Richmond Families Initiative

The Richmond Families Initiative (RFI) addresses community-identified needs of Richmond-area children and families through partnerships between the University of Richmond and community organizations. An issue-based program focused on children and families, RFI connects UR and community resources in order to build our region’s capacity to support families and children.

Students who are interested in understanding the needs of vulnerable children and families and who would like to volunteer with organizations that address those needs are a good fit for the Richmond Families Initiative (RFI).

Depending on a student's area of interest and availability, there are multiple ways to get involved, including:

Founded in 2008, RFI is located at UR Downtown alongside the University of Richmond School of Law's multidisciplinary Lipman Family Law Clinic and Carrico Center for Pro Bono Service and the School of Continuing Studies' Partners in the Arts. Together, these programs provide multiple ways for UR faculty, staff, and students to partner in our community for social change.


For RFI partners accepting volunteers in fall 2013, site-specific orientations are listed on their respective partner pages.

Students can apply to serve on the Richmond Families Initiative (RFI) Action Group. Action Group members support the work of the RFI staff, including planning and coordinating education and social programs and facilitating team-building among site cohorts. They are also the primary liaisons between site supervisors, other RFI volunteers, and Bonner Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) staff.

In addition to fulfilling the responsibilities of RFI volunteers, Action Group members are required to:

  • Participate in at least one issue-based program per year about a topic relevant to the RFI. Topics might include, but are not limited to: urban public education, adoption and foster care, workforce development, community development and revitalization. Issue-based programs are educationally grounded discussions or presentations sponsored by the CCE or other campus departments, or off-campus meetings or events that help to contextualize the work of the RFI.
  • Attend regular RFI Action Group meetings with the RFI program manager (scheduled at the beginning of each semester)
  • Help plan RFI community building events
  • Assist with social media management

Any student who has served with the RFI for at least one semester is eligible to apply for the Action Group.

Students who are interested in understanding the needs of vulnerable children and families and who would like to volunteer with organizations that address those needs are a good fit for the Richmond Families Initiative (RFI).

Depending on a student's area of interest and availability, there are multiple ways to get involved, including:

Volunteers can register for the RFI at the beginning of each semester. Registered volunteers are matched with an RFI partner organization and are expected to commit at least one hour of service per week. Volunteers are encouraged to continue their service from one semester to the next, as sustained volunteers meet a critical capacity-building need for our partners.

Students in community-based learning courses engage with RFI partner organizations in fulfillment of course requirements. CBL courses help RFI partners accomplish many project-based assignments that they could otherwise not accomplish. University of Richmond students and faculty become critical resources to the non-profit agency.

Students interested in aligning their research interests with the RFI are encouraged to meet with the program manager to discuss research opportunities.

The RFI believes that students are equal partners in the partnership formula and are invited to participate in RFI programming as schedules allow. Transportation, meeting space, and other types of resources are available through the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) and University of Richmond Downtown to maximize volunteer experiences, helping students to become better partners for the RFI network.

What Does an RFI Volunteer Do?
Depending on the partner site’s needs, the time of day, and the student’s interest, an RFI volunteer can participate in a wide range of activities, including assisting with preschool and after-school programs, working in administrative offices, working with seniors, and assisting with farmers' markets.
Community-Based Learning

Community-based learning (CBL) is a rich pedagogy that integrates academic theory with community-based experiential learning. Community-based learning courses enable students to have a broad understanding and engage in problem-solving efforts for community-identified needs.

The Richmond Families Initiative (RFI) teams up with faculty members each semester to enrich their course objectives with engagement in the community.

In fall 2013, the following courses are affiliated with the RFI:

Course Number Course Name Faculty
LDST 205 Justice and Civil Society Hayter
PSYC 329 Educational Psychology Jamison
PFYS 100 Democracy and Education Snaza
IDST 290 SSIR: Living a Life of Consequence Kocher
AMST 398 SSIR: Urban Americas Howard
EDUC 318 U/ 518U Diverse Learners Amann
SOC 335 Feast & Famine: Inequalities in the Global Food System Ransom

Sustained partnerships with community organizations anchor the Richmond Families Initiative (RFI). Partners of the RFI provide volunteer opportunities to University of Richmond students throughout the academic year, helping students develop and realize their potential.

Partners stay in close communication with the RFI about their organizations' needs so that the RFI can develop ways to meet those needs. Some ways that the RFI can help include: enlisting a student researcher to bring new light to an issue, matching volunteers with a partner's program, and helping a faculty member develop a course with a community-based learning focus on the organization.

The four non-profit partners currently affiliated with the RFI are:

The RFI also partners with other University programs, like Women Involved in Living and Learning (WILL) and Oliver Hill Scholars, to provide opportunities to students who are interested in volunteering with or carrying out research into the needs of Richmond's children and families.

Location and Contacts

The Richmond Families Initiative is located at UR Downtown, 626 E. Broad Street. Contact Kim Dean at (804) 955-4006 or for more information.

Contact an Action Group Member
Zach Francis, '14, current volunteer with William Byrd Community Center
Alisha Cerel, '14, current volunteer with William Byrd Community House