Tell us about yourself.
My name is Tyren Frazier and I have had the privilege of serving as the Executive Director of Higher Achievement Richmond since August of 2013. I joined the Higher Achievement team in the summer of 2010, assisting to launch the organization in the Richmond community. Prior to Higher Achievement, I’ve had an extensive career with Boys & Girls Clubs across Virginia, most recently serving as the Executive Director in Kilmarnock, working in Richmond, and starting my career in Norfolk.
What is the focus of your work?
At Higher Achievement, we work to close the academic achievement gap for under-served middle school youth, and help them get on the college track by the time they enter the 9th grade. We know that our schools can’t carry the “education load” themselves, so we enlist the support from the families and communities to ensure the opportunity gap is equitable for our scholars.
Our scholars commit an additional 550 hours per year for four years during the summer and school year. After school and summer programming is important to keep all children engaged in learning beyond the school bell. During the summer months research shows that all children, especially children that come from under resourced communities, experience the summer learning loss. Our summer programs engage our scholars in academic enrichment, competitive learning opportunities, and field trips, including an overnight college trip.
ABOVE: Higher Achievement explains the importance of learning opportunities for young people after the school day ends and during the summer.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
I have always been intrigued by the commitment that our scholars make over multiple years. I had the opportunity to visit a Higher Achievement center during my initial interview in July 2010. I went into a social studies class, and the teacher was leading an activity around the Bill of Rights.
The scholars were reciting the Bill of Rights by using a video and rap song that was playing in the class room. I thought to myself that it’s amazing that middle school students are here and eager to learn. Now, almost seven years later in Richmond, nearly 300 middle school scholars are doing the same thing!
What are some major challenges you have faced and how you handled them?
Funding and volunteer mentors are two things that I am always concerned about. Every nonprofit needs sustainable streams of funding to continue to providing programing in the community. For Higher Achievement, we also need people that are willing to engage with our scholars as mentors, speakers, or homework helpers. I rely heavily on our advisory and young professionals board of directors to help with the charge. Both groups ensure that our Richmond affiliate has resources it needs to carry out our mission and keep the promise to our community. They leverage their personal and professional contacts to close the resource gap!
ABOVE: A Higher Achievement video on the importance of Mentoring and the impact that it can have on a young person.
What would someone be surprised to know about your organization?
Near our launch in Richmond, many perceived Higher Achievement to focus on the high performing students. Well that’s not the case. Fifty percent of our scholars perform average work or are B or C students. Another 25% of our scholars perform below average in school. In addition to academic performance, middle school is rough and our children’s minds are changing. We focus our work on middle schoolers to have the biggest impact on assisting them realize their own goals so they can have the confidence to succeed.
Do you have any interesting initiatives or programs on the horizon?
For the last few years, we have realized that we need to support our alumni who are in high school. We have always partnered with great organizations such as Partnership for the Future, GRASP, and RVA Future Centers for alumni support, and now we realize that we can offer a little more with additional capacity.
We are working with local colleges to establish a pipeline for Higher Achievement scholars in Richmond as they are preparing for the next phase after high school. We want our scholars to be able to make an informed decision on their next path without any barriers in place.
Is your organization involved in any exciting collaborations or partnerships?
Yes, our biggest partners are our school districts, Richmond and Henrico County Public Schools. They ensure that we have access and are close collaborative partners in fulfilling our joint mission for our children.
Along with our many university partners across our region, we partner with NextUp and Communities in Schools to deliver high quality youth programs during the after school time. Can you imagine being a 7th grader expanding on your own interest of becoming a Sous Chef? Well, that’s happening in some of our centers!
How are you leveraging ConnectVA/The Community Foundation to achieve your mission?
We heavily leverage the power of ConnectVA and The Community Foundation to bring people and resources to our organization. Whether that’s job postings or sharing our mission with new individuals in the community, this platform allows us to share the word across the country.