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April 2018

 

CAREER OPPORTUNITY

 LICENSED MENTAL HEALTH CLINICIAN

LCSW or LPC

(In-Patient)

Psychiatric residential treatment facility for adolescent girls and boys located 15 minutes north of Emporia, Virginia seeks experienced licensed clinician (LCSW or LPC) to provide therapy and case management services on an inpatient basis.  Substance Abuse and Addiction Counseling experience and certification preferred.  Population served includes adolescent girls and boys with complex developmental trauma, co-occurring mental illness, and substance abuse issues.  Position provides individual, group, and family therapy within a psychiatric residential setting. 

Virginia license is required.  Two years’ formal experience counseling adolescents is required.  Residential experience is preferred. 

Seeking experienced candidates.  Highly competitive pay & benefits including employer sponsored Health, Dental, Vision & Life Insurance and employer matching 401(k) retirement plan.

Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services is an equal opportunity employer and drug free work place.  Post offer criminal background and drug screenings required.  Position open until filled.

Submit resume and cover letter to:

Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services
Job# 2018-4
Attn: Chris Thompson
E-mail: careers@jacksonfeild.org
Fax: (434) 634-6237


Career Opportunity

Residential Counselors

(Youth Service Workers)

If you are interested in making a positive impact on the lives of Virginia’s youth, then we want you to become part of our Team!  Rural Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility located in Jarratt, Virginia seeks positive role models to work directly with adolescent boys and girls in a psychiatric residential treatment program.  The Youth Service Worker is responsible for role-modeling healthy behavior, teaching life skills, administering a trauma informed behavioral support program, and leading youth in and participating in social, cultural, and recreational activities.  This position supervises youth in the residential unit and on off-campus activities and appointments.

Must possess the availability to work weekends, evenings, holidays, and nights.  Supreme flexibility required.  Seeking candidates with Bachelor’s Degrees in Psychology, Sociology or other Human Services field.   Experience will be considered in lieu of a degree.

Compensation package includes 401(k) retirement plan & employer sponsored health, dental, vision & life insurance.  JBHS is a Drug Free Workplace.  Successful applicants must pass a pre-employment drug screen and criminal background screening.  EOE.  Positions open until filled.

E-mail cover letter and resume to:

Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services
Job# 2018-6
Attn: Chris Thompson
E-mail: careers@jacksonfeild.org

Marvin Dallas Caish

Marvin Dallas Caish, 91, died Wednesday, April 18, 2018.

A native of Greensville County, he was the son of the late William Henry Caish and Mary Pearson Allen Caish. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his wives; Adrinne Lynch Caish and Annie Kidd Caish, his brother; Lewis Caish, and sisters; Rebecca Weaver Caish and Lillian Carpenter.  A World War II Navy veteran, Mr. Caish retired from Georgia Pacific in Jarratt, and was a longtime member of Calvary Baptist Church. An avid gardener, he also enjoyed fishing and swimming with his family.

Mr. Caish is survived by his son; Marvin D. Caish Jr. of Ruckersville, Virginia, grandsons; Christopher D. Caish of Barboursville, Virginia, and Timothy J. Caish of Fredericksburg, Virginia, Great-grand-daughter; Charlianna Caish of Barboursville, Virginia.

Graveside Services , with military honors, will be held Sunday, April 22, 2018 at 2:00 P.M. at Greensville Memorial Cemetery with Rev. Andy Cain officiating.

Online condolences may be left at echolsfuneralhome.com.

BETTY CLARKE HARRIS

Betty Clarke Harris, 60, of Bath, NC, died Saturday, April 14, 2018 at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, NC.

Betty was born Richmond, VA., the daughter of the late W. Lawrence Clarke and Evelyn Weaver Clarke.

She graduated from Furrman College in Rocky Mount, Va., then graduated from the Nursing Program at Wilson Community College.

She obtained her Bachelors of Science Degree in Nursing, and her Master of Science in Nursing from East Carolina University.

Her Nursing career included serving as a Flight Nurse for East Care; working in different departments at Vidant and was currently a Nurse Education Specialist in the East Carolina Heart Institute.

Betty loved the ocean, sand, and fishing. Most of her spare time was spent at the coast casting her fishing rod and taking in God’s beautiful creation.

Surviving are: a brother, Edward Lawrence Clarke and his wife, Janet Tindall Clarke, of Roanoke Rapids, NC; a niece, Nicole Clarke Luck and her husband, John Michael Luck of Houston, TX. Also, two great nephews; Colin Clarke Luck and Noah Graeme Luck of Houston, TX. and all of her nursing family at Vidant.

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, April 28at 4:00 pm in the Inter-Faith Chapel at Vidant Medical Center, Greenville, NC. with Rev. Jane Rose officiating.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to:  College of Nursing Scholarships at East Carolina University. Make checks to: ECU MHSG and make notion on check in memory of Betty C. Harris. Mail to:  Elizabeth Maxwell, 525 Moye Blvd., Mail stop 659, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC, 27834-4354 or you can go online to make a donation at: http://www.ecu.edu/csdhs/nursing/support_us.cfm

Online condolences may be left at wrennclarkehagan.com

VCU Health CMH to Offer Babysitting Training Course

SOUTH HILL --The Health & Wellness Department of VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital in South Hill will offer the Smartkids 101 Babysitting Training Course this summer.

The Smartkids 101 Babysitting Training Course is especially designed for student’s age 11 to 14.  It teaches essential child care skills needed for responsible babysitters caring for infants, toddlers and older children.

The class will include child and infant safety, poison control, CPR, first aid and basic child care skills.  At the end of the class students will receive a babysitting certificate, and be certified in American Heart-Heart Savers CPR and First aid.  Students will also be taught to react in an emergency situation and know who to call.  Students will learn about the babysitting business, build self-esteem and learn skills that will last a lifetime.

This one day, 8-hour course will be taught in the VCU Health CMH Education Center (inside the C.A.R.E. Building) at 1755 N. Mecklenburg Avenue in South Hill from 8:00AM to 4:15PM on the following dates- June 15th, June 29th, July13th and July27th.  The class is free but limited to 10 participants. To register for one of these courses, please contact the Health & Wellness department at 434-774-2541. These classes fill up quickly, so call today!

Monument Reflects ‘Abiding Admiration’ for Native People

INDIAN MEMORIAL

By Yasmine Jumaa, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Gov. Ralph Northam and the Virginia Indian Commemorative Commission welcomed leaders of Native American tribes at the state Capitol for a ceremony to dedicate “Mantle,” a monument honoring Virginia’s first inhabitants.

Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting celebrated the culture, contributions and significance of Native Americans. Many of the attendees dressed in traditional Indian garments, and each speaker passed to the next an eagle’s feather conveying strength, courage and wisdom.

“It’s apt, I think, that we gather here on Capitol Square – in many ways the very heart of our commonwealth’s diverse, vibrant and engaging civic life – to show our respect, to show our gratitude and to show our abiding admiration for native peoples who have lived in this land for thousands of years,” said Paul Nardo, clerk of the House of Delegates and a member of the commission.

Members of the community joined in celebrating the completion of “Mantle,” for which ground was broken last summer.

“Virginia Indian history goes back thousands of years before those settlers stepped ashore,” Northam said. “For the first time, we will recognize the courage and resilience of Virginia Indians on the same sacred ground where we write the history of tomorrow.”

The governor said the monument was a “long-overdue acknowledgment.”

“My hope is that progress, and the completion of this monument, will begin our journey toward healing,” Northam said. “We also celebrate the accomplishments of future generations who trace their ancestors to Virginia’s native tribes.”

At the ceremony, Frances Broaddus-Crutchfield, a commission member, read a poem she had written, also titled “Mantle.” During the reading, she played an Indian drum to symbolize “the heartbeat of the first Americans.”

The poem described the symbolism of the origin, structure and design of the monument:

Mantle is a chief’s cloak

A pathway, water

A seat for the weary

Strong from the remembrance of the rivers and the people

Strong from the beginning of time, unto eternity

A tribute to the first Americans

The monument was created by Alan Michelson, an installation artist and member of the Mohawk Nation. He described the public art as “a collaborative medium with many moving parts and players bringing their skills and experience to bear.”

“I was fortunate to work with a stellar design team,” Michelson said. “A concept is only as good as its design, and a design only as its implementation.”

Michelson traced his creative journey that led to the creation of “Mantle” as well as the many meanings its name may represent.

The monument has a spiral shape surrounding an infinity pool that lists the rivers in Virginia with Native American names. The name “Mantle” comes from the deerskin cloak reportedly worn by the Native American chief Powhatan.

“I wanted my design to embody not only the landscape past and present but the sacred harmonies underpinning and uniting all life here on Turtle Island,” Michelson said. “In contemplating a title for it, the word mantle seemed to fit.” He said it is a reference to:

  • Geology – the mostly solid layer of the earth between the crust and core.
  • Mollusk anatomy – the layer that forms, maintains and repairs the shell.
  • Leadership – the responsibilities and duties passed from one person to another.

Ken Adams, chief emeritus of Virginia’s Upper Mattaponi tribe, concluded the ceremony by leading a prayer to God and blessing the monument.

