Project RISE Legacy

Project RISE Legacy

Project RISE Legacy: Resolving Issues through Support and Education

Seven years ago, a small group of African American students approached the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at Student Health with concerns about African American students at UVA. They were concerned that African American students were experiencing problems, including harassment and discrimination, but were not comfortable approaching CAPS for help. The Office of African American Affairs (OAAA), in collaboration with the counseling center, conducted a needs assessment. Based on those findings, Project RISE was started, which is a peer educator model for outreach to the African American community.
The original program continues to be the foundation of the program design, mission, and purpose. Their vision continues to RISE!

Project RISE Founders: Reggie White and Krystal Commons


History, Mission, Purpose, & Goals

Project RISE was founded in the Fall of 2006 by two African American University of Virginia students, Krystal Commons and Reggie White, along with a committee of other students committed to the idea of student self-governance and self help. The initial student governance committee included: Vondrenna Nicholson, Christian West, Gabrielle Hawkins, and Stacey Jacobs.

Project RISE is a program supported by the Office of African American Affairs of the University of Virginia. It receives technical support from the Office of the Dean of Students and the Student Health Counseling and Psychological Services Center.

A needs assessment was conducted by the project Evaluation Consultant, Dr. Adrienne Keller. The data collected was used to determine the focus and scope of the projects goal and activities. Project RISE engages in an ongoing process of data collection and evaluation.

Mission Statement

Project RISE is intended to serve African-American students at the University of Virginia in dealing with a range of issues stemming from academic, personal, and social circumstances. It is intended to create a system of consistent uplift, motivation, and expectation for African-American students. Moreover, to battle and effectively manage and overcome issues of alienation that some students may feel. The focus is specifically on depression and anxiety among African-American students in the UVa community.


The purpose of the program is to offer African-American students an outlet for emotional expression without the fear of being stigmatized, as well as to provide those students with a comfortable environment in which they feel that they are able to culturally relate as well as find substantial information that will offer coping mechanisms and consistent support while at the University.


A.    To offer a means in which a positive existence is possible for all African-American students, regardless of year. This means that a student, through this program, regardless of social standing, status, and/or involvement in organizations will not have to deal with issues by oneself but can look to others in the program for emotional support. 

"Regardless of year" is emphasized above because the Office of African-American Affairs (OAAA) offers the Peer Advisor Program (PA Program) to African-American first year and transfer students. In the program, first year and transfer students receive a mentor who guides them through their first time experience as a student at the University. The PA Program provides those students a unique support system of their own. However, students of other years may deal with psychological issues and need assistance in terms of coping and finding solutions.

B.   To promote awareness of services and programs within the University community

based on a collective effort to utilize and present all resources available.

C.   To educate the African-American community on what depression and anxiety are and
make a consistent effort to de-stigmatize what it means to be dealing with any
psychological or emotional issues. To eliminate the negative connotations that are often
linked to emotional issues in the African American community.

D.   To provide resources with which African-American students can identify.

E.   To provide a confidential, personal, and intimate environment in which students can
express their personal concerns without fear of ostracism and judgment.