For many kids, high school and college is an exciting and memorable time in their lives. But imagine what it would be like to go through this challenging and important phase without family support, without the tools to learn, and without a place to sleep at night. Change the World RVA, winner of the 2016 Governor’s Award for Outstanding Community Organization, is the only organization in Central Virginia specifically addressing the needs of high school and college students who face homelessness. An all-volunteer organization, Change the World saw an overwhelming need in the community – with nearly 1,800 homeless students in Richmond Public Schools alone. Teams of caring adults provide help to these students with housing, school supplies, transportation, positive encouragement, and more. These adults and young people have become a strong family unit, supporting one another, having fun together, and planning their lives together.
Students receive assistance beyond high school into their college careers – a time when they need stability and support even more. Change the World RVA teaches students to network, to form relationships with adults and peers, and encourages them to “pay it forward.” The students run a food pantry and clothing closet with very little assistance from adults, and volunteer with various organizations. Many of these students have gone on to college receiving scholarships and accolades at their universities. They have also become powerful advocates working to shift stereotypes about the homeless and strive to shed light on systemic issues that need to change in order to solve this problem. Change the World RVA is special because it recognizes each student as having unique gifts and talents and encourages them to take it upon themselves to help those qualities grow and transform lives.