“As we celebrate you and celebrate the legacy of Native Americans,” Adams said, “as we place this memorial in your honor on these grounds, we cannot ever thank you enough for bringing us out of the dark ages that we experienced not so long ago.”

After Rally, House OKs Budget Expanding Medicaid


Delegates Mark Levine and Wendy Gooditis pose for a photo with Medicaid expansion supporters on Capitol Hill (Photo credit: George Copeland Jr.)

By George Copeland Jr., Capital News Service

RICHMOND – The House of Delegates passed a state budget that expands Medicaid in Virginia after advocates for the measure held a rally outside the Capitol.

Meeting in special session, the House voted 67-33 in favor of a budget for the 2018-2020 biennium that provides Medicaid coverage to more low-income Virginians. The legislation now moves to the Senate, which during the regular legislative session opposed Medicaid expansion.

Nineteen Republicans joined 48 Democratic delegates in voting for the House version of the budget.

“Our budget expands health care to 400,000 uninsured Virginians, and it increases funding for our schools, creates jobs and gives raises to teachers and law enforcement,” Del. David Toscano of Charlottesville, the House Democratic leader, and Del. Charniele Herring of Alexandria, the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, said in a joint statement.

“We are hopeful that our Republican colleagues in the Senate have seen the light and have heard the chorus of voices in support of expansion.”

House Speaker Kirk Cox, a Republican from Colonial Heights, expressed optimism that delegates and senators can reach an agreement on the budget.

Cox said the House passed “a strong, structurally-balanced two-year state budget that I am confident can serve as the foundation for a bipartisan, bicameral compromise.”

“Virginia has seen extended budget negotiations before, but what sets us apart from Washington is our willingness to work efficiently and directly to adopt a balanced budget before the current fiscal year ends” on June 30, Cox said.

The House vote came after legislators and citizens from across the commonwealth gathered Tuesday afternoon on the Capitol grounds.

Medicaid expansion advocates from Caroline County, Norfolk, Arlington and Charlottesville were joined by Democratic Dels. Mark Levine of Alexandria, Wendy Gooditis of Clarke County and Alfonso Lopez of Arlington.

“I really think our chamber will do what it needs to do, and I have to say, I think some Senate Republicans are coming around,” Levine said.

During the regular session, the House voted 68-32 in favor of a budget that included Medicaid expansion – a priority for Democrats. Expansion would include a Republican-proposed work requirement for those seeking Medicaid coverage.

Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has expressed his displeasure with the work requirement. (One Democratic delegate, Sam Rasoul of Roanoke, voted against the House budget on Tuesday because of the work requirement.) President Donald Trump signed an executive order earlier this week mandating a similar requirement for food stamp recipients.

Gooditis, who was elected last fall, said her political career was driven in part by her struggle to obtain Medicaid coverage to assist her late brother with post-traumatic stress disorder. She credited the “all-around caregivers” she met during these years for both her election victory and the high spirits she felt going into the special session.

“Keep making noise. It’s how I got here, and it’s how we’ll get it done,” Gooditis said.

Some at the rally are already looking ahead to what policies could follow the proposed Medicaid expansion. They expressed enthusiasm for a single-payer health care system, or “Medicare for All.” Levine said he supports such a system.

“People need to know that these are real people’s lives,” Levine said. “They need to know this isn’t some theoretical question; this is a question of whether people get health care or not.”

Legislators at the rally were critical of the current state of health care coverage in Virginia. While Levine praised the efforts of Doctors Without Borders in providing services in Southwest Virginia and the Northern Neck, he was nonetheless “ashamed” that residents there must rely on an international group that normally serves developing countries.

Lopez discussed the good financial fortune his family had when their newborn baby was delivered prematurely last year, a comfort he stressed wasn’t shared by everyone in his House district. Lopez said the 49th District, which includes parts of Arlington and Fairfax counties, ranks as “one of the most educated” in the U.S. and yet has the “fourth-highest number of people who could benefit” from Medicaid expansion.

“Think about the family that has a baby born prematurely,” Lopez said. “Think about the family that’s struck down by a horrible disease or in a horrific accident. Health care could be devastating for their finances.”

“We’re going to get this done,” Lopez said. “We have to get this done.”

Waverly United Methodists Spruce Up Jackson-Feild

On a bright and beautiful – but windy – recent Saturday, nine volunteers from Waverly United Methodist Church performed a task of epic proportions.  They repainted 1,100 feet of fencing at Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services.

When one turns onto Walnut Grove Drive in Jarratt, two columns and a white fence can be seen at the end of the long, straight country road.  Up close, it was evident that the fence was no longer as white and pristine as it once had been.

Waverly Church provided not only the volunteers, but 25 gallons of fence paint and spray equipment as well!  Mother Nature, though, provided the stiff breeze that resulted in a number of painters sporting a light coating of paint by the end of the day’s work.

The children and staff at Jackson-Feild wishes to thank these wonderful volunteers from Waverly United Methodist Church for all they’ve done to benefit the organization.

If you would like to offer a helping hand on a future project, please call Vice-President of Advancement Tod Balsbaugh at 804-354-6929 to see what the current needs may be.

VSU Celebrates Fourth 'Tree Campus USA' Award for its Dedication to Campus Forestry

Dignitaries show Tree Campus USA plaque updated with year 2017 for Virginia State University campus.

Petersburg, Va. – A crowd gathered on the campus of Virginia State University (VSU) on Tuesday for the 2017 Tree Campus USA Award Celebration. It is the fourth consecutive year that VSU has been recognized by the Arbor Day Foundation for its commitment to campus forestry management and environmental stewardship.

“I’d like to recognize the great leadership that has made this possible. It really does take all of us working together, the commitment that you have to this campus, to your green spaces, and to trees,” said Bettina Ring, Virginia’s secretary of agriculture and forestry.

Secretary Ring attended the recertification event along with Senator Rosalyn Dance, a VSU alumna, and administrators from the university.

“I’m proud of all the great stuff that’s happening here,” Dance said. “Tree Campus USA, VSU, all the way!”

“On this day, being honored and recertified is very special to us,” said VSU Provost Dr. Donald E. Palm. “Not only does it bring the community together, it brings the campus together, especially for our students to learn, our faculty to do research. It’s an awesome day.”

Events were held during the morning, including the creation of a living wall of flowers and strawberries. There were also presentations on water quality, sustainable foodand goatscaping, an environmentally friendly alternative to property clearing and weed removal. 

VSU was first named a “Tree Campus USA University” in 2015 and has been recertified annually. The university is only one of four post-secondary institutions in Virginia—along with Old Dominion University, the University of Mary Washington and Virginia Tech—to be recognized. The initiative was led by Joel Koci, associate Extension specialist in urban forestry with the College of Agriculture, who works each year with a committee comprising faculty, students and campus staff. To receive the designation, a university must meet five core standards: establish an advisory committee, develop a campus tree-care plan, allocate annual dedicated expenses of $3 per full-time student; hold a service-learning project; and host an Arbor Day celebration.

“Keep up the great work and thank you for all that you continue to do to support students and learning in agriculture and forestry,” Ring said.

The recertification ceremony was held beside a sycamore tree planted in 2015. The sycamore was selected because it grows large and has a long lifespan. The ceremony ended with the dedication of a plaque to recognize the march in Selma, Alabama, during the Civil Rights movement.

The Arbor Day Foundation is a million-member nonprofit conservation and education organization dedicated to inspiring people to plant, nurture and celebrate trees. J. Sterling Morton, a Nebraska newspaper editor who served as secretary of agriculture under President Grover Cleveland, initiated the Arbor Day holiday in Nebraska in 1872. He is considered the father of Arbor Day nationally. Virginia celebrates Arbor Day is celebrated on the last Friday in April.

Founded in 1882, Virginia State University is one of Virginia’s two land-grant institutions and is located 20 minutes south of Richmond in the village of Ettrick.

Congressman McEachin Introduced Disabled Access Credit Expansion Act

WASHINGTON – Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04), a co-chair of the Reinvesting in our Returning Heroes task force, introduced the Disabled Access Credit Expansion (DACE) Act to assist small business owners comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), aiming to expand access and job opportunities for disabled Americans.

Currently, small businesses can receive a tax credit worth 50 percent of costs incurred to meet accessibility requirements under the ADA, up to a limit of $10,250. The DACE Act incentivizes proactive ADA compliance for small business owners by doubling the maximum allowable credit, which will reduce their liability and increase their ability to employ individuals with disabilities, including veterans.

“I introduced the DACE Act to help veterans and others with disabilities, while also helping small business owners make necessary structural improvements under the ADA—changes that will enable them to employ, and serve, more individuals with disabilities,” said Congressman Donald McEachin. “Unfortunately, far too many of our dedicated servicemembers come home with permanent injuries. As our returning veterans transition to civilian life, we need to do more to help them find well-paying jobs and continue to support themselves and their families. Enabling businesses to more easily hire these veterans, and any American who wants to work, is one of the best steps we can take.”

