We are Virginia Excels

 
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Our Mission

Virginia Excels serves as a platform for communities to shape public education by advocating for policies and practices that are good for kids, families and communities.

Our Vision

We work for the day when every student in the Richmond region and across the Commonwealth has equitable access to an excellent public education, regardless of race or family income.

 

Our Focus

In our pursuit of educational equity, we concentrate on policies and practices that advance racial and socioeconomic justice—both in and around schools—so that every child has the chance she deserves.

 

Our Approach

We serve as a resource for facts, research and best practices in public education so that our entire community can access information about critical issues facing our students and schools.

We partner with those closest to public schools—families, communities, service providers and educators—to determine the greatest obstacles to our children’s academic success and to identify solutions with the greatest potential to advance educational equity.

Through research and engagement with a national network of experts, we identify opportunities to remove these barriers and set up our children, especially those from historically underserved backgrounds, for lifelong success.

Together with our partners, we provide opportunities for our community to advocate for changes in policy, practice and culture that foster equity and excellence for our students and families

 
 

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Meet our team!

 
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Eva Colen, 
Founding Executive Director

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Taylor Keeney, Communications Consultant

Eva grew up in Virginia and has called Richmond home since 2010. Eva first job out of college was as a high school English teacher in Philadelphia, which cemented her conviction that all children, no matter their background, are capable of academic success. As a result, Eva has dedicated her career to advancing educational equity. After the classroom, Eva spent time recruiting teachers to high-poverty public school districts, advocating for equitable policy in the General Assembly, and engaging her community in conversations about educational equity.

Since Eva’s return to the Old Dominion, she has constantly sought out opportunities to engage with and support her community. From participation in Leadership Metro Richmond to serving on YWCA Richmond’s Racial Justice Task Force, Eva has continued to develop both knowledge of her regional context and relationships across her community. Over the past two years, through conversations with over 200 individuals across the Richmond region as well as comprehensive research into Virginia’s history, Eva identified the need for a nonpartisan, independent organization focused on elevating the voices of students and families in an effort to transform public education.

Eva lives in Church Hill with her husband, Derek Salerno, and their three cats. Eva is a member of Leadership for Educational Equity’s 2017 class of Venture Fellows. In Richmond, Eva is a member of YWCA Richmond’s Racial Justice Task Force, YWCA Richmond’s Young Women’s Leadership Alliance and the Urban League of Greater Richmond. At the close of 2016, Eva sat on Mayor Levar Stoney’s transition team. She is an alumna of ChamberRVA’s RVA Leadership Lab, Leadership for Educational Equity’s Public Leaders Fellowship, 50CAN’s Education Advocacy Fellowship and Leadership Metro Richmond’s Leadership Quest Class of 2017.

eva@virginiaexcels.org

 

 

Based in Richmond, Taylor is communications and public affairs consultant with over nine years of experience working in political, nonprofit, and issue-based communications.

Taylor got her start working as press assistant to Mrs. Cindy McCain on John McCain’s 2008 campaign for president. In 2009, she joined Bob McDonnell’s campaign for governor, working for him for almost five years, ultimately serving as Governor McDonnell’s press secretary. She briefly left the governor’s office to work as communications director for Bill Bolling’s campaign for governor. 

Following the McDonnell Administration, Taylor led regional communications for almost two years for Teach For America (TFA), a national nonprofit that works to recruit, train and support leaders to teach for two years in low-income schools. Upon leaving TFA, she founded Taylor T. Keeney, LLC, a communications and public affairs consulting firm. 

Taylor is a native of Southern California and graduated with honors from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. She is a member of the Higher Achievement Richmond advisory board and serves as a volunteer mentor on Tuesday nights at the organization’s achievement center at Binford Middle School. Additionally, she helps Higher Achievement with its communications efforts in a volunteer capacity. Taylor also is a member of the public relations committee for ASK Childhood Cancer Foundation, a local nonprofit that provides support for children with cancer and their families, and a representative on the Goochland County Recreation Advisory Commission.

taylor@virginiaexcels.org