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Longtime LGBTQ nonprofit rebrands to reflect expanded mission, community outreach

ROSMY, which has supported the area’s LGBTQ+ youth since 1991, has relaunched as Side by Side, it was announced this morning.

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25-year-old LGBTQ+ nonprofit ROSMY has relaunched with a new brand and name, the organization announced today. ROSMY is now known as Side by Side, an organization dedicated to creating supportive and inclusive communities across Virginia and supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and those questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Side by Side leaders say the new name is more inclusive and replaces an outdated term. Part of ROSMY’s acronym stood for “sexual minority youth,” a description that no longer fully encompasses the growing number of transgender youth the organization works with.

Additionally, Side By Side now serves a larger geographic footprint than just Metro Richmond. Today, youth, families, and institutions from across the state access the nonprofit’s resources and trainings. The organization also launched a Charlottesville support group in 2008.

“In 1991, when ROSMY was founded, sexual minority youth was the nomenclature used to describe the youth we were serving,” said the organization’s founding board president Chris Clarke. “Times and culture have shifted and the organization has expanded over the course of 25 years toward building communities with LGBTQ+ youth, families, schools, and faith communities.”

The organization’s rebranding efforts were supported locally by the VCU Brandcenter. In 2014, the school approached ROSMY with the offer to work with the center in a rebranding effort. All services were provided in-kind by Brandcenter graduate students, who conducted research and interviews with Side by Side’s stakeholders which resulted in a new logo and a website redesign.

“The staff and board are thrilled with the new name and brand, and thankful to the Brandcenter’s students for all the hard work they put into the rebranding exercise,” said Side by Side’s executive director Ted Lewis. “The rebranding process took more than a year, as we engaged youth and the community in the process. We believe the Side by Side name better aligns with the work the organization is doing to foster inclusive communities with LGBTQ+ youth, families, schools, and more.”

Side by Side works with young people ages 11-20 through regular support groups, a leadership development program, and a Youth Support Line staffed by a trained operator for support, information and referrals. In the last year, Side by Side worked directly with more than 300 youth, as well as offered resources, guidance, and connection to parents and families. Side by Side also provides expertise on how to best work with LGBTQ+ youth to other organizations, schools, law enforcement, community leaders, and faith communities.

Though times have changed and society has largely moved from a position of tolerance to acceptance of the community Side by Side serves, data from the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) reveals that nearly 4 in 10 LGTBQ+ youth are physically harassed in schools. LGBTQ+ youth also commit suicide at nearly four times the rate of their heterosexual peers, according to data from The Trevor Project.

To that point, the organization works to create positive and affirming school environments, which have been associated with decreased depression, suicidal feelings, substance abuse, and unexcused school absences among LGBTQ+ youth. In a survey of youth who took part in the organization’s programs, 95% of respondents said they now “feel like they matter,” while 85% of middle school youth reported higher feelings of self-worth and self-esteem.

To learn more about Side by Side’s services and programs, visit their new website or call 804.644.4800. The Youth Support Line can be reached anytime at 888.644.4390.

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Trevor Dickerson is the co-founder and editor of RVAhub.com, lover of all things Richmond, and a master of karate and friendship for everyone.

Government

UMFS opens new $11 million residential center to enhance youth behavioral, mental health treatment

After an investment of more than $11 million, a longstanding residential treatment program that delivers trauma-informed care to youth working to overcome emotional and behavioral challenges has created a new multipurpose treatment center focused on healing.

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After an investment of more than $11 million, a longstanding residential treatment program that delivers trauma-informed care to youth working to overcome emotional and behavioral challenges has created a new multipurpose treatment center focused on healing.

UMFS, a statewide nonprofit leader in child and family services, has officially unveiled the transformation of its Child & Family Healing Center (CFHC). The state-of-the-art center took a year to complete. Previously, youth enrolled in CFHC lived in five separate cottages, originally built in the 1950s.

