Alicia Aroche is a Research Associate for Community Engagement and a member of the Engaging Richmond community-academic partnership at the Center. Her work involves projects including early childhood education, housing redevelopment, trauma-informed community building, as well as support of parent engagement within the context of participatory research and faculty best practices in community-engaged research. Previously, Alicia served as Community Engagement Advocate for Bridging Richmond, a cradle to career regional collaborative, where she worked on projects funded by The Community and Lumina Foundations and the Jesse Ball duPont Fund. Her experience in higher education administration, coaching and mentoring are applicable to improving community-engaged research and supporting community members in their path to empowerment. She is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communications and a Master's Degree in Education.
Chanel Bea was a founding member of Engaging Richmond, having joined the team in 2011 when it was established with funding from a Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) supplement from the National Institute of Health. Chanel has a long history of volunteer service. She has worked with Richmond Public Schools, particularly with Early Head Start, the Head Start Policy Council, and the Truancy Advisory Committee. She currently serves as the Community Engagement Assistant for the VCU Center on Society and Health as well as a Citizen Advisory Board member of the Maggie L. Walker Initiative Citizen’s Advisory Board. She also works with Richmond Promise Neighborhood as a Community Advocate, a Co-Convener of the Early Childhood Through 3rd Grade Action Team, an Advisory Board member, and social media administrator.
Sarah Cook is a research epidemiologist and project coordinator at the VCU Center on Society and Health. With a background in clinical research and public health, Ms. Cook has experience managing several clinical and community-engaged research projects, including those focusing on engaging community stakeholders in the developing of research questions, and addressing barriers to early childhood education. She has a particular interest in evaluation methods and addressing health disparities in the local community. Ms. Cook has a B.A. in Biology, Society, and the Environment from the University of Minnesota, and a M.P.H. in Health Behavior from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. In her spare time, Ms. Cook enjoys spending time with her husband, cooking, exercising, spending time outdoors, and eating her way through the local Richmond, VA restaurant scene.
Danita Gregory has been with the Engaging Richmond team since 2014. Her interest was sparked in the team when she attended a leadership program in Mosby Court, in Richmond’s East End. In this leadership training, she learned best practices in engaging with her fellow community members, conducting health and wellness surveys and building her confidence with public speaking.
Ms. Gregory has a long-term interest in nursing and in-home care for the aging population in the community. The middle sibling of six sisters, Ms. Gregory is passionate about her community and helping people improve their health. In her spare time she enjoys cooking and travel.
Leah Gregory is a resident of the East End community and has been a part of the Engaging Richmond team since 2016. Leah is a recent graduate of MPH/MSW dual degree program at Virginia Commonwealth University. As a social worker, she understands the complex challenges of underserved populations and the health disparities they experience. She is interested in social justice advocacy for health care issues such as HIV/STD prevention, sexual and relationship health, community planning, healthy food security and access, and global community health issues. She hopes to contribute to new and innovative ways to increase health and wellness in communities, especially those impacted by these issues. Her past experience includes work with individuals experiencing homelessness/housing policy, free clinics, in-home counseling/mental health support, individuals living with HIV, survivors of sexual assault/domestic violence, and individuals experiencing substance abuse. Having worked hard to fund her own undergraduate and graduate education, Leah is aware of the many challenges facing others. She is inspired to be an advocate for social change and community involvement, including being an active member of her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. In her free time, she likes to cook, travel to new places, meet new people, listen to music, exercise through yoga and Zumba, and watch her spouse play soccer.
Brenda Kinney is a native of Churchill in the East End Community and is a founding member of Engaging Richmond when the group formed in 2011. Brenda was a resident of the Whitcomb Court where she became a community advocate through the Richmond City Health District and the Institute for Public Health Innovation for three years. She has served on the PTA, Women of Worth, Sister Circle, Richmond Promise Neighborhood, Whitcomb community tenant council, and the truancy advisory board for Richmond Public Schools. She has also volunteered as a mentor for women and children, prepared and served meals for individuals experiencing homelessness, and provided support for her elderly neighbors and families. Brenda enjoys community outreach, community service, decorating, food/customer service, providing resources, and community engaged research. In her spare time, she enjoys event planning, poetry, art, and styling hair. Brenda now resides in the Northside community of Richmond and is looking forward to partnering in new initiatives and opportunities.
Chimere Miles is a resident of the East End Community and founding member of Engaging Richmond when the group formed in 2011. Chimere is passionate about opportunities for children and has volunteered with many groups and organizations, including Richmond Public Schools Early Head Start/ Head Start as the Policy Council Chairperson, the Richmond Public School Truancy Committee, and Richmond Promise Neighborhood. She also serves as a facilitator and participated in training for mental health first aide. She has also done work with Perter Paul Development Center with the Strengthening Families Program. Chimere has an Associate’s Degree in Allied Health and Science, and her previous work experience includes patient care work and medical administrative duties. One of her favorite characteristics of the East End is how neighbors feel like family. In her spare time, Chimere enjoys baking and spending time with her family.
