Man pre­pares next gen­er­a­tion for col­lege

Some 5,000 stu­dents helped by pro­gram

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY TAFT COGHILL JR.

FREDERICKSBURG, VA. | Xavier Richard­son had no com­plaints about his life while liv­ing and work­ing in New York City.

Af­ter Mr. Richard­son earned a bach­e­lor of arts de­gree in so­ci­ol­ogy and eco­nom­ics from Prince­ton Univer­sity, he landed a job with McKin­sey and Co., a global man­age­ment con­sult­ing firm.

Mr. Richard­son later earned a mas­ter’s in busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion from Har­vard Univer­sity and went to work on Wall Street.

But af­ter the stock mar­ket crashed in 1987, Mr. Richard­son re­turned to his home­town of Fredericksburg.

“I be­lieve that my wife prayed for that stock mar­ket crash so that we could come back home,” Mr. Richard­son said.

His re­turn to his roots gave birth to a life­long pas­sion for com­mu­nity ser­vice. Mr. Richard­son has been an ex­ec­u­tive at Mary Washington Health­care since 1997 and he’s cur­rently the vice pres­i­dent of cor­po­rate de­vel­op­ment and com­mu­nity af­fairs.

But aside from his day job, Mr. Richard­son has made a last­ing im­pact on youth and young adults in the Fredericksburg area.

He founded the Part­ner­ship for Aca­demic Ex­cel­lence in 1989. In 28 years, Mr. Richard­son has helped prepare more than 5,000 stu­dents from 13 dif­fer­ent area high schools for col­lege.

He was ini­tially pin­pointed by men­tor Mar­guerite Young to teach an SAT prepara­tory course but he im­me­di­ately saw a need for much more.

“I de­cided rather than just have an SAT prep class, I’d take a holis­tic ap­proach to work­ing with th­ese stu­dents,” Mr. Richard­son said. “You can teach them how to take the SAT but if they have no idea about fi­nan­cial aid, or if they haven’t been ex­posed to a col­lege or univer­sity they don’t have the hope that they can do it and they’re not go­ing to suc­ceed.”

Mr. Richard­son said his pro­gram is based on a re­la­tion­ship be­tween stu­dents, par­ents, schools and the com­mu­nity. He cites an African proverb — “it takes a whole vil­lage to raise a child” — as the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s foun­da­tion.

James Mon­roe High School teacher Tony Lewis said Mr. Richard­son was in­te­gral in his de­vel­op­ment. Lewis left JM as a stu­dent af­ter his fresh­man year and went on to Blue Ridge School in South­west Vir­ginia to play bas­ket­ball and foot­ball. He picked up a full schol­ar­ship to play bas­ket­ball for Loy­ola Univer­sity in Mary­land.

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Loy­ola, Mr. Lewis earned his mas­ter’s in busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion from Univer­sity of Mary Washington.

Mr. Lewis teaches In­tro­duc­tion to Lead­er­ship and Prin­ci­ples of Busi­ness at JM.

“When I came into the high school as a stu­dent in ’02 you could see the in­flu­ence he had on kids,” Mr. Lewis said of Mr. Richard­son. “Ev­ery­one would grav­i­tate to­ward him. He was known as some­one you need to talk to or be around be­cause he’s go­ing to push you in the right di­rec­tion.”

King Ge­orge na­tive Ryan Smith said Mr. Richard­son be­came a fa­ther fig­ure and men­tor to him be­cause his dad wasn’t ac­tively in­volved in his life.

Mr. Smith, who in­terned un­der Mr. Richard­son at Mary Washington, played col­lege foot­ball for Wil­liam & Mary. He had a stint as a grad­u­ate as­sis­tant coach at Penn State and is now the de­fen­sive backs coach at Elon Univer­sity in North Carolina. Mr. Smith said he coaches be­cause he wants to have a sim­i­lar im­pact on young men as Mr. Richard­son.

That was brought to the fore­front for Mr. Smith dur­ing a meet­ing with his play­ers be­fore the sea­son. Out of 18 de­fen­sive backs, three or four had a re­la­tion­ship with their fa­ther.

“The rest didn’t know their dad or their dad was in­car­cer­ated,” Mr. Smith said. “That brought me back to the rea­son I got into this pro­fes­sion. What [Mr. Richard­son] was in my life I want to be in some­one else’s life.”

ASSOCIATED PRESS

In 1989, Xavier Richard­son founded the Part­ner­ship for Aca­demic Ex­cel­lence. His pro­gram helps stu­dents prepare for col­lege.

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