The 33,600-square foot center includes five residential suites, each accessible by separate entrances. Designed intentionally to promote safety and complement program enhancements, CFHC’s five identical suites each have a common area, full kitchen, group therapy room, family room, meeting space, and 10 private bedrooms and bathrooms. The center, which includes office space for administration and staff, can accommodate 50 youth.

CFHC serves youth ages 11-17 who are experiencing mood and anxiety disorders, emotional, social, and behavioral challenges and other traumas. Therapists, mentors, teachers, psychiatrists, nurses and other staff support the youth who live on campus as they focus on healing and building life skills.

“The new Child & Family Healing Center continues our long tradition of excellence in providing effective, high-quality residential care for youth,” said UMFS President and CEO Nancy Toscano, Ph.D., LCSW. “We intentionally designed the space utilizing a trauma-informed approach to promote healing in a safe and affirming environment. The upgraded center will help create normalcy while respecting a child’s need for independence during treatment.”

The center is one of the state’s only youth residential treatment programs to employ a “hybrid” security model, where youth can move freely throughout each suite and have supervised access to school, green spaces, a gym and other recreation on UMFS’ 33-acre campus. For safety, the building is regularly secured from evening to morning, and staff can secure each suite on an as-needed basis.

The CFHC marks the completion of Phase 1 of UMFS’ Be a Champion capital campaign, which aims to transform the educational and residential resources on its Richmond campus. Hundreds of donors and partners have contributed to the effort so far.

Phase 2 of the campaign is underway and will include an addition to the nonprofit’s Charterhouse School, a specialized educational program for K-12 youth who have special needs. The planned addition will allow UMFS to enhance its student services and expand programs. Demolition for Phase 2 will begin soon, and UMFS expects to break ground on the school addition this spring.

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Downtown

Local Asian American Society of Central Virginia to host author and artist of new book

Author Joe Kutchera and artist Alfonso Pérez Acosta teamed up on the new coffee table art book, which features the portraits and stories of 22 immigrants who have come to Richmond from around the world to become our neighbors.

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The Asian American Society of Central Virginia (AASoCV) will host a local author and artist this weekend to present their new book, Portraits of Immigrant Voices, at its 24th annual Asian America Celebration tomorrow.

Author Joe Kutchera and artist Alfonso Pérez Acosta teamed up on the new coffee table art book, which features the portraits and stories of 22 immigrants who have come to Richmond from around the world to become our neighbors.

Alfonso Pérez Acosta painted the original portraits while Joe Kutchera wrote the personal histories. The author’s proceeds will benefit Afghan and Asian refugees who have settled in Virginia in a fund set up and managed by The Asian American Society of Central Virginia, a non-profit charitable 501(c)(3) organization.

The event is free and open to the general public. The pair will present the book on stage at 2pm and immediately following, AASoCV will host a book signing at 2:30pm. The book will be on sale for $40 at the event.

The 24th Annual Asian American Celebration features cultural performances, food, hands-on activities, exhibition booths, and merchandise from the Asian American communities in Central Virginia. This year’s theme is “weddings and our heritage.” The Celebration will take place at the Greater Richmond Convention Center at 403 North Third Street, Richmond VA 23219 from 11am to 7pm.

Learn more here.

The introduction to the book follows below:

Stories of Gratitude, Progress, and Manifesting Dreams

By Joe Kutchera

During the fall of 2020, following the George Floyd protests along Richmond’s Monument Avenue, I saw an African American woman wearing a t-shirt with this message in bold letters.

I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams.

As a (white) writer, I was stunned at how one sentence could leave me speechless and make me feel such a wide range of emotions. At first, I felt infinitesimally small, humbled by the brutal African American history behind that sentence, reflecting the violence and intimidation that Black Americans experienced during slavery and Jim Crow, which kept them from America’s prosperity. And seconds later, the sentence made me feel incredibly hopeful as it communicated that great progress and change is indeed possible, measured through a multi-generational lens, taking into account the sacrifice and suffering of previous generations. The formerly wild dream of freedom and opportunity is now, we hope, finally possible for African Americans today, though we still have a long way to go to ensure equitable outcomes for all Americans.

