Supported by Friends of Richmond Community High School (see the 2021-2022 "At a Glance" report here), the RCHS Alumni Association coordinates graduates of RCHS in programs that provide opportunities to socialize and reconnect, to serve communities, and to volunteer in ways that help the school. To learn more, contact Tamisha Williams '02 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Destiny Pryor '16
- Sterling DeMascio '22
- Charles Curtis '99
- Milani Cargill '21
- Ke'Aja Jefferson '16
- Cameron Harris '04
- Michael Ayers Trotti '83
- TK Johnson '18
Destiny Pryor '16
1. What is your fondest memory of Community? The freshmen camping trip will have to be my most fond memory at RCHS. I was looking forward to this trip since freshmen orientation and it lived up to my imagination. This weeklong experience taught me some of the most valuable lessons of my life and gave me some of my closest friends in life.
2. What was the most valuable lesson you took away from Community? Be the type of person you want to meet.
3. Can you tell us about your current career and about the path you took to get where you are? I’m currently a Microbiology and Immunology Ph.D. student at VCU studying allergic asthma. My passion for research began very young when I did the MSI Program at University of Richmond from 6th-12th grade. From there, I attended the University of Richmond for a bachelor's in Biology. I worked for a short while as a Medical Technologist before beginning a post-baccalaureate research program at VCU. Once that program ended, I enrolled into VCU’s Ph.D. program. My goal is to enter academia and to be a full-time professor.
4. What specific advice can you offer a Pharaoh who is interested in pursuing a career in your field? Begin to look into research opportunities early, as many may be outside of Richmond and might even come with summer stipends. Always be open to volunteering or interning with someone who you look up to and want to learn from.
5. What would you most want Community's students to keep in mind as they consider the relationship between their personal and professional lives? Listen to your intuition. Not every job position, salary, or location may be the right fit for you. Remain open and allow growth to happen organically.
6. What book—fiction or non-fiction—would you recommend to Community's students as they approach adulthood? Why this book? Atomic Habits by James Clear. Breaking old habits and generating new ones is essential to all aspects of our lives, young and old. As you begin college life, enter the workforce, or anything in between, it will be important to create habits that will produce a better version of yourself. This will require daily, intentional decisions that you must make, and this book helps build that skill.
Sterling DeMascio '22
1. What is your fondest memory of Community? I have lots of great memories from Community, but my favorite is probably the band trip in late 2019 to the Midwest Convention in Chicago. It was such a great time with some great friends, and I have a ton of fantastic memories from it.
2. What was the most valuable lesson you took away from Community? The best lesson I learned from Community is the importance of being self responsible. Academically, Community was very rigorous, and I learned that in order to succeed I needed to hold myself accountable for completing my work and turning it in on time.
3. Can you tell us about where you are these days and what you're doing? Currently, I am a Psychology student at VCU with a minor in Sociology, and I am in a band, MISC., which is currently playing shows and growing traction in the Richmond music scene. We have one single out and are in the process of releasing our first full-length project.
4. What specific advice can you offer a Pharaoh who is interested in doing what you're doing? Schoolwise, I can not stress enough the importance of finding a good schedule that allows you to do your homework in a timely manner. Falling behind in college can feel like a disaster! Musically, I would say trust yourself and have confidence in your art. And the biggest tip is make friends and connections with good people in the scene that can help you grow.
5. What would you most want Community's students to keep in mind as they consider their post-high-school options? Understand that college isn't for everyone. If you have a passion or you think your talents could be better suited elsewhere, do not feel obligated to go to school. I would say most students in college don't have a real passion for their major, and many end up wasting their time and money. Take a gap year, explore yourself, and learn who you are. School isn't going anywhere!
6. What book—fiction or non-fiction—would you recommend to Community's students as they approach adulthood? Why this book? The book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie was a life-changing book for me. It revolutionized the way I interact with people and has helped me in both professional and day-to-day relationships. It has made me smarter, wiser, and—most importantly—more kind.
