- Our Distinctive Program
- Our History
- Our Mural of Influential African Americans
- Our Video Presentation
Richmond Community High School (RCHS) is a college preparatory alternative high school with an enrollment of approximately 250 students in grades 9-12 within the Richmond Public Schools. Enrollment is open to all public, private, and home-schooled children who reside in the city. The school is currently housed in the historic J. A. C. Chandler building located at 201 East Brookland Park Boulevard on the city’s north side. RCHS was initiated by the late Andrew J. Asch, Jr., who envisioned a public-private partnership that would provide outstanding education for gifted students whose socio-economic circumstances limited their ability to succeed. Mr. Asch provided leadership as well as giving and garnering financial support to begin the school.
Through a special admission process, students are selected to attend RCHS on the basis of a rated personal interview and performance on tests that examine their creative and general academic ability. According to the principles on which the school was founded, 60 to 75 percent of the admission spaces for incoming freshmen are designated for students from low socio-economic backgrounds.
Academically gifted children from disadvantaged backgrounds have tremendous talents that often remain unrealized. These young people have many strikes against them. They have great potential but society does not expect them to succeed, they have great strength of character but few acceptable leadership models. They have keen minds but frequently do not excel on traditional standardized tests. Their parents, while committed to their children’s education, may not understand the kind of education required for mainstream achievement.
In addition, families and school systems often are not prepared to compete with an environment that sometimes ridicules academic success. To be gifted, young, and African-American can mean walking a tightrope between education and the streets. These students face this challenge – whether their minds or their environment will dominate. One young Richmond Community High student noted, “First I had to fight to be gifted . . . then I had to fight because I was gifted."
In the final analysis, successful students are formed not so much by where they come from but by where they believe they are headed. Richmond Community High School helps to shape that vision.
Richmond Community High School is the only public secondary school in Virginia, and one of few in the nation, that targets academically gifted children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Nearly 60 percent of the school’s 240 plus students come from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, and the majority are African-American. The remaining 40 percent come from middle-class families to create a diverse student body whose members learn from each other’s experiences and views. Since the school began in 1977, it has graduated over 1600 students, most of who otherwise might not have had the chance for reaching their potential and been afforded the opportunity to attend college.
Richmond Community High School actively seeks to enroll students from disadvantaged situations, not only those identified as gifted students but also those whose potential has not been recognized. The principal, counselor and faculty work closely with middle school teachers and counselors from ALL middle school in the Richmond Public Schools System. Students from RCHS often participate in recruitment trips to explain, encourage, and demystify the program. Applicants take a variety of tests, some specially designed to assess the potential of culturally diverse students. Students apply and undergo a round of interviews with teachers, administrators, and students. More than 400 Richmond students, including home-schooled and those from private schools, compete annually for the 60-75 spaces in the entering class at RCHS.
RCHS consistently has produced the highest achievement in its students. Since the inception of RCHS, 100 percent of the RCHS students have been accepted by distinguished institutions of higher education, including Ivy League schools, prestigious engineering and technical universities, and the armed forces academies. Ninety-nine percent have attended college. Each year, the graduating class of roughly 45 students is awarded between 2 million and 3.5 million dollars in financial assistance. Richmond Community High School has received important recognition from around the nation:
- The Carnegie Foundation selected RCHS as one of 200 high schools in the nation that promote excellence in education.
- Kappa Delta Pi, a national honorary fraternity, listed RCHS in it “Report of the Good School Project: One Hundred Good Schools.”
- RCHS won the Redbook Award for the 1991-92 school year.
- Education Week, one of the foremost national school publications, featured RCHS in July 1997.
- In 1998, Charles Osgood’s national radio program featured the school as a model.
- U.S. News & World Report magazine ranked RCHS among the nation’s top 500 high schools for the years, 2007 - 2016.
Richmond Community High School (RCHS) permits students to come to terms with their exceptional abilities. They come face to face with a program that encourages them, often for the first time, to consider a future of promise. The first year is difficult and different for many students. However, the school’s organization and programs promote the nurturing of students at all levels: academically, socially, culturally, and emotionally. At RCHS, students develop the ability to achieve in higher education, to lead in the professions, to serve their communities, and to succeed in their personal lives.
The school insists that parents take an active role in their children’s education. A written contract between the school, students and parents sets forth academic expectations. The school is organized by “family” units instead of homerooms. These “families” combine students from different grade levels, backgrounds, and classes under the leadership of a talented faculty member. Families offer a “protected place” to keep watch over each student and provide the emotional, social, and academic support they need. First-year students engage in a one-week summer orientation program to prepare them for RCHS.