Many Americans may know Richmond, Virginia (RVA) for its history as the capital of the Confederacy with its Civil War Museum and the now-removed statues of Robert E. Lee and Confederate generals along Monument Avenue. The ugly history of slavery and the myth of the ‘Lost Cause’ permeate so much of the city, but a more complex and hopeful picture of its citizens is emerging.

In decades past, a majority of RVA’s population has been Black, with Whites representing most of the remainder of its population. Yet, a more multicultural, and even international population, is growing out of RVA’s Black and White history. The 2020 Census shows that RVA’s African American population fell below 50%, while its White population increased as a result of gentrification. Blacks appear to have left Richmond City for the suburbs (Henrico and Chesterfield Counties), where the Black population increased. Yet, the Asian and Hispanic/Latino population grew by double digits in Richmond City, Henrico and Chesterfield Counties, and the people who selected “some other race” and “two or more races” grew by triple digits. This reflects an increase in children of interracial couples, immigrants from Africa (distinct from African Americans), as well as ‘mestizos,’ or people of mixed races, from Latin America. However small those populations might be now, the growth rates indicate that RVA, like the rest of the country, is becoming much more diverse.

With this in mind, I am grateful to be working with the Asian American Society of Central Virginia in sponsoring the publication of this book. AASoCV represents 18 diverse Asian communities that have stood up against racism and xenophobia, as described by AASoCV’s chair, Julie Laghi, in the foreword. AASoCV provides a perfect example of how people from vastly different language groups can come together to build community and cultural bridges, thereby promoting tolerance and diversity.

AASoCV has enabled me and the team involved behind this book to take this project to the next level, furthering our mission to share immigrant stories and reflect on how they embody the American dream. Tida Tep, the daughter of Pim Bhut, featured on page 70, joins us to visually bring these stories into the printed medium.

Our project initially began in an organic way. In August 2020, around the time that I saw the “I am my ancestors’ wildest dream” t-shirt, I received a call from Karla Almendarez-Ramos, who manages the City of Richmond’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Engagement (OIRE). She asked me if I would be interested in and available to write profiles of immigrants as a celebration for National Immigrants’ Day on October 28, 2020. Richmond-based Colombian artist, teacher and muralist, Alfonso Pérez Acosta, had pitched the idea to Karla after crafting his initial computer-drawn portraits.

I immediately told her yes, that I would love to work on the project. I have written about and reflected on the subject of immigrants’ journeys previously, both interviewing recent immigrants and researching my own ancestors immigrating from Eastern Europe to the United States. My wife, Lulu, migrated from Mexico, to join me in Richmond in 2013. And previously, I had migrated to Mexico and the Czech Republic for work, during different chapters of my life. As a result, I also understand the immense challenges that immigrants face when moving to a new country.

National Immigrants’ Day has been celebrated since 1986, but mostly in places like New York City. We wanted to bring this celebration to Richmond, Virginia to highlight the diversity of its community and the variety of languages spoken (in addition to English). With the support of a grant from Virginia Humanities, we unveiled the portraits on October 28th, National Immigrants Day, on RVAStrong.org/portraits and published updates regularly through Thanksgiving, to honor our subject’s themes of gratitude. The exhibit’s social media campaign ran through December 18th, which the United Nations has named International Migrants Day as a testament to humanity’s “will to overcome adversity and live a better life.”

Many of the people we featured came as migrants initially, moving to the U.S. temporarily for work or educational opportunities. While others came as refugees, fleeing war and violence. And still others came here simply because they fell in love with an American! Yet, they all became immigrants when they decided to settle down permanently in the United States.

Each portrait features the subject’s name, country of origin, and language, written in both English and their respective language. To create the color behind each portrait, Alfonso blended all the colors from each subject’s flag of their home country to formulate that single, albeit blended color. For example, the red and white in the Swiss flag become pink behind Dominik Meier’s portrait (on page 62). I wrote personal histories to accompany each portrait to shed light on the challenges of migration and displacement, as well as explore the commonalities of learning to speak English and integrating into American culture. Their stories showcase the incredible creativity and ingenuity of these immigrants in overcoming numerous obstacles in their journey, some of whom have gone on to start companies and obtain graduate degrees.

