HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Once a month, you can find dozens of men from all walks of life in the hallways of The Academy at Virginia Randolph in Henrico County. All these men have one thing in common.
They are there to make a difference in the life of a young male student.
The Academy at Virginia Randolph is an alternative school in Glen Allen that serves students from challenging backgrounds. A majority of the students are males. The program is called the 100 Men Challenge and Virginia Randolph is participating in the initiative for the second consecutive year.
Principal Jesse Casey says the goal of the program is to provide students with strong male role models in their lives.
“A lot of our students come from one parent household. A lot of times fathers might not be present. Sometimes a man might not be present,” said Casey.
Casey says he was inspired to start the initiative after a program called Girls Day Out was created for female students.
“We wanted something sustainable for young males,” said Casey. “We want them to know that the community cares about them.”
The 100 Men Challenge invites men from various professions to campus once a month to mentor, motivate, and encourage male students. On the third Thursday of every month, dozens of men greet students upon their arrival, eat breakfast with them, and walk with them to class.
Throughout the morning, professional men share similar experiences, offer encouragement, all while building a strong positive relationship with the student.
“The program allows students to meet all kinds of men who they may not come in contact with if we didn’t have this,” said Casey.
The morning culminates with a guest speaker to empower the students as they continue in high school and into adulthood.
At the most recent 100 Men Challenge, Varina graduate and Super Bowl Champion Michael Robinson spoke to the students about adversity and how they can overcome it to become a better man.
“It’s definitely an honor to be able to come to Virginia Randolph and speak to these young men, giving them the confidence to hold their future in their own hands. Holding them accountable for their own success," said Robinson. "That’s really what it’s all about.”
In a short time, Casey says he has noticed a big change in his students.
“The culture of our school has really changed a lot,” said Casey.
Not only has the program made a difference in the lives of young men, but it has also been recognized, winning multiple awards. Last year, the 100 Men Challenge won awards for innovation from both the National Association of Counties and the Virginia Association of Counties.
While the program has been an outstanding success for the school, Casey says the school still hasn't reached their goal of getting 100 male volunteers in one day.
“If you want to make a difference. This is an opportunity,” said Casey. “It makes a big difference in their lives. The more you come, the more the students are engaged.”
There are still two opportunities for volunteers to participate in the 100 Men Challenge this school year; Thursday, April 18th and Thursday, May 16th.
Volunteers are asked to commit an hour of their morning for that one day.
“Just having all the men in the school interacting with the kids is the most important thing,” said Casey.
If you are interested in volunteering for the 100 Men Challenge, you can email Principal Jesse Casey.