Podium RVA: Empowering Youth Through the Written Word

Podium RVA: Empowering Youth Through the Written Word

Photos courtesy of Podium RVA

“Every young person should have the opportunity to have their voice heard.”

Each month we highlight a community program that aligns with the values of SoulVision Magazine. We believe engaging with one’s community is critical to fostering positive change in the world.

Podium RVA serves and empowers youth (ages 10-19) in the greater Richmond area to become “confident and capable writers and communicators with the skills necessary to succeed in college, career, and life.” Podium envisions a community where all Richmond youth have access to college application and essay expertise, career and college readiness programs, and mentoring. “We envision a Richmond where education and opportunity are offered, elevated, and attainable by all,” Development Director Joni Albrecht says.

Podium’s mentors meet weekly with students for a year of workshops, focused on honing their writing skills. Mentors prepare their students to contribute to Podium’s Annual Youth Literary Journal and quarterly zines. Students will also be able to contribute to Podium’s soon-to-be launched area-wide digital magazine. In the past, Podium has showcased their student’s work to the Richmond community through hosted virtual and in-person sessions.

Podium is partnering with NextUP, a collaborative community initiative, on a new writing and communications program. The program aims to close the high school readiness gap of eighth-graders in Richmond Public Schools. “Our theme this year is ‘Step. Write. Up.’ When students take the risk to step up to the podium and use the power of writing and expression to share what’s on their minds, they will experience an uplifting transformation,” Joni says.

To promote educational equity in the city, Podium is building “a scholarship and sustainability campaign” called The Pedestal Fund. Podium will officially announce The Pedestal Fund at their annual gala, the RVA Celebrity Dish. The gala will take place on October 1, 2020, at The Diamond in Richmond, Virginia. Podium will be “dishing” Soulidifly CEO and Chairman BK Fulton, Squirrels Baseball Manager Todd “Parney” Parnell, longtime Richmond preschool teacher Anne F. Waldruff, and Virginia state Senator Jennifer McClellan. The event will be experienced in-person and remotely.

“We envision a Richmond where education and opportunity are offered, elevated, and attainable by all.”

Podium is also proud to announce a generous inaugural endowed gift from their longtime supporters Robert and Anne Waldruff. The gift will establish the Anne F. Waldruff Excellence in Education Scholarship. “The scholarship will be the first of many opportunities to help Richmond youth pursue their dream of higher education and workforce readiness,” Joni says.

Ultimately, Podium RVA wants every youth in the city of Richmond to live with the expectation that they will achieve greatness. “We picture a Richmond known for restoration and progress, where ‘at-risk’ youth are embraced as ‘at-opportunity’ youth and are empowered to achieve their full potential,” Joni says. “We see these students as living monuments to a city that helped them dream bigger, go further, and reach higher.”

To learn more about Podium RVA, you can visit and follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.