Audrey Smith has been an Engaging Richmond team member since 2015. She is the devoted mother of two daughters. She is inspired by education and the opportunity to experience life to the fullest.
Ms. Smith has over 10 years of experience working with the aging and elderly population in the healthcare field and has worked with adults and children with special needs for six years at the Grafton School. She is familiar with areas such as Individualized Educational Plans (IEP) and serving children with Autism.
She has an associate’s degree in medical reimbursement and coding. In her spare time, Ms. Smith enjoys spending time with her family, reading, cooking, drawing, creative writing, watching films, and enjoying adult coloring books.
Emily Zimmerman is a senior researcher and assistant research professor at the VCU Center on Society and Health. She has worked for several years on community engagement projects in Northern Virginia, including a locally funded Promise Neighborhood initiative, neighborhood-level social indicators, and various community engagement projects. She recently finished work on an NIH funded project to provide community health equity reports for eight areas of the United States participating in the Place Matters initiative. She also specializes in survey research, data analysis, public program/service utilization, and disadvantaged populations with a focus on child welfare and other social needs. Dr. Zimmerman has performed research for Federal, county and city governments, private organizations, non-profits, foundations, United Way, and several universities. Dr. Zimmerman has a B.A. in English and a M.S. in Social Research from Hunter College, and Ph.D. in Sociology from the City University of New York.
Rebecca Johnston obtained her BA degree in Anthropology in 2010, traveling to China to complete Traditional Chinese Medicine field study experience and volunteering in hospitals throughout northern Malawi, Africa. She plans to continue her education at VCU School of Nursing to obtain an accelerated BSN degree. Ms. Johnston is passionate about exploring the cultural and social aspects of healthcare prevention and treatment with the goal of increasing the quality of care. Her research interests are in chronic disease, health disparities, mental/behavioral health, the integration of traditional/alternative medicine, and improving access and quality of health within global health care systems. She loves to cook, travel, hike, perform music, volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, Americorp, Community Health Corps –Baton Rouge, LA, and play with her foster dog, Nova Leigh.
Sara Moore is a sociologist with research interests in gender, family, reproductive health, and social inequalities. Ms. Moore has worked on several research projects at the Center for Social Science Research, including an assessment of educational opportunities, needs, and resources in a low income community in Alexandria, Virginia; a participatory research project that used in-person interviews and focus groups to explore community engagement in a low income community in Reston, Virginia; and a satisfaction survey of patients who use public health clinics in Fairfax County, Virginia. Ms. Moore received an M.A in Sociology from The New School, and will be receiving a Ph.D. in Sociology from George Mason University in Fall 2013. In her spare time, Ms. Moore enjoys reading fiction and spending time with her husband and daughter.
Andrea Robles is a sociologist with interests in community development, poverty, work and family, gender, and research methodology. She is interested in examining societal issues that keep marginalized groups from participating equally in our broader society. Domestically and internationally, she has investigated an array of topics including women’s labor, welfare and health policy, housing, land tenure, natural resource management, and other pressing community- and organization-initiated concerns. Realizing the importance of collaborative partnerships for both research and action, at the Center for Social Science Research she has been developing a participatory and community-based research program. Andrea received an M.A. in International Development from American University, an M.S. in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and will be receiving a Ph.D. in Sociology from University of Wisconsin-Madison in Spring 2013.
Chel’sea Ryan is a recent graduate of James Madison University where she earned a BSW in Social Work. She expects to complete an MSW in Social Work at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2013. Ms. Ryan is passionate about children and children’s rights in her community, in Virginia, and around the world. She is also interested in children’s athletics, and she encourages children to get active by participating in sports and outdoor activities. Ms. Ryan enjoys doing meaningful charity work, and has volunteered at organizations such as the Salvation Army and Goodwill, and with various sports activities. She has held several professional positions including middle school counselor, community advocate, service provider, and high school softball coach. Ms. Ryan also belongs to professional organizations including the National Association of Black Social Workers and the National Association of Social Workers. In her spare time, Ms. Ryan enjoys doing anything outdoors, playing sports, and baking cake pops.
Tonya Scott is a resident of the East End. She is passionate about community engagement, especially the work of the Engaging Richmond research team, and children. Ms. Scott in currently a member of The Richmond Outreach Center (the ROC), and has had previous volunteer experiences talking and praying with elderly community members. She has also had work experience in the customer service and construction fields. Ms. Scott’s hobbies include singing, dancing, painting, helping children, and studying the Bible.
Darrell Tyler is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University where he received a B.S. in Sociology with a concentration in Socioeconomic Research and an M.S. in Sociology with a concentration in Economic Sociology. Mr. Tyler is passionate about mitigating economic inequality and social alienation, and is interested in work that helps connect residents to organizations that can meet their needs, especially in terms of employment. He is also a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church where he sits on the Committee of Human Concern. Mr. Tyler appreciates his neighbors, who support his family, keep him informed (especially while he is deployed), and provide him with wisdom. In his spare time, Mr. Tyler enjoys coin-collecting.