“Our veterans bring unique skills and experiences to the workforce and it is our duty to ensure that they have every opportunity while transitioning back to civilian life and finding meaningful employment,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx). “Congressman McEachin’s Disabled Access Credit Expansion Act will give veterans with disabilities the opportunity to secure well-paying jobs while providing incentives to our nation’s small businesses. I am proud to join him and my colleagues in this effort to help our veteran communities transition to the civilian workforce.” 

“The Disabled Access Credit Expansion Act led by Congressman Donald McEachin reinforces House Democrats’ commitment to improve access for Americans with disabilities,” said House Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Linda Sánchez (CA-38). “I am proud to join with members of the Democratic Caucus Jobs for America Task Force to introduce legislation that helps America’s small businesses comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and increases access for people with disabilities and veterans.”

The Disabled Access Credit Expansion (DACE) Act would:

  • Increase the maximum eligible expenses to $20,500;
  • Double the maximum possible credit for small business owners from $5,000 to $10,125;
  • Make the credit more widely available by expanding the definition of “small business” to include companies with income of $2.5 million or less; and
  • Index the updated maximum eligible expenses to keep pace with inflation.

“In light of legislative efforts like H.R. 620, it is more important than ever that we champion basic fairness and equal access,”said Congressman McEachin. “My bill takes a better path, helping not just people with disabilities, but our hardworking small business owners.”

This bill is endorsed by Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA). Full bill text is available here.

More Greyhounds May Need Homes if Florida Bans Racing

 

By Yasmine Jumaa, Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. — Greyhound rescue organizations in Virginia and elsewhere may see an influx of dogs needing adoption if Florida decides to ban greyhound racing.

Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission is considering putting such a ban on a statewide ballot in November. Florida has 12 greyhound racing tracks.

If voters approve the constitutional amendment, Florida would “phase out the racing over the next several years,” said Mark Lane, president of James River Greyhounds, a nonprofit dog-adoption organization, and Greyt Love Retirement, a foster shelter for retired greyhounds awaiting adoption.

Lane said the constitutional amendment being considered in Florida doesn’t address the future of retired racers and “finding a home for the vast number of racing greyhounds that would be without a career.”

Early Life and Racing

Kristen Avent, foster coordinator for James River Greyhounds, said the race dogs are not inhumanely taken from their families to immediately start training.

“Basically, from birth, they’re with their littermates and their mama,” Avent said. “Then, when they go to their kennels, they have all the dogs with them and they have the trainers there.”

James River Greyhounds has formed relationships with racetracks in Alabama and Florida. The organization arranges foster and adoptive homes when racing greyhounds from those tracks are retired.

“We’ve been down to the racetrack facilities in Birmingham, Alabama, and Daytona, Florida. The dogs are well taken care of,” Avent said. “The people at the track absolutely love them, they have dog treats for them and play with them — that sort of thing.”

Florida state Sen. Tom Lee, a member of the Constitution Revision Commission, said many racing greyhounds “live in inhumane conditions” and face mistreatment. However, Avent said the dogs:

● Are let out into the yard at least four times per day

● Practice racing around the track

● Sometimes get to go on car rides around the facilities

● Eat well

● Have constant company

Life After Racing

Avent said greyhounds usually have a smooth transition after their racing days.

“When you get them off the tracks when they retire, they’re sweet and easy to bring into a home because they’re already used to being handled by people,” Avent said.

Greyhounds are made available for adoption as early as 21 months old. But ultimately, the determinant is their racing ability, or lack thereof.

“When you bring them into a house, you just have to teach them, sometimes, how to use steps,” Avent said. “Then they just have to learn about furniture and things like that. But they learn very quickly, and they’re extremely loving. They love to be with you.”

Why Greyhounds?

“When deciding what type of dog that I wanted to adopt, I came across the retired racing greyhound breed and found them to be extremely laid-back, awesome personality and a very regal breed overall,” Lane said. “Once I adopted my first, the rest has been history, and I don’t regret it at all.”

Avent said the dogs’ sweet disposition and gentle nature won her over.

“They’re very affectionate, are eager to go anywhere you want to go — they want to be with you,” she said.

Lane said among his favorite greyhound mannerisms and attributes are:

● The greyhound roo, a sound they make that is a mix of barks, grunts and whines

● Their teeth chattering

● Their relaxed demeanor. Lane said a greyhound is “a 45-mph couch potato” that sleeps for most of the day.

Greyhound Adoption

“The importance of greyhound adoption is that once these athletes are finished their careers, they make awesome pets,” Lane said. “Adoption groups all over the U.S. and Canada fill the need to find appropriate retirement homes for these wonderful retired racing greyhounds.”

Lane started Greyt Love Retirement for two main reasons.

“The first was that I wanted to build a facility to be able to bring more retired racing greyhounds to the Richmond area to continue to educate about, advocate for and adopt out the retired racing greyhound,” he said. “The second was a realization that some potential applicants wanted to touch, feel and connect with their new family member, and JRG (James River Greyhounds) could not facilitate that request without having a foster shelter with potential available hounds.”

Besides the two groups headed by Lane, there is an organization called Around Town Hounds, which holds monthly walks and other events for members of the Richmond greyhound community.

“I have found that once you adopt a greyhound, you are now involved with a tighter knit community of dog owners,” Lane said. “As adopters, we rely on each other for dog sitting, being a knowledge bank of questions and answers, playdates and general camaraderie.”

Legislators, Advocates Show Support for Medicaid Expansion

Panel Discusses Solutions to ‘Bipartisan Problem’ of Gerrymandering

By Zach Joachim, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Leading redistricting reform advocates and Virginia Commonwealth University students explored ways to end gerrymandering at a panel discussion hosted by the VCU Political Science Department.

“Redistricting in Virginia: A Bipartisan Problem” brought together students and experts to discuss the practice in which legislators draw political districts with partisan intent. Panelists expressed optimism regarding the prospects of redistricting reform in Virginia and around the country.

Brian Cannon, executive director of OneVirginia2021, the commonwealth’s leading redistricting reform group, said the current process for redrawing legislative districts lacks transparency.

“It’s like sausage making, but worse, as to how they get these districts. Some of the lines are just abstract works of art that should be in the ICA,” Cannon said, referring to VCU’s new Institute for Contemporary Art.

Dr. John Aughenbaugh, a professor in the VCU Political Science Department, said the U.S. Constitution is not specific about redistricting, and that is the root cause of gerrymandering. The Constitution’s “time, place and manner clause,” Aughenbaugh said, gives states the power to determine election logistics. The panelists agreed that this is the foundational cause of traditional partisan redistricting practices commonly referred to as gerrymandering.

But Cannon argued the constitutional ambiguity can be employed to end the same practice it fostered.

“What works for redistricting in Iowa doesn’t work in California and might not work in Ohio. We can learn from all of them to improve redistricting in Virginia,” Cannon said. He said the Constitution “gives us the laboratory of democracy the states are supposed to be.”

This state-by-state approach to tackling gerrymandering has prompted a national climate in which states are looking to the courts for answers. Pending cases before the U.S. Supreme Court could mandate anti-gerrymandering legislation in states such as Colorado. Cannon said cases such as Bethune-Hill in Virginia, which alleges district lines were drawn based on racial demographics, could come down “any day now” and expedite the process.

Participants in Thursday’s panel discussed possible solutions to gerrymandering, such as having an independent commission draw political boundaries. But Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, said the solutions many reform advocates seek may simply not exist.

“This is complicated, and there is no perfect answer, or else we’d already be there,” Dunnavant said. “If you get voices in the room so that there’s transparency and accountability, that’s the best we can do.”

The panelists urged redistricting reform advocates to conceptualize solutions as approaches and principles in drawing districts, rather than logistical absolutes. Del. Lashrecse Aird, D-Petersburg, emphasized trust and transparency as foundational principles for reforming the redistricting process.

“Trust among the people we represent is extremely important,” Aird said. “Right now they don’t trust that the process includes things like transparency, or the removal of the ‘sausage making.’”

In addition to a collective insistence that a principled approach is the answer, Aird and the other panelists considered the establishment of independent commissions as a viable end goal for redistricting advocates to look toward.

“If moving to an independent structure actually builds that trust among the people we represent, it seems like that would be the thing to do,” Aird said.

The panelists went on to caution those in attendance about setting too much store in the idea of independence and nonpartisanship in the redistricting process. In an inherently political process, there will always be bias, they said.

“You’re not going to get rid of politics. We’re deciding who gets to vote in what jurisdiction,” Aughenbaugh said. “That’s a fundamental element of almost any definition of democratic politics – who gets to hold whom accountable.”

The panelists agreed that any hopes for an absolute solution would be idealistic. Rather, they emphasized the need for institutional accountability and transparency between voters and their representatives in a process long devoid of such principles.

“You want the rules to reflect our communities,” Cannon said. “Some will be blue, some red, some a shade of purple. But what’s important is that the communities are making the decisions.”

Dunnavant added, “There will never be a redistricting map that does not get contested. And so the conversation is a little unrealistic to think we can be

​​

proscriptive enough in law to create something that everyone can agree on.”

Nonprofit Helps Virginia Maintain Lowest Recidivism Rate

By Thomas Jett, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — Over the past 14 years, Richard Walker went from dodging incarceration to running a volunteer organization aimed at helping other ex-offenders stay clean and out of prison. The efforts of groups like his are one reason Virginia has the nation’s lowest recidivism — or reoffense — rate for former inmates, state officials say.

