The Mary and Frances Youth Center opened in 2007 on Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU)
Monroe Park campus in Richmond. Its facilities include two private tennis courts and a number of
classrooms designed for youth-centered programming and training. The youth center’s flagship
program since opening has been Lobs & Lessons, a nationally recognized tennis and learning
program, but it also hosts and leads Discovery summer program, which provides middle-school
students with in-depth experiences in science, technology, engineering, arts and health sciences.
In addition to these programs, the youth center co-manages the implementation of the Youth
Program Quality Intervention, a quality improvement process for out-of-school service providers
across the region.
VCU and the youth center are committed to maintaining a safe, supportive environment for minors
participating in VCU programs. To that end, the Safety and Protection of Minors Policy was launched
in March 2016 to ensure all youth programs and activities on campus meet specific requirements,
including biennial background checks.
Before moving to Sterling Volunteers, the Mary and Frances Youth Center relied on the Virginia State
Police to conduct background checks, which could take several weeks to complete depending on
their workload and complexity of the screening. This was always meant to be a temporary solution for
VCU, as the University was in the process of finalizing its Safety and Protection of Minors Policy. The
policy was created to ensure a safe environment for minors on campus and aligns the University with
national best practices.
The Center learned about Sterling Volunteers through positive recommendations from VCU ASPiRE
which is a living-learning program promoting community engagement through academic coursework
and co-curricular experiences. VCU and the Mary and Frances Youth Center hired Alyssa King as a
Program Specialist in 2016 to help implement the new policy and Sterling Volunteers.
Sterling Volunteers was introduced in July 2016 at the Mary and Frances Youth Center, as well as
across campus, and has helped to screen hundreds of individuals working with youth on campus
via its easy-to-use platform.
In signing on with Sterling Volunteers, Mrs. King found it was easier than expected to manage
multiple program accounts via a single service provider and platform. “As a whole, it’s made our
lives easier. It’s been helpful to work with one person at Sterling Volunteers to manage all our
subaccounts,” she says.
VCU’s new Safety and Protection of Minors Policy calls for certain individuals working with nonenrolled
minors on campus to undergo biennial screenings. Sterling Volunteers aided in the creation
of a screening infrastructure and helped policy implementation run smoothly. According to Mrs. King:
“When we introduced Sterling Volunteers, it was actually a great relief for the programs, which could
share or offset some of the costs with their volunteers.”
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