Dionne Wheeler is a social butterfly and loves working with people. Ms. Wheeler is a native of Richmond and has been working with non-profits and community organizing since she completed her Bachelors of Art in English and African American Studies from the University of Virginia in 2006. Ms. Wheeler's father was always involved in community organizing during her childhood and the apple does not fall far from the tree! She was taught at an early age that "to whom much is given, much is required." Ms. Wheeler loves empowering people and fighting racial, social, and economic injustices through knowledge, understanding, and tolerance. Ms. Wheeler serves on the board of the Police Athletic League and is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. In her spare time Ms. Wheeler loves shopping, traveling, Zumba, officiating basketball games, and spending time with her fiancé, friends, family, and her dog, Precious.
Breena Wingo is a resident of the East End. She is a Certified Nursing Assistant and an artist. Ms. Wingo has volunteered for several organizations including Substance Abuse and Additional Recovery Alliance (SAARA) and Hilltop Promise and is a member of First Baptist Church in Richmond. She is most passionate about children and education, and enjoys work that draws on her interests in working with children and in art. Ms. Wingo’s hobbies include drawing and playing sports. Her son is a star student and recent graduate of Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School in the East End.
Amber Haley holds masters-level training in epidemiology and has managed the Place Matters study in which community-driven health equity reports were developed for eight communities in the United States. She has previous experience with working in various communities: with subsidized housing residents in Richmond; with overseas communities in Burma, China, and Thailand; and with a range of public service volunteer activities in Chicago and Richmond.
Toni Mitchell is a resident of Fairfield Court in the East End. Toni is also a member of Richmond Promise Neighborhood and volunteers with Richmond Promise Neighborhood’s Parental Involvement Results Based Action Team. She is passionate about community engagement, and the wellbeing of the community’s children is the most important thing to her. She is a very active parent in her son’s education and welfare. She continues to learn more and more about community issues and volunteering. Toni is interested in cooking, sports, people, and nature.
Valerie Burrell Muhammad is a resident of the East End. Ms. Muhammad is passionate about all things “family,” including her own, and making a difference in the lives of children and families in her community. Ms. Muhammad has previous work experience in family involvement consulting, and has volunteered with MCV Hospital, several local food banks, local PTAs, and the East District Initiative Board for the City of Richmond. She has also worked with family organizations across the country on mental health challenges, including educating people about the effects of mental health on the whole person and how social systems influence mental health outcomes. Ms. Muhammad enjoys work opportunities that are catalysts for change and that affect how services are provided to community residents. She is a mother of four and her children have attended Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia State University, and Saint Paul’s College. She is a member of Masjid Bilal, and her hobbies include reading, community organizing, and volunteering.
Marco Thomas is a resident of the East End. He is passionate about personal change and second chances, mental restoration, substance abuse, and substance abuse recovery. Mr. Thomas has held jobs as a retail supervisor, lifeguard, janitor, travel agent, certified loan officer, and a teaching assistant. Most of all, he enjoys work that is creative, productive, and influential, especially around the area of substance abuse recovery. He has recently completed Community Violence and Trauma training. Mr. Thomas hobbies include writing, playing and listening to music, ballroom dancing, yoga, cooking, fashion design, and photography.
Albert Walker serves as the Community-Academic Liaison at the VCU Center on Society and Health. He has been a mentor and community organizer in Richmond’s East End. Mr. Walker enjoys working with people, including community residents, and strategizing ways to solve complicated social problems. His commitment to lifelong learning and social justice have compelled him to engage in various community volunteer activities with organizations such as ART 180 where he serves on the Board and Richmond Hill, where he serves on the Leadership Council. Mr. Walker has also held previous positions that include a teacher/instructional assistant, life coach, mentor, executive director of a local non-profit, and a community researcher. Mr. Walker holds a Master of Divinity Degree in Practical Theology and a Master of Theology Degree in Social Ethics. In his spare time, Mr. Walker enjoys yoga, golf, salsa dancing, reading non-fiction, traveling, engaging with his neighbors, and walking his dog, Caesar, in his local park.
Sharon Herman has devoted her life to her faith, family, work and community. Ms. Herman has been an Engaging Richmond team member since 2015.
In addition to serving on the Engaging Richmond team, Ms. Herman is the secretary of the Creighton Court Tenant Council, a member of the Richmond Redevelopment Leadership Transformation Team (RRLT) and an active member in local, state and national politics. She cares about topics such as human rights, and women’s and equal rights. Ms. Herman is proud to have witnessed the presentation of a $2.5 million check to the Richmond Redevelopment Housing Authority (RRHA) for the transformation of the East End corridor. She is also proud to possess Governor Terry McAuliffe’s autograph.
Ms. Herman is tireless and committed to the causes she cares about. She enjoys gardening, cooking and exploring topics of interest on the internet in her free time.