When her youngest son Raquan started struggling with school, Mrs. Ballou knocked on the CIS-R office door. Site Coordinator Shawn Peebles worked with her oldest son, helping him move toward graduation at Armstrong High School. Raquan’s teachers reported that he was a likable student, but that he was struggling to stay focused and maintain passing grades. Raquan was a freshman and dealing with the transition issues that most freshmen experience: time management, staying organized, handling peer pressure. And a few more.
There was a house fire, and incredibly a major surgery that doctors said would have a lifelong impact on Raquan’s ability to play sports. “When my house burned down it was hard to get myself to school every day. My clothes smelled like smoke and burnt insulation,” Raquan recalled. Mr. Peebles was able to secure resources like transportation to school from temporary housing, clothing vouchers, school supplies and snacks throughout the school day.
CIS-R was also a shoulder for Raquan. “Raquan stopped by my office each week to check in. It gave us the chance to talk about all the challenges he was facing and I could encourage him to stay focused on his studies,” said Mr. Peebles.
Raquan also inspired Mr. Peebles, recovering from surgery and returning to school athletics and the honor roll with a renewed purpose. He plays football, soccer, wrestles and runs track for Armstrong. “It definitely helped knowing that people were willing to help even though we did not have much to give back,” Raquan said of Communities In School of Richmond.
Raquan’s Moving On Scholarship Award took him to Top of the Podium, a summer wrestling program at Virginia Tech. The 10-day camp is designed for competitive wrestlers, providing campers with technique training, live matches and daily physical fitness drills.
“At first I was a little nervous,” Raquan said. This was his first trip on his own with campers from across the globe. Raquan made connections with student athletes from Australia, Germany, West Virginia, New Jersey and Tennessee. “We hiked up a mountain, ran the stairs in Lane Stadium and worked out three times a day – and, I won two of three matches,” Raquan shared.
Raquan returns as a senior to Armstrong and aspires to earn a post-secondary degree in wildlife biology. Virginia Tech is a contender among the universities on his list.