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Nextup RVA providing free enrichment courses for middle schoolers

Posted at 1:07 PM, May 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-14 13:07:12-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- COVID-19 may have forced school kids out of the classroom, but the learning forges on. Most are turning to technology to keep up with school assignments.

Virtual meetings with teachers and classmates are welcome distractions to break the monotony of the quarantine.

Now, a local nonprofit is making sure some Richmond middle schoolers have more than school work to keep busy.

“We look at what we are doing as giving kids an hour four times a day. We have four classes every day Monday through Friday. Kids can log in and participate in these live classes free of charge,” Barbara Sipe explained.

Sipe is the CEO and President of NextUp RVA. The local nonprofit partners during the school year with five Richmond middle schools to provide after school enrichment courses. She says the pandemic pushed their programs online.

Starting this week, the nonprofit is expanding programming to include students in all eight Richmond middle schools.

Their days start off with 10 a.m. classes through their Visual Arts Center, like mindfulness and art and so much more.

“That starts with reflection, yoga and then art. We also have a financial literacy class with MH West & Company, where they will be learning the importance of money. They will learn business planning and entrepreneur work,” Sipe explained.

Eighth grader Shiane Taylor participates in four online classes offered daily.

“I’ve enjoyed the exercise classes and dance class like Latin salsa and hip hop,” Taylor said.

Sixth grader Elmer Quijano says his favorite activity through NextUp RVA is tech connect, where he was introduced to robotics.

He’s glad to know that now more middle schoolers will be able to join in on a variety of online classes.

“Classes I never thought I’d be doing. Some, I thought were boring but when I got to do them, I found out they were actually really fun. We have a cooking class and a hip hop class and a DIY class. DIY class is fun because it’s mostly creating stuff that you normally didn’t know you could do” Quijano said.

“It gives kids who probably couldn’t do it on their own a chance to actually do it for free. Parents don’t have to worry about any expenses” Taylor added.

The goal is to open up another world for students beyond school work. Sipes believes it gives them all a chance to build their confidence and strong social connections.

"School work is very important. It’s absolutely important that we all are learning reading and getting in our math content, history and science," said Sipe. "We can also learn those skills through cooking classes, art and dance. Being able to have a way to discover your talents and explore your curiosities. Those things build students’ confidence and social connections. They find other kids who are into the things that they are into."

Online classes in the portal are led by NextUp RVA’s network of 50 local, high-quality program providers. They include the YMCA of Greater Richmond, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond, the Science Museum of Richmond, Project Yoga Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Forensic Science, Sports Backers, the Latin Ballet of Virginia, the Visual Arts Center and the Metropolitan Business League.

The NextUp RVA online courses are now open to all RPS middle school students. For more information on enrolling your student, click here. You can register on the home page. The online sessions will run through August.