The story of Bridging the Gap in Virginia began more than a decade ago.

“I had a substance abuse problem back then; this was in 2004,” Walker said. “I was a fugitive of justice from Henrico County. They arrested me at 2 o’clock in the morning, and I’m hitting golf balls into a quarry in Prince George County after being on a two-day crack binge.”

After making bail at Riverside Regional Jail, Walker absconded to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he was arrested for writing fraudulent checks.

Walker served time at a Virginia Department of Corrections camp in Halifax County. After re-entering society, he found that his criminal record kept him from landing jobs offered through the Richmond Career Advancement Center. Ultimately, he found work selling cars. 

"That was short-lived because I made good money and I hadn’t dealt with my drug problem,” Walker said. “I ended up going into treatment in 2006, and I haven’t looked back since.”

Within three years, Walker created a job for himself.

“We started in 2009 as a direct result of my incarceration,” Walker said. “I started Bridging the Gap in Virginia because I knew there were people with less experience, less credentials than I had, that were having a challenge in Virginia. When I found out the legislation and the laws in Virginia, it just motivated me to make changes.”

Charlotte Gomer, the public information officer for Attorney General Mark Herring, said re-entry programs like Walker’s are valuable resources for ex-offenders.

“Re-entry services have been proven to reduce crime, strengthen communities and ... can reduce violent reoffending by as much as 83 percent,” Gomer said. “The attorney general has made it a real priority to support re-entry, which is why he hired Virginia’s first full-time local jail re-entry coordinator to start and strengthen programs around the commonwealth.”

The efforts of Herring’s office and groups like Bridging the Gap in Virginia seem to be working. For the past two years, Virginia’s re-incarceration rate has been the lowest in the country among states for which data was available,according to the governor’s office.

About 22 percent of inmates released from the state’s prisons and jails end up re-incarcerated within three years. Virginia’s recidivism rate has fallen a full percentage point since the previous year. It’s the lowest among the 45 states that report three-year incarceration rates for felons. Nationally, more than two-thirds of convicted criminals reoffended in the past three years, according to the National Institute of Justice. 

Gainful employment is the key to helping ex-offenders re-enter society — and that is the main focus of Bridging the Gap in Virginia. Lawrence Bibbs III can vouch for that. The nonprofit helped him after he was released from prison on Aug. 29 after 30 years of incarceration.

“Since I’ve dealt with Bridging the Gap, each person has been a specialist in knowing how to focus your skill set into a specific area,” said Bibbs, who works for Amazon and owns a bricklaying company. “This situation where people are saying they can’t get a job — you just didn’t go to the right specialist that could employ you.”

Walker has several legislative allies. He has worked with Del. Delores McQuinn and Sen. Jennifer McClellan, both of Richmond, on issues pertaining to re-entry and criminal justice in general.

“I have always tried to work collaboratively with some organization or group to do that — looking at how do we provide a service to returning citizens so that there is a certain quality of life that they can expect as they exit the prison system,” McQuinn said.

McClellan said re-entry programs help not only ex-offenders but also the community.

“I support any efforts that remove barriers for returning felons resuming their lives,” McClellan said. “Once you get out of jail, if you can’t get a job, you’re more likely to do something to cause yourself to go back to jail.”

Walker, McQuinn and McClellan are behind legislation enabling former felons to find employment more easily.

The “Ban the Box” proposal seeks to remove questions about arrests and convictions from employment applications. In 2015, then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued an executive order that banned the box on state government applications.

During the General Assembly’s 2018 session, attempts to make that executive order a state law failed, although one bill cleared the Senate before dying in the House.

Even though there’s no state law, Walker said 16 cities and counties in Virginia have “banned the box” for ex-offenders.

“They have more of an opportunity to get a one-on-one interview with potential employers in various cities for city employment through ‘Ban the Box,’” Walker said. “People want to work; they don’t want to sit in squalor.”

Walker’s efforts extend beyond legislative changes. His organization also helps ex-convicts rebuild their lives through drug treatment, housing referrals and other services.

“God didn’t put me in here for me to give up, so I’m going to keep on doing what I do, believing that that million-dollar grant is sitting there waiting on me,” Walker said. 

Customized, Job-Driven Training

Businesses across the Commonwealth of Virginia, including right here in the Southside region, continue to report a skills mismatch between job seekers and open positions. Skilled workers, especially in information technology and advanced manufacturing, seem to be in short supply. Entrepreneurs often testify to the fact that nurturing a business is a challenging proposition, but when companies cannot find workers with the skills necessary to fill critical positions, business success can be even harder to achieve.

At the same time, escalating college costs sometimes put higher education out of reach. Many young people and transitioning workers are looking for ways to prepare for well-paying careers without amassing heavy burdens of debt.

The solution for growing businesses and the answer for the potential future workforce may be the same: apprenticeship programs. Apprenticeship is more than just assisting in a workplace, more than just on-the-job training. Registered apprenticeship programs provide a formal plan that combines at-work elements with rigorous classroom preparation and mentoring. They culminate in a certification that the graduate is fully prepared, experienced, and job-ready.

Traditionally, U.S. apprenticeships have focused on skilled trades, but recent innovations and policy changes are bringing the model to other industries. Penny Pritzker, former U.S. Secretary of Commerce explains that “by building regional partnerships with education, workforce, and social service institutions, businesses and government can create training programs that connect workers with middle class careers.” For diverse companies, she notes that “developing talent through apprenticeships results in a more dedicated, flexible, loyal workforce that is poised to rise into leadership positions and make the companies more competitive.”

Southside Virginia Community College is proud to be able to bring these benefits to the communities of south-central Virginia. Through ApprenticeVA, a collaborative effort among four community college partners, we can help businesses leverage the resources needed to create registered apprenticeship programs and customize them to meet specific training requirements.

Rob Deutsch, Director of Human Resources at Global Safety Textile acknowledges, “In today’s current economy, hiring qualified maintenance mechanics is a challenge.” His company is one among several with whom SVCC has worked to establish registered apprenticeship programs. Others include Beach Mold and Tool, Toll Brothers, Huber Woodproducts, Presto Products, and Microsoft.

At SVCC, more than 40 apprentices are currently registered and working on the job and in the classroom. They will graduate with industry-recognized credentials in fields such as industrial maintenance and network technician.

Apprenticeship programs have a proven track record and are well situated to meet 21st century needs. If your business would like more information about how it can benefit from a registered apprenticeship program, contact SVCC’s Apprenticeship Coordinator, Kelly Arnold at Kelly.arnold@southside.edu or call 434-579-7260.

Dr. Al Roberts is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the city of Emporia. He can be reached via email at al.roberts@southside.edu.

Virginia Governor Declares April as Women and Girls’ Wellness Month

By Sophia Belletti, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Eating disorders, stress, alcoholism, addiction and depression are leading medical problems affecting women and girls, but they are often forgotten because of the way breast cancer and intimate partner violence are highlighted with dedicated months.

Miriam Bender, chair of the group Women’s Health Virginia, commends the efforts of what she calls the “disease organizations.” But Bender said there is a need to raise awareness about the overall well-being of women and girls. So more than 15 years ago, Bender helped establish April as Women and Girls’ Wellness Month.

“A lot of days and weeks and months celebrate awareness of diseases, and a lot of issues don’t get highlighted in those individualized months,” Bender said. “They always focus on disease prevention or a problem instead of talking more positively about wellness.”

In July 2002, Bender and other activists pitched Women and Girls’ Wellness Month to 50 health organizations, women’s organizations and other groups.

“It was overwhelmingly positively received,” Bender said. “It was in July, and I thought who was going to show up in the middle of July – and the room was full.”

On Thursday, Gov. Ralph Northam, like his predecessors, signed a proclamation recognizing April as Women and Girls’ Wellness Month.

“It’s an important day and month,” Northam said at a ceremony at the MathScience Innovation Center in Richmond. “We have declared the entire month of April so that we can recognize the important contributions girls and women make to our commonwealth and to help you all keep healthy and get a good education and a good job.”

The ceremony was attended by fifth- through eighth-grade female students from the MathScience Innovation Center. Northam encouraged them to get involved, pointing to the pay gap and the lack of women in health care, policy and STEM-related fields.

“That’s why all the girls and the women need to stand up and say, ‘Enough is enough – I want to be equal to everyone else,’” Northam said.

Bender said that once people and organizations bought into the idea of Women and Girls’ Wellness Month., they decided it would best be celebrated in April.

“We wanted to do it at a time when organizations who served women and girls could do something. And if it’s too close to the end of the school year, girls’ groups and university groups wouldn’t be involved,” Bender said.

The MathScience Innovation Center was chosen as the location of the proclamation signing to encourage young girls to enter STEM fields.

“We know that health and wellness are tied to the physical attributes of the body, but they’re also tied to the wellness of the spirit and the soul and how we persevere, overcome adversity and how we deal with trauma,” said Hollee Freeman, executive director at the center.

The governor was joined Thursday by Virginia first lady Pam Northam, Sen. Jennifer McClellan of Richmond and Virginia Secretary of the Commonwealth Kelly Thomasson.

