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ASPiRE Students Participate in Urban Plunge, Focus on Homelessness

ASPiRE Urban PlungeEight ASPiRE students, along with a student from VCU’s ACE-IT program, and two staff members participated in ASPiRE’s 5th annual Urban Plunge program. This year, the program focused on homelessness, which is an issue very close to those at VCU.

“Through Urban Plunge we try to give our students an experience they may not otherwise have,“ said Nannette Bailey, ASPiRE community partner coordinator. “The students had a rare opportunity to accompany the Richmond Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Partnerships Enforcement  (HOPE) unit to visit a homeless encampment near the James River. It is only through these real-world experiences that we can reach our goal of helping students to become engaged citizens and to be aware of the social issues faced by some of Richmond’s most vulnerable citizens.”

“Going on this trip really expanded my perspective about helping people in Richmond who are experiencing homelessness,” said Aleha Cruz.  “It made me realize that there are a variety of ways to be of assistance including donating to a non-profit, volunteering with a local feeding program, or distributing information about available resources. I felt that we made an impact when we cooked and served lunch at the feeding program at Grace and Holy Trinity Church.”

ASPiRE student Abraham Mekonnen said that Urban Plunge was worth him giving up his spring break because it gave him an opportunity to learn things and to meet people that he would have never met. 

“We had a meeting with Mayor Levar Stoney," Mekonnen said. "It was interesting to hear him talk about using education as a strategy to combat homelessness. His remarks were on point because I can see how education can enhance a person’s earning potential and eventually end the cycle of homelessness.“ 

The other students who participated in Urban Plunge are Gauri Sharma, Naziirah Vines, Harry Jones, Anika Vaughan, Richard Greene, and Robert Doss.

For more information, contact Nannette Bailey at