VCU Community Engagement News

Center for Community Engagement and Impact

Interns work 15 hours per week assisting with literacy activities.

By Jenny Pedraza

This fall, 10 Virginia Commonwealth University students will intern at George Washington Carver Elementary School in the City of Richmond, assisting teachers during students’ language arts period.

Part of the America Reads program, student interns are paid through the Federal Work-Study program, allowing Carver Elementary to benefit from skilled interns without any financial cost. Interns work 15 hours per week, mostly assisting with literacy activities but also pitching in to help in a variety of ways.

“On any given day, you might find them reading to a class or working with students either individually or in small groups,” said Tito Luna, neighborhood outreach director in the VCU Center for Community Engagement and Impact (CEI) and supervisor for the America Reads program. “The interns help teachers with other subjects and provide general assistance as well. I remember Carver’s Principal Tiawana Giles telling me she walked into a classroom on a day when there was a substitute teacher, and she was pleased to see the VCU intern co-teaching the class.”

Before beginning at Carver, interns receive training from Kathryn Starke, an expert in urban education, who is also working with the teachers at Carver Elementary. Any VCU student who is work study eligible can apply for the program. Luna said that while education majors may find this internship to be a great fit, the program has pre-nursing, psychology and social work students this semester as well. A commitment to youth is what matters the most, and students are trained to become good classroom assistants.

Since the fall of 2016, CEI has recruited, trained and supervised nearly 30 VCU interns as elementary classroom assistants focused on literacy.

VCU has a long history with the Carver community, stemming back to the creation of the Carver-VCU Partnership in 1996. The partnership was an agreement between Dr. Eugene Trani, president of VCU at the time, and Ms. Barbara Abernathy, president of the Carver Area Civic Improvement League, who passed away in 2018. The partnership aimed to create a shared urban community with a commitment to improving the neighborhood’s quality of life, while providing learning opportunities for students. The legacy of this partnership is being carried on through an expanded vision that incorporates additional neighborhoods surrounding campus.

More than 300 VCU students now mentor at Carver annually in the Carver Promise program, which was spearheaded by VCU and is now managed by Communities in Schools of Richmond. The CEI, VCU’s School of Education and Carver Elementary are working to identify and implement additional partnership opportunities in the future.

For more information, contact Luna at

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