Richmond’s New Art Gallery Raises ‘Important but Difficult Topics’


The Mending Project by Lee Mingwei is an interactive project where visitor's can bring their clothes to get stitched and pinned to the wall. (CNS photo by Katrina Tilbury)

Curtis Talles Santiago's "Infinity Series" uses jewelry boxes to depect scenes of violent injustice. (CNA photo by Katrini Tilbury

By Chelsea Jackson and Siona Peterous, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – With an inaugural exhibit that challenges the city’s Confederate history and racial divide, Virginia Commonwealth University will open its Institute for Contemporary Art next week, and it’s generating excitement not only in Richmond but also in national and international art communities.

The 41,000-square-feet Markel Center, where the ICA is housed, cost $41 million and sits at the corner of Broad and Belvidere streets – the city’s busiest intersection, with an estimated 60,000 cars passing by every day. The location signifies the impact that officials hope the institution brings to Richmond.

The city’s only stand-alone gallery of contemporary art, which will open to the public April 21, sits between VCU’s Monroe Park Campus and the historic Jackson Ward community – a point that for decades was the divide between black Richmond and white Richmond in the one-time capital of the Confederacy.

Joe Seipel, the interim director of the ICA, said the idea for the project has been around for decades. Seipel and the ICA team say they have worked to ensure that everyone feels welcome to come enjoy the art gallery, a goal he hopes to accomplish by keeping admission free.

During a press preview Thursday, New York-based architect Steven Holl said he looked to Richmond’s deep and complicated history for inspiration and incorporated certain aspects to bridge a gap between the growing presence of VCU and the larger Richmond community. Holl’s firm, known for specializing in educational and cultural projects, was chosen from more than 60 that submitted proposals for the building.

“This may be one of my favorite buildings I’ve been working on because it makes an urban statement, because there is a relationship between the campus and the city, and it also is a statement on the concept of time,” Holl said.

The relationship among time, space and race relation was a strong influence on the ICA’s opening exhibit, “Declaration,” said the institute’s chief curator, Stephanie Smith. She conceived the idea with Lisa Freiman, Seipel’s predecessor.

“After the 2016 presidential elections, myself and Lisa Freiman decided to reshape the ICA’s inaugural exhibition given the climate of our country,” Smith said. “We were inspired to create a project that we would speak and give a platform to a diverse group of artists whose works reflect currents in contemporary arts but also catalyze change, convene people across the divide and to speak to important but often difficult topics that are relevant here as well as our nation more broadly.”

Freiman abruptly stepped down as the institute’s director in January after five years of overseeing the planning phases of the project. In a press release at the time, Freiman stated it was time for her to resume other projects she had put on hold. Despite her absence, Smith continued with the vision that created “Declaration.”

The exhibit includes projects from more than 30 artists, many of whom were commissioned by the ICA and whose work speaks to social issues of the environment, gender inequality, race and sexuality. “Declaration” features a range of mixed media platforms – from audio and film to painting and graphic design.

Expanding on one of his previous exhibits, Paul Rucker, the ICA’s artist in residence, created “Storm in The Time of Shelter” for the ICA. It features Ku Klux Klan robes in urban and contemporary fashions. The life-size figurines wear KKK robes made of colorful fabrics such as African prints and various shades of camouflage.

On the opposite end on the first floor is a massive wall featuring a series of individual screen prints. The piece is the work of Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. and was created with the collaboration of local barbershops and salons. Each print is a quote from a conversation overheard in the shops, capturing the role these spaces play in the city’s black neighborhoods.

The diversity of “Declaration” reflects VCU President Michael Rao’s hope that the ICA will make the city an international destination.

“We hope to become through VCUs Institute of Contemporary Art a world-class cultural hub,” Rao said. He said the ICA will help “advance the arts and invoke human senses like they have never been invoked before.”

200 Rally for Gun Rights at State Capitol

The crowd at Saturday's gun rights rally. (CNS photo by Katrina Tilbury)

 

By Katrina Tilbury and DeForrest Ballou, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – About 200 people, some with handguns on their hips and others with rifles slung across their backs, gathered on the grounds of the Virginia Capitol on Saturday for a rally in support of the Second Amendment.

The peaceful crowd assembled at the Bell Tower at Capitol Square with the goal of defending their rights to self-defense and educating the public about the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The rally quickly turned political when Republican candidates Ryan McAdams, Corey Stewart and E.W. Jackson took the stage.

“We’re here today because we honor the Constitution and the God-given liberties and rights that have been endowed to us by our creator,” said McAdams, who is running for the 4th Congressional District seat currently held by Democrat A. Donald McEachin of Richmond. “Those same God-given rights are under assault, and they’re being threatened.”

Stewart, who is vying with Jackson and state Del. Nick Freitas for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate, spoke after McAdams. He cited a recent op-ed by former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens that argued that the Second Amendment should be repealed.

Stewart, who hopes to take on Democratic U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, said every time a mass shooting occurs, gun control advocates blame law-abiding Americans, conservatives and President Donald Trump. Stewart said that gun-owning Republicans are also heartbroken when shootings happen and that they are the ones who want to protect their families.

“Unlike the left, who actually enjoys the fact that these tragedies happen because it plays into their narrative. It plays into what they are trying to do,” Stewart said. “They don’t honor life, folks. They disparage it.”

One of the main arguments made by the rally organizers, politicians and speakers was that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Critics dispute this. They point to a Harvard study of the National Crime Victimization Survey showing that fewer than 1 percent of victims defended themselves with a gun between 2007 and 2011.

Stewart said he opposes any compromise on Second Amendment rights; however, he said he supports enforcing existing laws against violent felons, the mentally ill and the potentially dangerous receiving guns.

Stewart, who chairs the Prince William County Board of Supervisors, said he plans to place retired police officers in all of the county’s schools in the coming months.

McAdams and Jackson also said they want to focus on enforcing existing gun laws. They noted that the FBI was notified in advance that Nikolas Cruz posed a threat, but failed to act. Cruz has been charged with the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in February.

“That young man who killed those 17 people should never have been allowed to get those weapons because he was clearly mentally ill and people knew about it even so much as to call the FBI about him,” said Jackson, a minister from Chesapeake.

Joe Savarese, who attended Saturday’s rally, agreed that the Second Amendment should not be compromised. He said gun control advocates are twisting the words of America’s Founding Fathers.

“They’re putting a 21st-century mindset, No. 1, into 18th-century men, and then they’re not reading their words as they were intended to be read. They meant exactly what they were saying. They weren’t offering opinion,” Savarese said.

The event was organized by the National Constitutional Coalition of Patriotic Americans. Richmond Capitol Police Public Information Officer Joe Macenka said authorities weren’t expecting any trouble from the crowd.

Ethel Mae Prince Allen

Ethel Mae Prince Allen, 80, widow of Nathan Allen, passed away Friday, April 13. She was also preceded in death by brothers, James Prince and Billy “Buck” Prince; and sisters, Mag Banner, Shirley Allen and Jean Veliky.

Mrs. Allen is survived by two sons, Babe Allen and wife, Cindy, David Allen and wife, Sherri; three grandchildren, Brian Allen, Brett Allen and fiancée, Lacey, and Logan Whitley; two sisters, Louise Phillips and Bernice Phillips; a brother, “Preacher” Prince and wife, Nellie and a number of nieces and nephews.

The funeral service will be held 2 p.m. Monday, April 16 at Faith Baptist Church where the family will receive friends one hour prior to the service. Interment will follow at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church.

Floral tributes are welcomed or memorial contributions may be made to Faith Baptist Church, 951 W. Atlantic St, Emporia, Virginia 23847.

Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.owenfh.com.

WARNER, KAINE CALL FOR FEDERAL INVESTMENT IN LOCAL PUBLIC SAFETY AND COMMUNITY POLICING

~ Senators ask appropriators to fund federal program that helps local law enforcement bolster community policing ~

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined a group of Senators in a letter to congressional appropriators requesting a minimum of $225.5 million in federal funding for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Program to help local law enforcement bolster community policing efforts. While February’s bipartisan budget agreement established how much money should be provided for local law enforcement efforts, leaders of congressional appropriation committees are ultimately in charge of deciding how that funding is allocated. The Senators requested at least the same level of federal funding as was appropriated for COPS in the last fiscal year.

“The COPS Hiring program represents a fiscally responsible solution to ensure that our communities remain safe….When officers establish a presence on their patrols using community policing principles, they can develop positive relationships with the communities they serve.  In turn, these relationships increase law enforcement’s ability to solve local crimes and resolve public safety problems,” the Senators wrote.  “This program plays an essential role in our federal government’s support for local law enforcement and should therefore receive the highest possible level of funding.”

The COPS program was designed to advance public safety by addressing the full-time officer needs of state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies.  COPS provides funds directly to law enforcement agencies to hire new and/or rehire career law officers, and to increase crime prevention efforts.

Since its inception, the COPS program has been responsible for putting 129,000 additional police officers on the job in 13,000 local communities across the country, including 48 police officers in Virginia in the last five years alone.  

The program has deep support among major law enforcement organizations, including the National Association of Police Organizations, Fraternal Order of Police, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the Major Cities Chiefs Association.  

