problem-solving skills when they find the answers themselves.
  1. Change it UP! – Keep it fresh and new. Meetings don’t always have to be in the same place. Offices don’t have to look the same for years. All the chairs in the office don’t have to be identical. Change the décor. Get fish tanks. Get plants. Get art. People get bored with the same rituals every day and that prevents new ways of thinking. Create an environment that inspires creativity – bright colors, comfortable work areas, interesting art, quotes, articles, games, puzzles, sticky notes, dry erase boards, etc.

If you want to find a place outside of the office, check out our Meeting Space page, which lists local venues who offer discounts to nonprofits or if you want to ask for some new décor, you might get a donation by posting your need in the        ConnectVA Item Exchange.

  1. Contribute ownership – Ask employees for suggestions and solutions to the pressing issues of your organization, and give them credit for their ideas. Put the responsibility on them to create solutions. People will take more pride in their work if they have shared ownership. Employees are more engaged and happier if they feel they contribute in a meaningful way, leading to improved retention rates.
  1. Have fun – Recognize employees when they come up with creative resolutions to problems, and reinforce this behavior with rewards and encouragement. Provide incentives for employees who demonstration impressive problem- solving skills or creative ideas and efforts. Make it a game. A little competition among employees keeps things interesting, fun, and is highly motivating.

Even implementing a few of these strategies will ensure that you and your employees will be happier and more productive. If you’re new to nonprofit management a great learning opportunity will be this Staff Supervision and Performance Management class on 11/7 & 11/8 or if you’re a new or aspiring Executive Director this ED/CEO Bootcamp  on 10/28 & 11/2 to build your leadership capacity!


Have leadership or other tips for nonprofit professionals or organizations?  Send us a line – we may feature you in a “Nonprofit Tips” guest blog post!  Email us at admin@connectva.org.

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ConnectVA Spotlight: Holly Peele, Northstar Career Academy


Tell us about yourself.

My name is Holly Peele, and I serve as the Director of Northstar Career Academy. This year will be my sixteenth year working as an educator; I have worked in private schools for students with special needs for thirteen years.

What is the focus of your work?

I have the privilege of working with young people who have many gifts and skills to share. However, all too often they have limited opportunities to share them because of their differences. At Northstar Career Academy, we are providing vocational training to young people with disabilities so that they can transition to the adult world with the skills that they need to both find a job and to grow within their career of choice.

Young people with disabilities face daunting barriers to employment; two-thirds of this group are unemployed. Northstar is working in the business community to build a network of prospective employers who have the skills and knowledge they need to employ and manage a diverse workforce. By completing coursework on campus and practicing skills with our business partners in the community, Northstar students build the professional skills that they need to navigate this complex world of work.

ABOVE: Northstar Career Academy partners with local businesses to offer their students hands on opportunities to practice employment skills

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

Being at Northstar allows me to work with students over time. Seeing students rise to the challenges before them and demonstrate significant growth is both incredibly rewarding and inspiring. I am also very grateful that our community-building approach and small class sizes afford me the opportunity to get to know our students’ families and to work with them closely on this journey.

What are some major challenges you have faced and how you handled them? 

Our students learn best in context with relevant real-world, hands-on instruction. However, young people with disabilities often do not have the “First Employment Experiences” that could have provided this kind of learning opportunity and served as stepping stones to meaningful employment with a living wage. A cornerstone of our work rests on our relationships with community partners.

Our students spend at least one day per week in the community practicing their skills in area businesses. Building these partnerships has been both a challenging and rewarding journey. Our partners have opened their doors to our students with warmth and hospitality. We provide sensitivity training to interested partners so that they know methods of teaching and managing our students while on the job. This has allowed our students’ experiences on site to grow in quality over time. In turn, our students complete these community-based experiences with references they can use when they begin applying for jobs.

What’s coming next for your organization that really excites you?

As the Career Academy enters its third year, we are excited to celebrate our move to a dedicated building. During our first two years we implemented our program on the main campus of Northstar Academy’s K-12 school. While we remain deeply connected to the rest of our Northstar family, we are thrilled to have the opportunity to open a satellite campus equipped with classrooms dedicated to teaching our specific course offerings: Business Administration, Materials Handling, Veterinary Assisting, Health Occupations, Construction and Maintenance, and Hospitality.

Also, Northstar Career Academy welcomes students ages 16-22, many of whom have graduated from high school. Having a separate campus allows us to offer an educational environment with the needs of a more mature student in mind.