Charles Curtis '99
1. What is your fondest memory of Community? The familial connections made while pushing us to embrace the agency of resistance. I recall this heavy struggle the fall of '96, if I am not mistaken (my Sophomore year), when several of us stopped saluting during the pledge of allegiance. Several morning meeting times were taken, along with an entire school meeting midday, to address the resistance. I recall several of my peers and instructors did not prefer the actions we chose, while Mr. Wagner and a few others made a point to hold space for our resistance and even encourage it (even though it was not their personal preference at all). The agreement was never the point. Community as an institution embraced the struggle as an example of why critical thought, especially about our exo-community, was a key to being responsible thinkers.
2. What was the most valuable lesson you took away from Community? That I was an elite thinker. I do not say that with vanity but I do say it with certainty. After having done a ton of school and making a profession of being present in schools, I've been exposed to a broad and robust sample of thinkers. I have yet to come across an institution that developmentally pushes intense and complex thought, as a norm, at a level comparable to Community. Also, my capacity to "do school" has always outshined my horsepower, if I am being honest. School was happening in Community, and it showed everywhere I went afterwards.
3. Can you tell us about your current career and about the path you took to get where you are? I am a clinical and school psychologist by education. I went to Morehouse College and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. I immediately enrolled at University of Virginia, where I graduated with a Master of Education in Educational Psychology and Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical & School Psychology. I have worked in schools since graduating from UVA in 2008 as a psychologist but with various slants. For example, I worked in residential and day treatment settings on the school side as a unique interventionist for some of the most vulnerable young people as identified by their school districts. Similarly, I worked as a psychologist in a DC Public Charter School working with some of the most concerning young people as a programmatic coordinator and interventionist focused on keeping them from being suspended while empowering their engagement. For the last seven years, I have worked as a restorative operator and administrator in the only all-male, DC Public High School with focus on disrupting the school to prison pipeline for the district's most vulnerable population. I also operate my own private practice currently where I provide therapeutic and assessment services in the virtual space.
4. What specific advice can you offer a Pharaoh who is interested in pursuing a career in your field? Psychology is broad and wide. I would suggest pushing to specialization, with credentials that eliminate the possibility of closed doors. Doctoral degrees in psychology also carry different keys to doors. For example, a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) is comprehensive and allows one access to expertise in pretty much any area of the discipline, whereas a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) is very specific to the clinical practice of psychology with limits on acceptability in other spaces. Whichever one's chosen pathway, my most sincere advice is to move in professional spaces where you are celebrated. A professional healer's work is intense and requires a very unique understanding of one's destiny in order to do it well. Be sure to move professionally in spaces that value you as evidenced in time, compensation, and overall interpersonal experience.
5. What would you most want Community's students to keep in mind as they consider the relationship between their personal and professional lives? Personal and professional lives exist in separate spaces, primarily in theory. In practice, your life is one unified reality that consists of multiple domains (profession and personal included). Create a life for yourself where they both feed each other well and coexist in ease. As revolutionaries, as resisters, as catalysts for change, as healers, as creatives, we do not spend enough time making space for the multiple phenomena that exist within us. No one will make space for you. Take up space wherever you are in a way that allows all of your parts to thrive.
6. What book—fiction or non-fiction—would you recommend to Community's students as they approach adulthood? Why this book? Malidoma Patrice Somé's Of Water and Spirit is, of itself, a coming-of-age story that centers health, wholeness, and love in the context of one's community. It is so remarkably outside of the American, capitalist, Euroecentric norm of understanding that it almost reads like a fiction. As a healer, a husband, a father, a son, and a man with desire to be useful to his people, there is no better book for a young mind to engage as a means of detoxifying their mind while also reshaping the boundaries through which they will engage their physical and existential worlds.
Milani Cargill '21
1. What is your fondest memory of Community? My fondest memory of Community is Harvest Fest. Harvest Fest was always my favorite tradition because of the events we had. I loved doing Dancing with the Stars and having the field day for the second half of school. My dad was always able to come hang out with me during Harvest Fest. Even more, I enjoyed the returning students coming back to visit because I missed most of them.
2. What was the most valuable lesson you took away from Community? It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to be able to reach out to your teachers and peers when you’re struggling because they will be there for you. They want to be there for you. Going along with that, if you can, it’s also important to be that person that someone can reach out to, too.