Other Senators joining Sens. Warner and Kaine in signing the letter include Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tom Carper (D-DE), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tom Udall (D-NM), Angus King (I-ME), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Gary Peters (D-MI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Chris Coons (D-DE), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tina Smith (D-MN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Jon Tester (D-MT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Doug Jones (D-AL), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Full text of the letter is available here and below:

Dear Senator Moran and Senator Shaheen:

As you consider funding levels for Fiscal Year 2019, we urge you to fund the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Program at a minimum of $225.5 million, the amount appropriated for the program in FY 2018.  This program plays an essential role in our federal government’s support for local law enforcement and should therefore receive the highest possible level of funding.

The COPS Hiring program represents a fiscally responsible solution to ensure that our communities remain safe; the Brookings Institution found it to be “one of the most cost-effective options available for fighting crime.” When officers establish a presence on their patrols using community policing principles, they can develop positive relationships with the communities they serve.  In turn, these relationships increase law enforcement’s ability to solve local crimes and resolve public safety problems.  This proactive approach to policing prevents crime from occurring, saving taxpayers the high societal costs associated with crime, incarceration, and services for victims.

Since its creation, the COPS Office has assisted over 13,000 of the nation’s 16,000 jurisdictions with over $14 billion in funding to hire approximately 129,000 additional officers. In FY 2017, the COPS Hiring Program granted over $98 million to 179 law enforcement agencies to hire, preserve, or rehire 802 full-time law enforcement officers.  There were heightened restrictions for funding requests in FY 2017, leading many communities to forego applications, but still over 3,000 officers were requested, representing close to $410 million in funding. The $225.5 million requested is a small fraction of the $1 billion appropriated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and less than the $298 million previously appropriated in FY 2010.

We are supported in this request by law enforcement organizations including the National Association of Police Organizations, Fraternal Order of Police, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the Major Cities Chiefs Association.  We appreciate the hard work and leadership that you have shown on these issues. Ongoing crime and violence in our cities continue to demonstrate the vital need for increased police protection in our communities.  Therefore, as you determine the funding levels for this program, we ask that you support funding for the COPS Hiring Program at the highest possible level.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

Celebrate SVCC During Community College Month

Once again, Virginia’s Community Colleges are marking national Community College Awareness Month (CCAM) in April designed to raise awareness of the benefits of attending one of our 23 community colleges.  Southside Virginia Community College has been part of the community since 1970 and is still the best deal around. 

In honor of the Community College celebration, here are a few tips to remember. 

Top 5 Ways to Save Money on Your Bachelor’s Degree
Student debt has reached crisis levels in this country. The typical bachelor’s degree graduate in Virginia leaves college nearly $30,000 in debt. That burden is forcing people to wait longer to get married, buy a home, and even retire. So why would anyone take on more debt than necessary?

Below are five guaranteed ways to save money while pursuing your bachelor’s degree in Virginia.

  1. Know what you really want to do: There’s nothing wrong with changing majors while in college. Lots of people do it. But it means you’re going to pay for classes that you won’t serve you in the long run. Take the free assessment tests on the Virginia Education Wizard. They can help you decide before ever spending the first tuition dollar.
  2. Start college while you’re still in high school: Sign up for Dual Enrollmentclasses which allow you to take college-level classes while still in high school, often at a reduced price. Ask your school counselor or Career Coach about it. Use these credits to jump-start your pursuit of an associate degree at a community college.
  3. Earn your associate degree first: Thanks to an amazing collection of Guaranteed Transfer Agreements, you can earn an associate degree at a community college first, which guarantees placement as a junior at one of more than 30 Virginia universities. Community college tuition and fees are only about one-third of what you'll pay at a public university.
  4. Get free money from the state to attend a university: Virginia’s Two-Year College Transfer Grant Programwill give you up to $3,000 a year, for two years, at a university to finish your bachelor’s degree. That’s FREE money! But, you should graduate from a community college first.
  5. Always take 15 credits every semester: No matter where you go to college, go full-time, which means 15 credit hours every semester. Time is money.

If you follow all five of these steps, you will save at least $52,000 on the cost of that shiny new bachelor’s degree. That's about one-and-a-half times the average student debt load of a graduate in Virginia, and one more way to show that you’re smarter already.

For information, www.southside.edu

STUDENT OF THE MONTH KARLY HALL BLACKWELL MARCH 2018

Brunswick Academy is pleased to announce that Karly Hall Blackwell has been chosen the March 2018 Student of the Month.  Karly, a senior, is the daughter of Kevin (Class of 1975) and Terri Blackwell of Dolphin.  She has two sisters, MacKenzie (BA Class of 2011) and Kelly (BA Class of 2013). 

Karly is in the Brunswick Academy Honors Program, which is the most rigourous and challenging program of studies.  This year she has been taking dual-enrollment classes at Southside Virginia Community College, as well as her upper-school classes at Brunswick Academy. 

Regarding academics, she is a member of National Honor Society (Treasurer) and is the Class of 2018 Treasurer.  She has also been a member of the Student Council Organization, Brunswick Academy Honor Council and Spanish Club. 

Throughout her years of attending Brunswick Academy, Karly has participated in athletics, both at the JJV, Junior Varsity and Varsity levels.  She has been a member of the Volleyball team and the JV and Varsity Cheerleading Squad.  She has been a Captain of the Cheerleading Squad and has earned the Most Valuable player award and The Coach’s Award.  Karly has also been a member of the JV and Varsity Softball teams and was awarded All Academic. 

Karly currently works at Trinity Custom Apparel in South Hill and has been of member of the Appalachian Service Project at her local church.  She enjoys spending time with her family and friends at the Rappahannock River in her spare time. 

She has been accepted to James Madison University, Virginia Tech, Radford University and Coastal Carolina University.  She plans to major in Hospitality and Tourism Management.

CONGRATULATIONS,WAY TO GO KARLY!

Making Prom Special at Jackson-Feild

At high schools across the country, May means “Prom,” and Jackson Feild’s Gwaltney School is no exception.

Each year well in advance of prom, Tod Balsbaugh and Jackson-Feild’s Office of Advancement reaches out to donors and community partners to literally outfit the boys and girls on campus for this special event.

The Short Pump Rotary Club recently conducted a Blue Blazer Drive and collected enough very-gently-used blazers for every high school boy on campus. Balsbaugh was honored to attend the club’s April meeting and receive this generous donation.

Since 2006, the Fairy Godmother Program at The Collegiate School in Richmond has been providing prom dresses, shoes, accessories and an on-campus personal shopping event for the girls at Jackson-Feild. Over the years, more than 400 girls have experienced the fun and excitement of choosing a dress and accessories for prom.

This year’s prom at Jackson-Feild will be held on May 18 and will feature a new special event. Members of Jackson-Feild’s Young Professionals Organization will host a special pre-prom dinner to help make the evening a night the boys and girls will remember for life.

Jackson-Feild Behavioral Health Services treats children with severe mental health and/or substance use disorders. If your child needs help, don’t hesitate to call 434-634-3217.

Job Fair Thursday!

THE GEO GROUP (LAWRENCEVILLE) IS SEEKING CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS, LPN, SERGEANT OF CORRECTIONS AND A VOCATIONAL INSTRUCTOR (ELECTRICAL).

JOB FAIR WILL BE HELD AT THE VIRGINIA WORKFORCE CENTER
LOCATED AT 1300 GREENSVILLE COUNTY CIRCLE
SUITE C, ROOM 105
EMPORIA, VIRGINIA ON
APRIL 12TH  10AM - 2PM

KAINE, YOUNG, JONES INTRODUCE BIPARTISAN BILL TO ENSURE ADDICTION RECOVERY PROGRAMS INCLUDE JOB TRAINING

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), Todd Young (R-IN), and Doug Jones (D-AL), members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, introduced the Jobs Plus Recovery Act to incorporate job training into drug addiction recovery programs. The bipartisan legislation would establish a pilot program that gives individuals impacted by opioid addiction or substance use disorders access to job training and support services to aid in their recovery and lower their likelihood of relapse. Research has shown that having consistent work improves the likelihood that addiction treatment will be successful. The pilot program allows local communities to create partnerships between substance use disorder treatment and recovery providers, as well as job services and training providers. The legislation will help communities in Virginia and across the country where the opioid crisis has had severe consequences on the economy and local workforce.

“The substance abuse epidemic has had a devastating effect on communities across the country, and a lack of job opportunity has exacerbated this crisis,” Kaine said. “We must find a way to address this crisis and to help those who are trying to get back on their feet, stay there. By ensuring that job training is a part of the recovery process, we are investing in better outcomes, which will have a positive impact on the economy, employers, and entire communities.”

“During one of my recent Fair Shot Agenda roundtables, I heard from an Indiana plastics manufacturing firm that took a chance by hiring a Hoosier who had struggled with addiction issues. This week, that same Hoosier is graduating from drug treatment court and serves as a valuable employee. With the Jobs Plus Recovery Act, we can replicate this success story across Indiana and the entire country. This legislation would create pilot programs that help individuals struggling with opioid addition access employment opportunities. Our goal is to give businesses the tools needed to positively impact addiction treatment outcomes, and to change how the nation treats individuals with addiction issues so that they can turn their lives around and meaningfully contribute to the economy,” said Young.

