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Class of 2014 Final Session in Richmond

Our Richmond session started, appropriately enough, with a tour of the Executive Mansion and a question and answer session with Governor Terry McAuliffe. Governor McAuliffe was gracious enough to answer numerous questions from our class members - and we always have plenty of questions - while his aides were trying to usher him out the door to his next meeting. Some members of our class were excited to spot the Governor's infamous kegerator, while others of us enjoyed interacting with first dog, Finnegan.

Our next stop was the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, where we were treated to lunch with a gorgeous view overlooking Richmond. Here we received an overview of the Federal Reserve along with the rich history of Richmond. We also heard of Richmond's plans going forward to attract a younger, professional and more diverse demographic to the city. There is a lot of excitement about hosting the 2015 UCI Road World Championships and what that means in terms of economic impact and international recognition. Bidding for this event is extremely competitive (similar to the Olympics) and the most recent cities to host the event were Ponferrada, Spain and Florence, Italy. Go Richmond!

As we headed to our next stop, we traveled down Monument Avenue, the only street in America that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Here we saw some of Virginia's most famous sons memorialized, such as Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, Stonewall Jackson and more recent addition, tennis great Arthur Ashe. Not to be overlooked are the beautiful homes lining Monument Avenue, which are architectural works of art in their own right.

We continued on to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts where we were given an informational session on Richmond's diverse art scene. What impressed me most from this panel was learning how the arts have been embraced in Richmond and the support they receive within the community. The arts are now a vibrant and vital part of Richmond's infrastructure. We were then fortunate enough to be led on a private tour of The Forbidden City exhibit.

Highlights of our second day in Richmond include lunch at The Savory Grain, where three local restaurants (Lunch, The Savory Grain and Mama J's) combined forces to showcase Richmond's Food Scene. I think that's the quietest I've ever heard our class! Next we took a bus tour of Richmond's East End and visited the Peter Paul Development Center. The purpose of this amazing place is to "Educate the Child, Engage the Family, Empower the Community." They do this every day with an incredible attitude and dedication.

Our next stop was historic St. John's Church, home of Patrick Henry's famous "give me liberty, or give me death" speech. Here we witnessed a reenactment of the Virginia Convention of 1775 and our class voted aye to independence from Great Britain (although I heard a few nays from the Brits in our class). Our second day concluded with our graduation ceremony. We were thrilled to present our class gift to Susan, Margaret and Alissa.

Other highlights of the session included a panel discussion by experts in the healthcare industry, presentations on K-12 and higher education challenges, a presentation from the Secretary of the Commonwealth, Levar Stoney, about statewide commissions and board service, and a closing reflections session led by Dr. John Thomas.

I know I speak for our entire class when I say what a remarkable experience this has been. We had such a diverse and dynamic group of leaders in our class. My hope is that we will continue to stay in touch, attend LEAD VIRGINIA alumni events, and carry on what we learned in this class over the past eight months in our everyday lives going forward.

Contributed by: Allison Mays, Associate Director of Advancement, Barter Theatre; Class of 2014

We greatly appreciate the support of our 2014 Richmond Session Sponsors: Genworth, Handcraft Services, MWV, and Universal Leaf Tobacco Company. We would also like to acknowledge class member Jay Nichols, '14 for hosting a pre-session tour of his state of the art Handcraft Services facility.