Alumni Spotlight: RJ Robinson
The Southside Club is never too far away for RJ Robinson.
He joined the Club in middle school after his family moved to the southside of Richmond. Even when RJ attended high school at Appomattox Regional Governor’s School in Petersburg, he always went to the Club before going home. Now, as a sophomore just down the road at VCU, RJ still manages to find time to volunteer at Southside, most recently at Family Paint Night, creating the canvases used for the event.
“The Club helped me with school stuff and with a lot of personal stuff. The staff made sure I was always in touch with the community, that’s why I always try to volunteer,” says RJ. “The Club helped me progress myself as an artist. And, it helped me build a lot of healthy connections and relationships with people.”
It’s hard for RJ to pick out just one memory from his days at the Club, but the most important thing to him was spending “genuine, quality time with good people.” He recalls walking in on his first day and meeting program leader Sandra Latter and instantly feeling a connection.
“Ms. Latter was the first person I met and she’s always been nice to me. She is that one person I was always looking forward to seeing when I went to the Boys & Girls Clubs,” he says. RJ also remembers looking up to Carl Tabb, who worked with the teens. As he got older, RJ built bonds with Senior Program Director Chevonne Booker and with teen coordinator Jade Tabb, who still checks in with RJ to make sure his college experience is going well.
The connections that he’s made have helped him throughout his journey. An aspiring artist at a young age, RJ took advantage of an opportunity at the Club to participate in a program with the Visual Arts Center of Richmond.
“VisArts definitely made me start looking into VCU as one of my future college choices, especially with their strong connection to each other,” RJ recalls. “I ended up meeting a lot of people that I would end up staying in touch with, in high school and at the start of college.”
RJ is finding success in the VCU Arts program, specializing in painting and printmaking. Last spring, RJ received the Black History in the Making Award from the VCU Art Foundation. He continues to work hard, spending a lot of his time in the studio.
“For me, art feels liberating. It’s almost an alternate form of communication. It’s a creative outlet that allows me to express myself and convey visually my thoughts or what’s going on in my head.”
Having found his voice and inspiration, RJ hopes that today’s Club members to do the same in whatever they choose.
“I’d definitely tell them to volunteer and use their time in the Boys & Girls Clubs wisely because there are a lot of opportunities, resources and connections to be made. Any opportunity that presents itself, like Torch Club, Keystone or the College Mentoring Program, take up on it, they’ll be useful down the road,” he says. “And, definitely make friends. Make lots of friends.”