“Across the country and in Alabama, the opioid epidemic has devastated so many families, communities, and local economies. When folks are working hard to recover from opioid addiction, we should make sure they have the support they need to be successful and re-enter their communities fully. Through this job-training initiative, we are taking steps to help them thrive in recovery and break the dangerous cycle of addiction,” Jones said.

In 2014, Congress passed Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which provides job training assistance to individuals with a barrier to employment. The Jobs Plus Recovery Act would allow programs funded through WIOA to provide targeted support services to individuals with substance use disorders and consider their needs as part of state and local strategic planning processes to tackle the opioid epidemic.  It would also allow community workforce entities to educate employers about how to hire and retain employees with a history of substance use disorders. This pilot program would be the first to integrate job skills training with addiction treatment and recovery. The program would provide supportive services to ensure participant success in work-based learning that would be divided between three stages: pre-employment, early employment, and continuing employment, which may include peer recovery support services, networking and mentorship opportunities, and other wraparound services.

“This legislation, which NAWB is proud to endorse, will play an important role in combatting America’s opioid epidemic. It builds on the well-established link between recovery and job security. Those suffering from addiction are often in need of opportunities and purpose. This aligns with NAWB’s forty-year history of delivering on economic opportunity for Americans through skills training and job placement. We are partners in the effort to help those affected by this opioid crisis find their purpose through the workforce,” CEO of the National Association of Workforce Boards Richard Painter said.

"Virginia Career Works of the Blue Ridge Region is proud to support the Jobs Plus Recovery Act of 2018. While our region can proclaim strong economic growth and historically low unemployment, opioid abuse is a significant barrier for people still seeking employment or those that have given up hope.  This legislation will make it easier for citizens to access needed addiction treatment, while also helping them create a path towards economic prosperity. It will also grow our workforce to meet the expanding employment needs or our businesses.  Local Workforce Development Boards will be a critical partner in providing hope and opportunity to those most affected by this crisis," Executive Director of Virginia Blue Ridge Works in Roanoke, VA Jake Gilmer said.

Kaine has been a leader in the Senate both on efforts to address the opioid epidemic and to support workforce development programs that prepare Virginians for good-paying, in-demand jobs. In December, Kaine co-sponsored The International Narcotics Trafficking Emergency Response by Detecting Incoming Contraband with Technology (INTERDICT) Act to provide U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) tools including hi-tech chemical screening devices to help detect and interdict fentanyl and other illicit synthetic opioids. Kaine haspushed for funding to support health education initiatives to combat the opioid epidemic in vulnerable communities in Virginia. In October, Kaine introduced the Combating the Opioid Epidemic Act, which would invest $45 billion for prevention, detection, surveillance and treatment of opioids and opioid addiction. 

The Jobs Plus Recovery Act is endorsed by the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE), Jobs for the Future (JFF), the National Skills Coalition (NSC), and the National Association of Workforce Boards (NAWB).

Text of the Jobs Plus Recovery Act is available here.

From Doughnuts to Dancing, ‘The Bachelorette’ Films in RVA Hot Spots

A group of men participate in a group date at the Capitol where they debated why each of them would make the best partner for Becca. April/8 (Credit: Reality Steve)

 

By Alexandra Sosik, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – The Bachelorette is in town and looking for love – and Richmonders love to look for her.

Fans of “The Bachelorette” have been in a frenzy since photos of the hit ABC reality show filming in Richmond surfaced on social media over the weekend.

Rebecca “Becca” Kufrin, the show’s current love interest, was spotted filming a one-on-one date at Sugar Shack Donuts on Lombardy Street on Saturday. The shop posted that it would be closed to the public from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“She seems super down-to-earth and the kind of person that would live in RVA in real life,” said Peyton Hannon, 23, who attended a taping of the ABC reality show on Monday night at the Carpenter Theatre in the Dominion Energy Center.

Hannon said she and more than 1,000 other fans were told to arrive at the theater at 7:30 p.m., but Kufrin and contestant Leandro Dottavio arrived closer to midnight. The pair danced on a stage surrounded by fans as they were serenaded by Australian country music singer Morgan Evans.

A Twitter account by the name of “TheBachelorTV” invited Virginia “Bachelorette” fans to participate in the show’s taping with a tweet on Thursday: “Virginia #bachelornation it’s your turn! Come on a date with Becca and her men this Sunday 4/8!! Email BachelorRSVP@gmail.com now to save your spot #thebachelorette.”

Kufrin, 28, is originally from Minnesota. She was announced as the next bachelorette after unedited footage was televised showing bachelor Arie Luyendyk Jr. breaking up with her to pursue a relationship with runner-up Lauren Burnham.

Reality Steve, a “Bachelor” blogger, officially tipped off fans that the cast and crew had arrived when he tweetedphotos of Kufrin and Chris Harrison, host of “The Bachelorette,” filming at the Quirk Hotel on Saturday.

Kufrin was also spotted by fans several times on a private trolley ride around Richmond, making stops at the Veil Brewing Co. and the Edgar Allen Poe Museum.

On Sunday, a group date was filmed at the Capitol, where a banner displayed “Beccalection 2018.”

“The group date was essentially an election debate,” said “Bachelorette” fan and VCU nursing student Sarah Daniel.

Daniel said Harrison, Becca and men dressed as Abraham Lincoln and George Washington asked the contestants questions to decide who would be the best partner for Becca.

Harrison has been spotted by many fans trying to guess where he might pop up next.

Melissa Hipolit, a reporter for CBS 6 News (WTVR), said she and her friends decided to eat dinner at Graffiato, an Italian restaurant next to the Quirk Hotel, hoping to catch a glimpse of the action. They never thought Harrison would walk through the doors.

“We never expected to be sitting down to eat and have him literally sitting behind us,” Hipolit said.

Sherri Zhang, who was with Hipolit, said she was surprised when Harrison initiated a conversation.

“He saw my friend taking a pic of him, and when he walked by our table to be seated, he actually talked to us first,” Zhang said.

Hipolit said Harrison asked them how the food was and even took an interest in their jobs. She said Harrison told her he watches the local news wherever he travels. “I told him I was a local news reporter, and then one of my promos came on the television and I pointed to it.”

Season 14 of “The Bachelorette” premieres on May 28 on ABC. The Richmond episode is expected to air in July.

Gov. Northam Signs Rear-Facing Car Seat Requirements into Law

By Siona Peterous, Capital News Service

RICHMOND — Beginning next year, Virginia will join more than a dozen states that prohibit children under the age of 2, or children who are below the manufacturer's suggested weight limit, to be placed in a forward-facing car seat.

The new law, House Bill 708, which Gov. Ralph Northam signed last month, will go into effect July 1, 2019. It was introduced by Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, after she was approached by AAA about the issue.

“I’m very proud to patron this bill because I have always worked on issues about public safety and kids’ safety,” Filler-Corn said. “How could I not introduce a bill that will save lives and protect our most vulnerable Virginians, our children?”

According to Martha Meade, the public and government affairs manager for Virginia’s AAA’s Mid-Atlantic region, the association has lobbied for issues of public safety on the roads for decades.

“This is an important change for Virginia because it is confusing for many folks who don’t know when the the right time is to switch their child to be forward-facing in vehicles,” Meade said. “All the major traffic safety organizations — AAA, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, National Highway Safety Administration and the Academy of Pediatrics — recommend a child stays rear-facing until age 2, or until they've reached the minimum weight and height requirement.”

Filler-Corn said she was surprised, but not discouraged, by the intensity of the opposition to what she views as a “common-sense safety measure.” Critics of the bill argued that the government should not have a role in how parents choose to raise and protect their children.

The bill went through several rounds of amendments before passing the House 77-23 and the Senate 23-17. Filler-Corn said she received bipartisan support. Sen. John Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake, and Sen Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, were “amazing and very supportive” advocates for the bill.

 “Everyone has the right to raise their children as they see fit, but this really is a safety measure statistically proven to work,” Filler-Corn said. “When I’m faced with opposition, I compare the enforcement of rear-facing child seats to the requirement of everyone having to wear a seat belt. It’s very similar, but one is focused on children who can’t make decisions to protect themselves.”

Shirley Harrell Sledge Williams

Shirley Harrell Sledge Williams, 83, passed away on Sunday, April 8, 2018. The daughter of Rufus and Sally Harrell, she was preceded in death by her husbands, Louis Sledge and Raymond Williams; her son, David Sledge and wife, Patsy; two sisters, Paige Gay and Lucy Wilson and two brothers, Rufus and Melvin Harrell.

Shirley was born in Jarratt, Virginia. She spent most of her adult life in Emporia, where she was a faithful and beloved bus driver for the Greensville County School System for 25 years. Her Christian faith was central to her life and she was a member of the Emporia Assembly of God Church for many years.

Mrs. Williams is survived by three sons, Jerry Sledge, Steve Sledge and wife, Betty Jo and Michael Sledge and wife, Ginny; a sister, Joyce Nowell; eight grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; two step-grandchildren; three step great-grandchildren; three step-great-great grandchildren and a number of nieces and nephews.

