20 YEARS STRONG: REFLECTIONS ON THE CONNECTIONS INSTITUTE [PART I]
For twenty years, the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities’ Harold M. Marsh, Sr. Connections Institute (known in its early years as the Metrotown Institute) has helped students to break barriers, learn effective strategies to deal with biased behavior, and develop action plans to reduce prejudice in their schools. What started as a weeklong experience in Richmond has developed into a body of programming that reaches thousands of students and adults across Virginia each year. And program alumni are sharing what they have learned locally, nationally, and around the world.
To celebrate this anniversary, alumni and friends are participating in the “20/20 Campaign: A Vision for a More Inclusive Virginia” to raise funds to sustain the program’s future. The Cheats Movement and VCIC invited program alumni from the Richmond area to share their reflections.
“Connections (Metrotown when I attended in 1994), helped me develop a context and framework for thinking about diversity, differences, and learning from one another. I find myself constantly drawing on that week in 1994 at the Unviersity of Richmond; remembering to ask questions with the intent of learning, not of challenging. I seek out those who don’t look or sound like me so that I may learn from them and, hopefully, help them grow as well. Connections is aptly renamed, as it is truly about finding the things that connect us as people, as humans, and allowing that to guide us, instead of the familiar. It is about understanding and embracing our differences, and, as a result, becoming better people for it. I am truly grateful for that experience, and hope others will continue to grow as I have over the past ~20 years as a result of that one life changing week.” Rasheeda Matthews, Class of 1994, Director, Partnerships, Capital One Labs
|“Metrotown provided me a unique opportunity to engage with peers from across the Richmond region. What we found as we discussed our perceived differences was that we had far more in common than we didn’t. The experience was eye opening and enriching. Lifelong relationships and friendships were formed. Our class was also the beneficiary of mentoring by Mr. Marsh before his untimely death as well as the then-NCCJ Executive Director Dr. Jeff Spence. Congratulations on your 20th Anniversary!” Chris Peace, Class of 1993, Attorney and Member of the House of Delegates
|“Connections, as a whole, was my escape. The environment opened my eyes to the potential others saw inside me while being in an environment that helped enhance others’ potential. My time spent at Connections sent me to a dream world where people could truly understand one another through meaningful conversations led by the wonderful staff and group leaders. These people stayed dedicated to the youth, because they have gone through the same experience at Connections in the past. Nothing will ever compare to Connections, and at that I say, thank you.” Eric Luu, Class of 2012, Student, Glen Allen High School
“The Metrotown program has changed its name over the years, but it’s refreshing to see the core mission remains the same: educating future leaders to be open minded, compassionate and accepting of others, in spite of our differences. If anyone asks, I’ll gladly tell them, Metrotown changed my life. It was empowering to see others like me who accepted others and embraced the differences that make our world so great. I am excited for the great things this program is doing and the future leaders of change it continues to cultivate.” – Carl Coffey, Class of 2006, Process Coordinator, Capital One
“Being a part of the Connections Institute was a great experience for me because not only did I have a personal relationship with the Marsh family, but I learned so much. While at Connections, I learned about important issues plaguing our society and how to combat them. I learned how to be more open minded without compromising my own beliefs, and I gained important tips on making my school a more inclusive place.” Kathryn Threatt, Class of 2012, Student, St. Catherine’s School