In speaking with everyone we featured in this book, they have taught me how Richmond is a far more diverse and dynamic city than I ever realized. They truly appreciate America’s freedom, democracy, and the way that their neighbors have accepted them. As a result, I see Richmond and the United States through their eyes. In listening to their stories, I get the sense that they, too, have accomplished their dreams, and in some cases, even their ancestors’ wildest dreams.

“Virginia is for lovers. … But we need to keep that slogan alive,” says Mahmud Chowdhury, originally from Bangladesh (#19 in the series), referring to the state motto of Virginia. “Let’s continue to love each other, be our brother’s keeper and have each other’s back,” says Hannah Adesina, from Nigeria (#17 in the series). Immigrants are here “to demonstrate the best of ourselves, manifest our hopes and dreams,” says Brenda Aroche, from Guatemala (#13 in the series). And Ping Chu from China (#12 in the series) encourages us all in saying, “We need to build up a united country. This is the United States, right?”

The United States has an individualistic culture with an “I” oriented English language. Even though that is the case, the immigrants featured in this book have taught me that when we work together and support one another, WE can become our ancestors’ wildest dreams.

When Chinese New Year celebrations took place on February 1, 2022, the same day that Black History Month began, I learned that 2022 was the year of the tiger. I realized that 2022 couldn’t be a more perfect year for us to launch this book with a symbol of bravery, courage, and strength on our side.

Joe Kutchera is the author of four books and the founder of Latino Link Advisors where he develops digital marketing and content strategies, with an emphasis in reaching the U.S. Hispanic market.

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Education

Inauguration of University of Richmond’s 11th president slated for April 8th

The inauguration of Kevin F. Hallock as the University of Richmond’s 11th president is a celebration of the UR community and will showcase student research, a conversation on higher education with presidents, live music, food, and fireworks. The event is open to the public.

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The inauguration of Kevin F. Hallock as the University of Richmond’s 11th president is slated to be a celebration of the U of R community and will showcase student research, a conversation on higher education with presidents, live music, food, and fireworks. The event is open to the public.

“Inauguration affords us an opportunity to take stock of where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going as an institution,” Hallock said. “I’m immensely proud to be part of a community that has worked so hard to empower students of all backgrounds to take full advantage of the outstanding and distinctive education we offer.”

The event schedule includes:

  • Celebrating Spider Success in Mentored Research: A Discussion, 3 p.m., April 7, Queally Center for Admission and Career Services
  • Inauguration Ceremony, 10:30 a.m., April 8, Robins Center
  • Community Festival, 12:30-3 p.m., April 8, Westhampton Green
  • The Future of Higher Education: A Conversation with University Presidents, 3:30 p.m., April 8, Queally Center for Admission and Career Services
  • Evening Celebration, 7-9:45 p.m., April 8, Millhiser Green in front of the Well-Being Center
  • Spring Football Game (scrimmage), 1 p.m., April 9, Robins Stadium

All events are open to the larger community, and those planning to attend in person should register. Livestreams will be available for several events.

During the inauguration ceremony, Hallock will speak about five priorities: access and affordability, academic excellence, belonging, well-being, and engagement with the greater Richmond community.

“We’ve already done so much terrific work in all of these areas, but as I’ve listened and learned from our community’s diverse views, I’ve recognized we can and should do even better in these areas and invest more of our energy and resources going forward,” Hallock said. “Everyone cares and wants to make the University of Richmond even better. I share that commitment and am so grateful to be a member of this amazing community.”

Prior to coming to Richmond, Hallock spent a total of 26 years on the faculties of the University of Illinois and Cornell University. Most recently, he was dean of Cornell University’s SC Johnson College of Business.

An award-winning teacher, Hallock is a labor market economist and author or editor of 11 books and more than 100 publications. His research has focused on the gender pay gap, executive compensation, and job loss. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University.

He is a fellow of the National Academy of Human Resources and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Will you help support independent, local journalism?

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