RICHMOND, Va. -- After Richmond Public Schools canceled the remainder of the school year and all activities (except for graduations) following Tuesday's deadly shooting in the aftermath of the Huguenot High School graduation, a community leader is stepping up to ensure students can still have a year-end send-off.
"One small step back and two steps forward," said Ricky Johnson, president of the Ricky Johnson Foundation. "It's really important, because, as you say, 'No child left behind', and we got to live on that purpose right now."
He said for the past quarter century he has been focused on helping youth in the Richmond community and so when he heard about the RPS decision
"Because every child has worked for over nine months to achieve one goal and that's to walk across that stage and had that moving on ceremony. Who are we to fail them at that last and final hour?" he said.
Johnson is using his foundation's south Richmond facility to hold send-off ceremonies for groups of elementary and middle schools next week.
"We got backdrops. The building's going to be fully decorated, just as if they was in that school building to make sure they have a wonderful experience," he added.
Johnson said they will also have security on-site and are limiting it to three gusts for each child and no bags will be allowed inside the building.
He added that while the event is free to attend he asked anyone who wanted to help to reach out.
One person already helping is Essie Davis, who is going to providing treats through her nearby bakery, The Treat Shop. Davis is also the grandmother of a Huguenot senior and was at the graduation ceremony when the shooting happened.
"It started off wonderful. I mean, she was excited, we took pictures, everyone was excited to see her walk the stage. And it went from, in an instant it went from everyone just being overly happy about the graduation to just chaos," Davis said, who added her granddaughter had known one of the victims, Shawn Jackson, since they were both in elementary school together and had just finished talking to him. "They had embraced and he had walked off. And unfortunately, that's when everything took place. And no one really knew what was going on. They just knew someone had a gun and they heard gunfire."
As for why she is helping with the event, Davis said she felt it was important to focus on the positives at the end of the year.
"We don't want to overlook the celebration, you know, it is a milestone for them. And we still want to be able to recognize that. And I don't want that to be overshadowed with the tragedy," said Davis.
As of Friday morning, he said 150 families have signed up. The deadline to sign up your child to take part is midnight Friday. You can do so by using the contact form on his foundation's website.
Below is the schedule for the dates and times for the schools as of Friday afternoon:
Monday, June 12 at 10 a.m. (student check-in time is 9:30 a.m.)
- Overby-Sheppard Elementary School,
- George W. Carver Elementary School,
- Thomas H. Henderson Middle School,
- Albert Hill Middle School.
Monday, June 12 at 2:00 p.m. (student check-in time is 1:30 p.m.)
- Chimborazo Elementary School,
- Henry L. Marsh Elementary School,
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School,
- Woodville Elementary School.
Tuesday, June 13 at 10 a.m. (student check-in time is 9:30 a.m.)
- Oak Grove-Bellemeade Elementary School,
- Lucille M. Brown Middle School,
- Westover Hills Elementary School.
Tuesday, June 13 at 2:00 p.m.
- Thomas C. Boushall Middle School,
- J.H. Blackwell Elementary School,
- J.L. Francis Elementary School.
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