A Letter from Podium’s Executive Director

Dear Podium family,

It is with a heavy heart that I reach out. This week, we were supposed to tribute and highlight the five winners of Podium’s Anne F. Waldruff Excellence in Education scholarships. We had an incredible night on Monday where we heard from one of last year’s scholarship winners and celebrated all five of our scholars this year. They have big plans to make an impact on society in their own unique ways, and we cannot be prouder to support them during their next steps and to celebrate all graduating Podium seniors. 

But right now, I’d like to take a minute to talk with you about yesterday. Podium has served Huguenot High School for the better part of a decade, and last night, as the class of 2023 exited their graduation ceremony and went outside to meet their families, they collided with tragedy instead. The realities of violence in our community causes us fear, anxiety, depression, self harm, substance abuse, and many other challenges. 

To every single Podium youth, parent, and community partner: We love you and care about you. You are a family to us, and that means we come together to support each other. Your presence matters, and we are so proud of all that you have done and continue to do. Podium will never back away from its trusted commitment to you to maintain a strong, consistent, and dependable presence in Richmond community centers and our public middle and high schools. 

Please don’t forget that asking for help is something we all need to do when we feel hurt, pain, scared, or other negative emotions. These are incredibly normal feelings to have. If we keep them locked up inside, they only fester and grow. Writing down feelings and processing emotions and thoughts by communicating with friends, family, or trusted adults and peers helps us to heal our minds, bodies, and souls.  

Talking to a mental health professional is another positive way to share with others, especially if you are unsure who to talk with. RBHA right here in Richmond has a crisis hotline anyone can call at any time. The hotline number is: 804-819-4100. If you feel like you need help, and you don’t know who to talk with or what to do, that is okay. Don’t be afraid to call: they care and want to help. 

I want to end with one last reflection. Don’t be afraid to share your words with others. Your experiences and perspective is critical to making the changes we need in our community. Your schools, representatives, and community leaders need your input, yes — literally you, to make meaningful change. Let us know if you need help to do that, and thank you so much for being Podium’s family.

Vicki Yeroian, MSWPodium RVA Executive Director