When Peter Valavanis, '13, began playing lacrosse at the University of Richmond during the second semester of his freshman year, it wasn’t much more than a core group of dedicated players who would get together once a week. “We kind of just shot until we lost all our balls, then we’d go home,” he says. Though his sophomore year began on much the same note, the arrival of coach Glenn Carter helped to restructure the program into a proper team. Now they have reached the point where they can actively recruit potential players merely with the promise of a spot on the team.
This wasn’t Valavanis’ only experience helping build a program from the ground up. When he joined sophomore class president Evan Harris' cabinet, he met Matt Powell, a volunteer with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program at Ginter Park Elementary School. It was at his urging and praise of the program that Valavanis also signed on as a mentor and was paired with Jay, a third grader. “If [Jay] needed help with math, we would just do some math,” he says. “Most of the time we wound up playing football with Matt and his little brother.”
With every passing day, Valavanis and his friends saw the real challenges facing the school and its students, and realized that there was more that could be done. Back on campus, when the cabinet was discussing where to focus the energy of the junior class president, “the idea came up that if we want to do something big, we should do something for the city schools,” Valavanis says. From this conversation was born the idea of Paving a Brighter Future.
Imagined as a fair, the cabinet hopes to organize a field day on campus that includes a big concert, games, and food. “A long time ago it stopped being just an idea we were throwing around a table to something that’s actually building up,” Valavanis says.
They hope to raise money for the school through a mix of admission fees and donations at the mid-April event. “Our goals are to get five computers in every classroom, new instruments for the band, new textbooks, and renovations to the auditorium at Ginter Park where we all did our Big Brothers Big Sisters service,” he says.
With such lofty aims, the cabinet realizes they will not be able to work alone. According to Valavanis, they hope to “get everybody to come out — from the campus, VCU, and Richmond [city]. We’re looking to get some support from local business owners and alumni we’ve reached out to. Everybody [can] really make an impact.”
Between his volunteer work with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, finalizing the details of Paving a Brighter Future, and the varsity club lacrosse team poised to kick off a new season, the second semester of his junior year looks pretty promising. However, Valavanis believes that, should Evan be reelected, “the sky’s the limit” for his final year at Richmond.