The entryway to Northstar Career Academy’s brand new campus on Schrader Road

How are you leveraging ConnectVA to achieve your mission?

Northstar Career Academy cannot achieve its mission on its own. Tapping into existing networks like ConnectVA is a critical part of building alliances through which we will work to achieve our mission. One simple concrete example would be the funds we saved by equipping one of our classrooms with free furniture made available through the ConnectVA Item Exchange. In the longer term, we use ConnectVA as a source of information about the work of others in Central Virginia with whom we can collaborate to make a greater impact on our community.

Anything else you would like to share?

Thank you very much for this opportunity to share about Northstar Career Academy’s work. I would be very interested in networking with other ConnectVA members who are engaged in similar work. Please reach out to me if you would like to share and learn more. We are always looking for new ways of working with others.   My email is hpeele@northstaracademy.net.


Do you know someone who should be our ConnectVA Spotlight of the week?  Email us at admin@connectva.org for more information!

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ConnectVA Spotlight: Chrystal Neal, ChamberRVA

Chrystal Neal ChamberRVA

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Chrystal Neal and I am the Senior Vice President of Strategy & Brand at ChamberRVA.  I came to work in the nonprofit field by a circuitous path.  I graduated from University of Richmond with a B.A. in Economics and worked as an economic analyst for NASA before going to law school at the University of Virginia School of Law.  After practicing for nearly 18 years, most recently at Hunton & Williams, I decided to stay home full-time for several years while my children were small.  During that time, I served in a volunteer capacity on the Children’s Hospital Junior Board, and knew from that point on that when I went back to work I wanted to pursue a passion-driven career giving back to the community.  Once my youngest children – twins – entered kindergarten 11 years ago, I was hired as the Executive Director of C3: The Creative Change Center whose mission is to promote RVA’s creative community to attract and retain millennials so that our community thrives by filling our workforce needs.  We partnered with ChamberRVA to launch the i.e.* initiative with the same purpose, but on the larger Chamber platform, and I joined ChamberRVA full-time.  Since joining ChamberRVA my role has expanded exponentially, and now in addition to running the i.e.* initiative, I am responsible for all marketing and communications, sponsorship development, lead investor relations and our small business programming known as the “Thrive Network.”

What’s the focus of your work?

The focus of my work is for ChamberRVA to be the voice of the business community both locally, to provide a unified message to move the region forward, and on a national scale to garner coast-to -coast recognition for what makes RVA cool, progressive and interesting in order to attract millennial talent.

What’s the most rewarding part of your work?

The most rewarding aspect of my work is that we actually are making a difference. I see the needle moving. RVA is gaining the national recognition that we deserve and people of all ages are attracted to visiting and moving to RVA.

Above: ChamberRVA has a new program – Mission Tomorrow, the Richmond region’s first interactive career exploration event for 8th grade students.  Over 12,000 students are expected to participate this year.The event will be held October 27– 28, 2016, at the Richmond International Raceway.

What has been your biggest accomplishment in this role?

My biggest accomplishment in this position is the brand refresh we just implemented this past spring: we changed our name from “Greater Richmond Chamber” to embrace the organic evolution of the moniker for our region, “RVA.”  With the brand refresh to “ChamberRVA” came a fresh new logo, an office move to progressive, glass-filled new space and the launch of a brand new modern, mobile-friendly website.

ChamberRVA – Serving the Richmond Region

What’s coming next that excites you?

I am excited about ChamberRVA’s next chapter now that we have refreshed our brand. We are engaged in large community conversations related to economic development happening around the Richmond Marine Terminal that will lead to workforce development opportunities for people currently living in poverty, and will bring even more economic prosperity to our region.

How are you using ConnectVA to advance your mission?

ChamberRVA hosts variety of events throughout the region, and we use the ConnectVA platform to post our events. Often people tell us that they learned of our events through the ConnectVA platform.

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ConnectVA Spotlight: Laura Leporati, AMP! Metro Richmond

Laura Leporati AMP! Metro Richmond

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Laura Leporati, and I have served as the Program Coordinator for AMP! Metro Richmond over the last two years.  I have a background in psychology and rehabilitation counseling.  After taking some time off after having children, I entered the world of nonprofits and have really enjoyed working with volunteers and learning about nonprofit development.


What is the focus of your work and the need you are addressing?