Outstanding teachers offer students a challenging and advanced 4 x 4 academic program. All core classes at RCHS are honors-level, and graduating automatically qualifies a student for the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Advanced Studies Diploma. Students are encouraged to take at least one college-level class at a local university during their four years at RCHS. The school consistently tops all Richmond high schools in SOL achievement and is competitive with the best county schools.
Richmond Community High School strives to enlarge the students’ experiences and give them a “jump start.” Students are exposed to a larger community and to life experiences that they may have missed. An extensive program of enrichment opportunities takes students “outside the walls” and prepares them for their future professional, community, and personal lives. These programs are rare in public schools in the metro area:
The educational principles outlined by Dr. Dabney, combined with community support through the RCHS Advisory Board, has led to a stellar record of graduates prepared academically, culturally, and socially to meet the demands of college and the future.
- A one-week summer orientation program prepares students and parents for a rigorous four-year experience. This program in the only one of its kind in the Richmond Public Schools.
- Three one week long “mini-mesters” allow students to apply what they have learned in science, social studies, and the humanities and art through a camping trip for freshmen, a trip to North Carolina for the sophomores, and a trip to South Carolina for the juniors. Field experiences – locally, nationally, and world wide – enlarge their classroom work.
- Students begin to plan for college in their first year, and visits to college campuses are included as part of the junior “mini-mester.” Students are also matched with mentors in their field of interest. Matriculation at area colleges and universities for at least one course is strongly encouraged.
- Experiences outside the classroom open the larger world of museums, libraries, historic places, theatre and film, musical performances, camps, and environmental explorations.
- Thursday activity blocks offer students special seminars, student-taught classes, field experiences, and other opportunities to complement and enrich their academic work.
- All students must complete a minimum of 150 hours of community service.
- Partnerships with local businesses offer opportunities for career exploration.
Richmond Community High School (RCHS) was initiated in 1977 by the late Andrew J. Asch, Jr., who envisioned a public-private partnership that would provide outstanding education for gifted students whose socioeconomic circumstances limited their ability to succeed. Mr. Asch provided leadership as well as giving and garnering financial support to begin the school.
RCHS was created from a principles set out by respected educator Dr. Margaret Dabney in the “Dabney Document.” Forward thinking in its approach, the Dabney Document outlined principles that hearken back to sound ideas of John Dewey, who believed that good teachers do not merely “teach” as much as they help students learn and build on their experiences. Helping students to gain experience and to build on these experiences is a key component of the RCHS mandate. This document still guides the functioning of the school today.
The school’s early days were full of excitement and hope, although the challenges at times seemed daunting. Initial leaders included the school’s first lead teacher, Barbara-lyn Morris, and Richard Hunter, Superintendent of Richmond Public Schools. Some of the challenges included devising a strong curriculum and environment that would guide these special students into a new vision for their futures. Many entrenched practices – ranking students by grade, class, and grade-point average for example – were not seen as priorities of the program. Family units replaced homerooms. Parents became an integral part of the educational experience.
The school first opened in the Mosque, now Richmond’s Altria Theater. It later moved to the Carver Elementary School, and still later to the Maggie Walker school building. For several years, RCHS was located at the former Westhampton Elementary School at Libbie and Patterson Avenues. Its most recent move has been to the historic Chandler Middle School building at 201 East Brookland Park Boulevard on the city’s north side. The first class graduated in 1981 and, until 1986, the program admitted a class every other year. Since 1986, however, an entering class of approximately 60-75 students has been admitted every year.
Photo of RCHS's first faculty: (front row, left to right) Barbara-lyn Morris (English/1st Principal), Dot Cox (Office Administrator), Linda Lew Rocca (Math Specialist); (back row, left to right) John Hunter (Wellness and Student Well-Being), Dr. Margaret Dabney (originator and VSU program coordinator), Bill Caperton (Social Studies)
In 1981, Wayne Howard, Community's art instructor at the time, created the mural that today hangs on our school's 2nd floor wall, at the Lamb Avenue (west) end of the building. While most of the individuals in this mural are either immediately recognizable or have been positively identified with evidence, a few remain uncorroborated.
This PDF slideshow features photos of each individual in Mr. Howard's mural, juxtaposed with evidence (or possible evidence) of their identity.
If you think you can solve the mystery of individuals #2, #15, or #16, please send an email to rchswebmaster2020 AT gmail DOT com.