3. Can you tell us about where you are these days and what you're doing? I am currently attending Norfolk State University and I am majoring in Mass Communications with a concentration in Journalism. I recently self-published a poetry book on Amazon, titled ugly fry. That was a passion project of mine that I started in early December. I wanted a place to be vulnerable and I wanted to let people, that feel what I feel, know that they are not alone. At school, I am working on producing a show. The show will be run by students and feature students as a way to engage with everyone on the campus. I’m currently waiting for that project to be greenlit so that we can start filming. This semester, I will also be joining Spartan Echo, which is the school’s magazine, as a creative and lifestyle writer.
4. What specific advice can you offer a Pharaoh who is interested in doing what you're doing? Believe in yourself and what you are capable of! Self-doubt and comparisons are killers. No one is able to do what you can do, so you just have to trust yourself enough to take that leap. However, also understand that you do not have to do it alone. It’s always okay to ask for support.
5. What would you most want Community's students to keep in mind as they consider their post-high-school options? I want students to remember that it is important to live life. Education is not the only thing that matters; your happiness does as well.
6. What book—fiction or non-fiction—would you recommend to Community's students as they approach adulthood? Why this book? A nonfiction book that I would recommend is What a Time to be Alone by Chidera Eggerue. This book really helped me during my senior year and during my transition into college. It’s sort of like a self-help book, but it guides you through important things, such as setting boundaries.
Ke'Aja Jefferson '16
1. What is your fondest memory of Community? My fondest memory would have to be when we visited New York City for a week in my sophomore year. I was a sixteen year old in NYC with all of my best friends. We were given freedom to explore within reason, saw the ballet, a play, the Metropolitan Art Museum, 9/11 memorial, Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island.
2. What was the most valuable lesson you took away from Community? You do not have to finish first, as long as you finish and know that you gave it your best. I graduated #5 out of my class of 57 and we were very competitive. After a while, I realized my friends’ success did not mean I was lacking success. We could all win together in our own respective ways and styles. It is very important to celebrate the achievements of others and not get so caught up in being the best. I let my work speak for itself, strive to always treat people with respect no matter their title, and prioritize enjoying what I do. I know that as long as I am true to myself, I’ll land where I am meant to be.
3. Can you tell us about your current career and about the path you took to get where you are? I am currently a Project Engineer with Southland Industries at our office in Philadelphia, PA. Southland is one of the leading specialty mechanical contractors in the nation. I graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in Building Construction in 2021. When I started at VT in 2016 I had the goal of becoming a civil engineer and building bridges. Through a series of events, I switched majors in my third year to Building Construction and found the perfect career that I did not realize even existed. I wanted to focus on building systems, the more complex side of building, but my major did not offer that as a track. I took extra classes, purchased textbooks, joined clubs, and competed in competitions to make me a strong candidate for companies like the one I work for today.
4. What specific advice can you offer a Pharaoh who is interested in pursuing a career in your field? My advice to those interested in a career similar to mine is to first make sure you are getting into a career you will love doing. And second, what you put in it is what you will get out of it. I love my job more than the average person. I am constantly learning and feeling challenged so I never grow bored. Plus, there is so much satisfaction is seeing something go from a pile of dirt to a multi-story building that will stand and serve for decades to come. My last note would be not to let what you look like or what you have been through stop you from chasing your dreams. I had very humble beginnings and suffered a lot through my childhood, but in school I found my safe haven. I am a first generation college student and had to learn everything the hard way, but I made it out and I am very proud of where I am.
5. What would you most want Community's students to keep in mind as they consider the relationship between their personal and professional lives? I was raised by my grandparents, so my siblings and I default to, “Yes sir, No sir, Yes ma’am and No ma’am.” You would think we were robots with wiring as such. For an adult to ask us to drop the sir or ma’am is like sticking a knife into the heart of our server. I advise you to be that way. Always remain humble no matter the accolades or achievements. I would say I am the same person at home that I am at work. I respect my boss the way I respect my grandmother. When you respect others, it shows a respect for yourself.
6. What book—fiction or non-fiction—would you recommend to Community's students as they approach adulthood? Why this book? This one is a little hard for me since I everything I read is Christian. My first thought would be the Bible. When an individual comes into a place where they have humbled themself and seek to live a life of service, things change. You have joy even when life seems upside down; you have faith even when it seems everything is against you.