AMP! Metro Richmond is a school-based mentoring program that operates at Henderson Middle School in Richmond’s Northside neighborhood.  AMP!’s mission is to connect students and mentors to amplify perspectives on what can be. Our goal is to create self-confidence, stimulate learning, and encourage career discovery for middle school youths in the Richmond Region.

 What do you find most rewarding about your work?

I love seeing the relationships develop between the students and mentors.  They are usually a little unsure and timid at the beginning of the year, but by the end of the year, they are very eager to see each other and to share what their week has been like.  The most rewarding thing for me is seeing the smiles on the kids (and mentors) faces when they walk into the mentoring room on Tuesdays and greet each other.

What are some major challenges you have faced and how you handled them? 

Every year it is challenging to find the amount of quality and committed mentors that we need for the school year.  We have tried to overcome this by completing the Quality Based Membership process through Virginia Mentoring Partnership.  We’ve learned that by doing a thorough application and vetting process, that we do find the quality folks that we are looking for.

We also strive to create partnerships with businesses, corporations and other organizations in the Richmond area.  Mentors in the past have come from Genworth Financial, KPMG, First Market Bank, Bank of America,Chamber RVA, University of Richmond, VCU, VUU, small businesses, nonprofits, and State agencies.

ur bonner scholars amp metro

UofR Bonner Center for Student Engagement Students Mentors with their Mentees

What’s coming next for your organization that really excites you?

AMP! is celebrating our 10-year anniversary this year!  We began in 2006 as a project through Leadership Metro Richmond and continue to be a strong program 10 years later.  We are celebrating on Tuesday, 8/30 from 5:30-7:30 and anyone is welcome to come help us celebrate!  Also, with the new school year upon us, we are looking forward to a new mentoring year.

amp mentor board games cropped

Middle School students at AMP! Metro Richmond play board games with their mentors.

How are you leveraging ConnectVA to achieve your mission?

I actually found this position through the ConnectVA Job Finder!  We use the ConnectVA website to advertise events, search for relevant workshops and webinars, to post items needed, and to look for grant opportunities.

Anything else you would like to share?

We are now recruiting new mentors for the 2016/17 school year.  Mentoring always takes place on Tuesdays at lunchtime.  We especially need male mentors!  If interested, please fill out our application and someone will be in touch with you shortly.  If anyone would like to join our 10-year celebration on 8/30, please RSVP here.


Know someone who should be a ConnectVA Spotlight?  Email us at admin@connectva.org for more information!

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Collaboration at Work: Goochland Free Clinic and Family Services

Collaborations at Work GFCFS (2)

Goochland Free Clinic and Family Services (GFCFS) provides medical and social services to families in the Goochland community, including dental servicesGED preparation courses, a community thrift store, and more.  GFCFS depends on support and collaboration from their many partners in order to efficiently and effectively address the needs of the Goochland community.


Executive Director Sally Graham pictured with the Page Auto Team who donated the new GFCFS cargo van for transporting medical equipment, picking up food donations, collecting donations for the Clothes Clothes, & more!

One great example of how GFCFS collaborates to have a greater impact on the community is through their food pantry. The food pantry, which is open seven days a week and relies on a volunteer-base of over 125 people, serves up to 150 households per week. Last year alone, the food pantry distributed over 200,000 pounds of food to individuals in the Goochland community!


In 2015, 822 individuals, including 343 children, found clothing at the Clothes Closet!

To achieve these successes, the GFCFS food pantry relies on strong collaboration with their many community partners. In addition to partnering with FeedMore and local grocers to ensure that the pantry is reliably stocked each week, the food pantry has also fostered some additional community partnerships with Capital One and Goochland Public Schools to supplement the food pantry’s inventory in some creative and collaborative ways. Capital One donates leftovers from the food services provided at their Goochland campus to the GFCFS food pantry each week, while Goochland Public Schools have set up designated donation areas in their school cafeterias where kids can choose to donate their unopened, unconsumed food items.

2015 Stats Overview Goochland Free Clinic and Family Services

Innovative collaborations like these allow community organizations like GFCFS to stretch their resources further and better serve their community.


The above post was originally featured by the Capital Region Collaborative – a collaborative effort between government, business, and the community to identify and implement regional priorities that will enhance the quality of life in the Richmond Region.

If you have a collaborative story to tell, contact CRC@richmondregional.org and subscribe to their e-newsletter!

Read more about the Capital Region Collaborative and their recent RVA Indicators Report and check out our ConnectVA Community Vital Signs for the latest data and research on the health of Virginia!

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