Xavier Richardson gives back mentoring the next generation

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (AP) — Xavier Richardson had no complaints about his life while living and working in New York City.

After Richardson earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology and economics from Princeton University, he landed a job with McKinsey and Company, a global management consulting firm.

Richardson later earned a master’s in business administration from Harvard University and went to work on Wall Street.

But after the stock market crashed in 1987, Richardson returned to his hometown of Fredericksburg.

“I believe that my wife prayed for that stock market crash so that we could come back home,” Richardson said.

His return to his roots gave birth to a lifelong passion for community service. Richardson has been an executive at Mary Washington Healthcare since 1997 and he’s currently the vice president of corporate development and community affairs.

But aside from his day job, Richardson has made a lasting impact on youth and young adults in the Fredericksburg area.

He founded the Partnership for Academic Excellence in 1989. In 28 years, Richardson has helped prepare more than 5,000 students from 13 different area high schools for college.

He was initially pinpointed by mentor Marguerite Young to teach an SAT preparatory course but he immediately saw a need for much more.

“I decided rather than just have an SAT prep class, I’d take a holistic approach to working with these students,” Richardson said. “You can teach them how to take the SAT but if they have no idea about financial aid, or if they haven’t been exposed to a college or university they don’t have the hope that they can do it and they’re not going to succeed.”

Richardson said his program is based on a relationship between students, parents, schools and the community. He cites an African proverb, “it takes a whole village to raise a child,” as the organization’s foundation.

James Monroe High School teacher Tony Lewis said Richardson was integral in his development. Lewis left JM as a student after his freshman year and went on to Blue Ridge School in Southwest Virginia to play basketball and football. He picked up a full scholarship to play basketball for Loyola (Md.) University.

After graduating from Loyola, Lewis earned his Master’s in business administration from University of Mary Washington.

Lewis teaches Introduction to Leadership and Principles of Business at JM.

“When I came into the high school as a student in ’02 you could see the influence he had on kids,” Lewis said of Richardson. “Everyone would gravitate toward him. He was known as someone you need to talk to or be around because he’s going to push you in the right direction.”

King George native Ryan Smith said Richardson became a father figure and mentor to him because his dad wasn’t actively involved in his life.

Smith, who interned under Richardson at Mary Washington, played college football for William & Mary. He had a stint as a graduate assistant coach at Penn State and is now the defensive backs coach at Elon (N.C.) University. Smith said he coaches because he wants to have a similar impact on young men as Richardson.

That was brought to the forefront for Smith during a meeting with his players before the season. Out of 18 defensive backs, three or four had a relationship with their father.

“The rest didn’t know their dad or their dad was incarcerated,” Smith said. “That brought me back to the reason I got into this profession. What (Richardson) was in my life I want to be in someone else’s life.”

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Information from: The Free Lance-Star, http://www.fredericksburg.com/

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