The family will receive friends 5-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 12 at Owen Funeral Home, 303 S. Halifax Rd, Jarratt, Virginia. The funeral service will be held graveside 2 p.m. Thursday, April 13 at Greensville Memorial Cemetery.

Online condolences may be shared with the family at www.owenfh.com.

Why Be An Organ Donor?

Community Out-Reach Education

South Hill – Transplantation gives hope to thousands of people with organ failure.  Today, there are 115,000 men, women and children awaiting lifesaving organ transplants. What is organ donation and transplantation?  What organs and tissues can be transplanted? How can I become an organ donor?

If you are seeking answers to questions like these you should attend April’s C.O.R.E. (Community Out-Reach Education) Program at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital to learn about the life-saving benefits of organ and tissue donation.

This FREE program will be on Tuesday, April 17th at 4:00 p.m. in the VCU Health CMH Education Center inside the new C.A.R.E. Building located at 1755 N. Mecklenburg Avenue in South Hill.

    

Hannah Lee, MD and Dhiren Kumar, MD

The speakers for the program with be Dr. Hannah Lee and Dr. Dhiren Kumar.  Dr. Lee is a practicing transplant hepatologist with VCU Health Hume-Lee Transplant Center in Richmond, VA. Dr. Lee graduated from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine. She completed a residency at New England Medical Center. Dr. Lee also specializes in Gastroenterology and Internal Medicine.  Dr. Kumar is a transplant nephrologist with VCU Health Hume-Lee Transplant Center. Dr. Kumar graduated from University of Virginia School of Medicine. He completed a residency and a fellowship at VCU Medical Center. Dr. Kumar also specializes in Internal Medicine.

Reservations are not required for this program; however, they are recommended.  For more information or to register to attend, please call (434) 774-2550 or visit www.vcu-cmh.org.

VSU Researchers Will Use $475,000 AFRI Grant To Study How to Make Crops More Resilient Under Climate Change

Many crops are experiencing heat stress caused by rising global temperatures, which can result in lower crop yields. With the first 17 years of this century being the hottest on record since 1880 when modern recordkeeping began, staple crops are under increasing threat. Researchers at Virginia State University (VSU) are researching ways to help crops better tolerate extreme temperatures.

Dr. Shuxin Ren and Dr. Guo-liang Jiang, researchers at VSU’s Agricultural Research Station (ARS), have been awarded a three-year, $475,000 grant from the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program. AFRI is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the nation’s leading competitive grants program for agricultural sciences. The focus of this study is a potential heat stress tolerance gene derived from purslane, a unique plant species that tolerates heat stress and drought extremely well. 

“A newly identified gene from purslane has the potential of improving crop production, especially under the stress of elevated temperatures,” said Dr. Ren, associate professor of plant biotechnology. “High-temperature stress will significantly affect agriculture production and warrants quick action by scientists to develop heat-tolerant crops that can thrive in circumstances of heat stress.”

The awarded project will enable the ARS researchers to test the novel gene PoBAG6, isolated from purslane, for its potential to improve crops’ heat tolerance ability. The PoBAG6 gene will be transferred to corn and soybean and researchers will evaluate the ability of the transgenic corn and soybean to tolerate heat.

Laboratory research will also be conducted to evaluate molecular mechanisms used by PoBAG6. Drs. Ren and Jiang aim to identify partner proteins that interact directly with the PoBAG6 protein. It is hoped these newly identified partner proteins can provide new strategies to improve crop heat tolerance, and also enhance existing knowledge about how PoBAG6-mediated gene networks can help plants withstand heat stress.

“This research money will help us to continue to focus on wild species and identify more novel genes that can be used for crops’ abiotic stress tolerance,” Dr. Ren said. “We hope that, upon completion of this three-year project, the PoBAG6 gene can be used to engineer crop species, not only corn and soybeans but others, and enhance their ability to fight against heat stress during their growing seasons.

Founded in 1882, Virginia State University is one of Virginia’s two land-grant institutions and is located 20 minutes south of Richmond in the village of Ettrick.

WARNER & KAINE ANNOUNCE FEDERAL FUNDING TO HELP REDUCE VETERAN HOMELESSNESS IN VIRGINIA

~ More than a half million dollars awarded to help reduce veteran homelessness ~

WASHINGTON— U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-Va.) announced today that the U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) are awarding $693,962 in federal funding to Virginia housing authorities to help homeless veterans and their families find affordable and stable housing.

“Those who have worn our nation’s uniform deserve to know that their country will take care of them when they return home,” said the Senators. “These federal dollars will help ensure that these heroes have the support they need to find safe and affordable housing.”

The selected Virginia housing authorities and funding amounts are listed below:

  • Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority—$35,369
  • Chesapeake Redevelopment & Housing Authority—$34,821
  • City of Virginia Beach—$39,161
  • James City Council Office of Housing & Community Development—$29,164
  • Newport News Redevelopment & Housing Authority—$35,663
  • Norfolk Redevelopment & Housing Authority—$39,661
  • Richmond Redevelopment & Housing Authority—$6,858
  • Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority—$24,043
  • Virginia Housing Development Authority—$53,293
  • Arlington County Department of Human Services—$161,556
  • Fairfax County Redevelopment & Housing Authority—$121,507
  • Loudoun County Department of Family Services—$56,249
  • Office of Housing Development of Prince William County—$56,617

This funding was granted through the HUD-VASH voucher program, which is a collaborative effort between HUD and the VA that uses targeted vouchers to offer permanent supportive housing opportunities to veterans experiencing homelessness. On March 23, 2018, the Senators voted in favor of the omnibus bill that fully funds homeless prevention programs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, including HUD-VASH

Students Get a Close-up View of the General Assembly

Taylor Thornhill (right) with Sen. Lewis, D-Accomack, (middle) and staff.

By Sarah Danial, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Among the assortment of legislators, aides and staff members who call the Capitol home, 23 Virginia Commonwealth University students experienced a close-up view of the General Assembly’s 2018 session.

The students were a part of the Virginia Capitol Semester program sponsored by VCU’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs. The program allows students to witness the legislative process from the inside by interning with legislators and other officials.

“We want our students to be engaged and involved in the legislative process. We want them to see how policy impacts us all, it impacts them, and they can then cause an impact on our community,” said Shajuana Isom-Payne, director of student success at the Wilder School.

Payne directs the internship program and, with the approval of a panel, matches students with legislators. The application process includes a personal essay, list of policy interests and an interview.

“We really try to connect our students with the members who are on committees and doing solid work in those areas that the students have expressed specific interests in,” Payne said.

The program is open to students of all majors – not only those in the Wilder School. Besides devoting 20 hours a week to their internship, students attend a weekly public policy seminar with a former staff member of the Senate Finance Committee, Richard Hickman.

The seminars often feature guest speakers such as House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, and the Democratic leader of the House, Del. David Toscano, D-Charlottesville. Hickman believes it is important for young adults to be engaged and involved in the legislative process because one day they will be the ones in charge.

“It important to give them a real-world-oriented experience as part of their collegiate career so that they’re not coming into the job with no experience of actually how the General Assembly works,” Hickman said.

Del. R. Steven Landes, R-Augusta, said the internship provides invaluable knowledge to the students. Landes echoed Hickman’s belief of the importance of being engaged.

“Our representative democracy would not exist without the participation of members of our society. Being a part of that process is especially important for young adults,” said Landes, a VCU graduate. “In the case of student interns, they are exposed to a learning process from which they can take something away.”

Ryan Kotrch, a junior at VCU, said he learned a lot participating in the Capitol Semester program this semester. He said interacting with legislators and seeing the process firsthand was unparalleled.

“It’s one thing to learn about the process in a course, but to actually be there, hands-on, it’s a totally different thing, a totally different experience,” Kotrch said.

Kotrch said he plans to return next session to serve as an intern again for Del. Gordon Helsel, R-Poquoson. One thing that Kotrch learned was the unique community and collaboration at the General Assembly.

“You think about partisanship in D.C. all the time, and you think in Virginia, it must be the same way. And it is in some aspects, but at the same time they’re all friends,” Kotrch said.

Payne and Hickman agree that the next step in the program is expansion. Both expressed their desire to bring in more students from all fields of study because the skills learned are transferable across disciplines.

“The skills that they will learn from this internship experience are going to be dynamic and are going to take them far in whatever career route that they choose,” Payne said.

Taylor Thornhill, another VCU junior in the Capitol Semester program, interned for Sen. Lynwood Lewis, D-Accomack, during the past session.

“It taught me how to be a woman in the legislative field. My legislative assistant I worked for was a female and she’s only 28 years old. This is her second year being there,” Thornhill said. “She taught me how to be strong and independent and confident.”

Hickman said he has enjoyed seeing how students have grown not only in their practical knowledge of the General Assembly but in their skills such as time management and effective communication. He encourages students with doubts about the program to go for it.

“If you have any interest at all in learning how your government works as opposed to what you read on social media or just hear from other people,” Hickman said, “this is a great way to have an internship and have a face-to-face opportunity to meet the people who really do make the decisions in the General Assembly.”

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