Education Advocacy Organization Launches in Virginia

October 10, 2016

Contact: Taylor Keeney

RICHMOND – Virginia Excels, a new education advocacy organization focused on K-12 education, today announced its launch after an incubation year with the Robins Foundation. Virginia Excels will serve as a platform for communities to shape public education by advocating for policies and practices that are good for kids, families and communities. The organization will initially focus on Greater Richmond and at the state level with the Virginia General Assembly.

“We consistently hear local, state and federal leaders in Virginia talk about how every child deserves access to a great education, but too often education policy leaves kids behind in Greater Richmond and across Virginia,” said Eva Colen, executive director of Virginia Excels. “Virginia Excels seeks to provide a community-based approach to education advocacy, working to amplify citizen voice to close the opportunity gap in Greater Richmond and across Virginia. Virginia Excels will provide a research and policy driven voice for children and communities to close the education gap and increase advocacy in our community.”

Since January, the Robins Foundation has served as an incubator for Virginia Excels as the organization got off the ground. Virginia Excels was a finalist for the Foundation’s 2016 Community Innovation Grant.

“We saw the opportunity for consistent and effective advocacy for Richmond children and schools,” said Kelly Chopus, chief executive officer of the Robins Foundation. “Virginia Excels aims to close the advocacy gap in Greater Richmond and Virginia by creating a platform to advocate for local and state policies that are good for kids, families and communities. There is a huge need for meaningful improvements in educational outcomes, as well as empowering communities to advocate for good policy. The Foundation is excited to partner with Virginia Excels to help transform how we consider, discuss and deliver public education in the Greater Richmond region and across the Commonwealth.”

Near-term priorities for Virginia Excels include partnering with community organizations to offer informational programming about the fundamentals of education policy and citizen advocacy training, as well as ongoing work to improve Virginia's funding formula. The organization will also spend the fall determining priorities for the upcoming General Assembly Session.

“Virginia Excels will provide a voice for children and communities across Virginia to improve our schools and education system,” said Javaid Siddiqi, member of the Chesterfield County School Board and former Virginia Secretary of Education. “As a former teacher, too often I saw children and parents with great ideas but not knowing how to advocate for these ideas at the state level. I’m excited to see Virginia Excels launch its community-based approach to building a culture of advocacy around education in Virginia.”

Virginia Excels is an affiliate of 50CAN: The 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now. 50CAN supports local leaders to advocate for a high-quality education for all kids, regardless of their address. Founded in 2011, 50CAN has grown to a network of 50+ advocates across 13 state and local organizations working together to reimagine American K-12 education and democratize education advocacy in communities across the country. 

“We're thrilled to support Eva and community members in Richmond to advocate for a high-quality education for all children in the region,” said Marc Porter Magee, CEO & founder of 50CAN: The 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now. “Virginia Excels is the platform for citizen advocates to get involved in one of the most pressing issues of our time. We are excited to learn and grow with this community of advocates and equip them with the tools they need to create meaningful change at the local level.”

About Virginia Excels
Virginia Excels is a 501c3 education advocacy organization that is working 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. To learn more about Virginia Excels, visit