Cameron Harris '04
1. What is your fondest memory of Community? Offsite, minimesters, teachers (see my response to #3 below).
2. What was the most valuable lesson you took away from Community? Having Black teachers that really cared helped me to believe anything was possible. I also learned so much about the possibility of studying and education from my classmates. I hate to name drop but I will. I remember being in the 10th grade struggling to find my way in school and life. I was in the second semester German class with a Junior named Lenora Robinson. I remember how organized and studious she was. It was not just her organization that really moved me; it was her kindness. I never had my homework done and was rarely prepared. She never made fun of me and only encouraged me. I remember thinking to myself, If I am ever going to become what I know I can be, I will have to do things differently. I learned so many skills from my classmates like Lenora Robinson.
3. Can you tell us about your current career and about the path you took to get where you are? I have taken a very circuitous path to arrive as a professor and creative producer. [Here is an interview with Professor Harris about his documentary "In Our Words."] I started off majoring in history at 18 years old thinking that I wanted to become a lawyer. However, I soon realized I had no desire to practice law. I spent the next 18 years learning everything I could about the art of storytelling. I studied abroad in Germany, Taiwan, and Austria. I lived overseas in Thailand and Singapore for a few years. I traveled to Ukraine, Poland, South Africa, and South Korea! I met my RCHS classmate Alex Brown in Tokyo during a tsunami. We were both members of the 2004 graduating class of RCHS and then again of the 2008 Hampton University class. I learned that I would have to create my own path to have the life I wanted to live. The more I learned about the world and humanity, the better I was able to create meaningful characters. I became comfortable being uncomfortable. I learned that time takes time and when I take my time and move slowly, I make fewer mistakes. When the inevitable setbacks of life happen they become easier to navigate when I am taking my time and moving slowly. My AP history teacher, Mrs. Westbrook, told me in June of 2003, “I see a young man struggling with who he is and what he is destined to become." It took me 18 years to understand how true that statement was. Ms. Barbara Gray, my biology and family teacher, looked after me as if I were a child of her own and showed me grace when I didn't deserve it. I have been able to push on because of these extraordinary teachers and in spite of myself! I now instill these same lessons in my students and in the art I seek to create. This long circuitous path in my career has taught me to enjoy where I am, to be grateful for what I have, and to remember what I think didn’t work out, actually worked out for me! (READ THAT AGAIN!!!!) I am now on the path of living the life I could have never dreamed of!
4. What specific advice can you offer a Pharaoh who is interested in pursuing a career in your field? The creative industry requires a level of tenacity and humility that can test the strongest willed person. Learn to motivate yourself and find your North Star! [Here is Professor Harris's YouTube page, where he interviews older students abut their career paths.]
5. What would you most want Community's students to keep in mind as they consider the relationship between their personal and professional lives? The concept of balance is very important. It is important to find out what you want for your life and not what someone else wants for your life. The second question to consider is, What is this going to cost me to have what I think I want?
6. What book—fiction or non-fiction—would you recommend to Community's students as they approach adulthood? James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time
Michael Ayers Trotti '83
1. What is your fondest memory of Community? Perhaps going to Tennessee to a World’s Fair, or the senior class’s beach trip at graduation. There were many!
2. What was the most valuable lesson you took away from Community? My years at RCHS were formative for me. There is not one lesson that stands out, but altogether I learned so much not just academically but in terms of how you can accomplish things if you focus and work hard.
3. Can you tell us about your current career and about the path you took to get where you are? I am a professor of history at Ithaca College, and I just published my second book, The End of Public Execution. (For more, see the UNC Press website for the book!) I went from RCHS to Hampshire College in Massachusetts and loved it, but also, I did not know what I was doing. I took a leave of absence for a year to figure stuff out, went back, dropped out, finally figured stuff out, and finished my career at VCU, earning a history BA with an English minor. After some more twists and turns – life is full of these – I went to graduate school at UNC, Chapel Hill, where I earned my Masters and my PhD (go Heels!). I have been teaching at Ithaca College since 1999.
