Rumors of War: A Reflection from Richmond

I started as Executive Director of Higher Achievement Richmond on December 2, 2019—just eight days before the unveiling of Rumors of War at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. I was so excited to use that as the moniker for the start of my new position and my new home. I loved the idea that this sculpture could represent Richmond as a city that embraced growth and actively asked questions that challenged the status quo. It validated my personal beliefs in pursuing progress and investigating habits.

Then came COVID-19.

That’s when I found out just how much Richmond was ready for change. The whole world has turned upside down, and Richmond is no exception. I don’t need to describe the unrest we have all recently experienced from the reckoning of racial injustice, the pandemic, and the resulting economic fallout. I can, however, describe an incredible outpouring of concern for the youth of Richmond City.

  • I’ve been on the receiving end of countless phone calls asking, “how can I help?”
  • I’ve seen the ingenuity of our staff as they rapidly pivoted to virtual programming, tested new delivery modules, dug deeper into supporting the families of our scholars, and now, prepare for the fall under unprecedented conditions.
  • I’ve witnessed the strong community surrounding our scholars while engaging with funders, out-of-school-time providers, Richmond Public Schools, and the City of Richmond as we actively tighten the supports that protect and enrich our children.

The phrase “now more than ever,” may be overused but I truly cannot think of a more important time for Higher Achievement to serve students. Middle school students all over the city will be struggling to stay focused, secure resources, care for siblings, and more.

We will honor their deepening burden and we will stand by our same messages: keep expectations high, connect to the people that are committed to your success, and explore your potential! This period in our shared timeline will eventually come to an end, and will leave indelible changes. We are committed, now more than ever, to see our scholars through.

This is not the orientation I was expecting, but I will never forget being a brand new employee at such an important organization, right when Richmond was reborn. Rumors of War now seems like a subtle suggestion of what was to come in 2020.

Katey Comerford
Executive Director, Higher Achievement Richmond