4. What specific advice can you offer a Pharaoh who is interested in pursuing a career in your field? Being a teacher is wonderful. It is lots of work, but also very rewarding. Teaching at the college level means getting at PhD in most fields, and that takes something like 8 more years of schooling past college: a real sacrifice, although grad school is a tremendous amount of fun (if you are a nerd who likes the subject!). It is like a calling: it requires commitment to make it through the years of schooling and then a troublesome job market, but if you have that commitment, it can be terrific. Much more in demand (jobs are open throughout the nation) and more accessible (requires a MA degree rather than a PhD) would be teaching high school or middle school social studies.
5. What would you most want Community's students to keep in mind as they consider the relationship between their personal and professional lives? You need balance. I’ve spent much of my life trying to find it: I am one of the millions of us who suffer from anxiety and depression, and that has affected me from my years at RCHS to now. Balance is key. There is not one path we’re supposed to be on – we each find our own way, and we can make it work out for us. A professional life is not something that is given us or that just appears; it is built. It takes lots and lots of hard work to be not just marginally OK in your work, but the sort of excellent that means you’re the one who gets that nice shiny promotion and finally you get the job you wanted. Real life takes effort. But while doing that building, we have to stay sane! The people around you – your community – are something that will feed you, but they are also something to invest in. At some point in your personal or professional life, the proverbial poop is going to hit the fan in some way. That’s just a part of what life is. And that is true for all those around you who you care about as well. We get through this thing not as individuals, but together. And we’ll mess up along the way: keep learning, keep building. What’s the saying? “Fail better”. I’m doing well in my career, but, wow, do I ever have stories of failing.
6. What book—fiction or non-fiction—would you recommend to Community's students as they approach adulthood? Can’t do this: one book? I’m a professor. I want to mention 40. Here are a few, briefly, divided by theme. Feeling like the world/Covid is just pretty dark? Open up Ross Gay’s light and lovely Book of Delights. It reminds you, page after page, about what is good in the world. Wanting to be a writer or just enjoy a hilarious (but meaningful) writer making fun of her life? See if Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird is your thing. Want to read one of the best novels ever written? See if Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man draws you in. A defining book for me when I was at RCHS was J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings: such a rich and complex world he created. If I really had to choose one book, I might have to go with The Autobiography of Malcolm X because it is just so very rich and rewarding: he lived many different lives, and the book raises huge questions that are very worth raising, both in terms of the world, or in terms of identity and what we believe in. Or what I think of as the best graduation speech ever, published as a little book: Anna Quindlen’s A Short Guide to a Happy Life. Why aren’t we all reading this tiny book – it can be read in 30 minutes or less – every year?
TK Johnson '18
1. What is your fondest memory of Community? My fondest memory of Community has got to be the Chicago Midwest Clinic trip. RCHS has always offered a lot of different experiences to students who otherwise may not have had the option to enjoy them, and I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Exploring a larger world of music with like-minded individuals at a young age contributed to my overall appreciation for the art. My eyes opened when I witnessed students half my age playing with the level of skill I possessed at the time; it made me go shed, haha.
2. What was the most valuable lesson you took away from Community? The most valuable lesson I took from Community was how to breeze through a paper. Whew!
3. Can you tell us about your current career and about the path you took to get where you are? I have been fortunate and blessed to make a living doing what I love: playing drums. Music has been the only career path I have wanted to pursue since I was 12, so I made sure that was the only option. I did not have a plan B; I only had one vision. So, I learned, practiced, participated in activities that would better my craft, and I surrounded myself with people who were better than me. My mindset throughout Community was, "Get good grades, get into Berklee," and I did just that.
4. What specific advice can you offer a Pharaoh who is interested in pursuing a career in your field?
- NETWORK! You won't make it very far if you don't intend on staying in the house.
- BE KIND! I asked Grammy award-winning drummer and musician Robert Sput Searight to name some qualities or attributes that you would say are a must if you want to be a successful professional full-time musician. He responded, "Nobody wants to work with an asshole."
- COMPARISON KILLS! DO YOU BOO!!!
5. What would you most want Community's students to keep in mind as they consider the relationship between their personal and professional lives? Community students should always keep boundaries between the personal and the professional. Don't let a good relationship get in the way of business, especially when it's your boss. Also, speak up for yourself because this here is life, so if you don't, nobody will.
6. What book—fiction or non-fiction—would you recommend to Community's students as they approach adulthood? Why this book? Me? Recommend a book? Come on now.