About Us

“UP RVA has helped me achieve many things that would be unattainable without them”

“Me being at Radford, on SGA and working with the Women’s basketball team wouldn’t be without UP RVA”

- Lance

How UP RVA was born

UP RVA was born when Toby Desch, Founder, realized there was a need for support for students from the East End of Richmond that attend Independent Schools.

Early in his college career, he was given the opportunity to volunteer in a kindergarten classroom and later student-teach in inner city Richmond schools. He thrived by seeing the difference he was making, and it lit a passion in him. In 2015, while working at Collegiate School, Toby stumbled upon his next path. During his time at Collegiate, he met a reserved student named Deyeah.

After getting to know Deyeah, Toby made it a priority to keep an eye on her. He quickly noticed that Deyeah was missing a lot of school and her teachers reported that she was great in class, but never did her homework.

Toby approached Deyeah about his observation and found out that Deyeah’s family didn’t have a car and she didn’t have a computer or internet access to do homework. After this realization, Toby and Deyeah worked together to build a support system that included her mother and advisor and from there, things began to change.

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Who We Are

We are a team dedicated to changing the lives of our students. Every day is different, and we are “all in” when it comes to making a difference. We help elevate our students’ voices to help them realize their potential and push them to be their very best.


  • Greg McCandless

    Executive Director

    Greg was born and raised in Southern California. He graduated from Whittier College with a B.A. in English and a minor in Critical Film Studies. He also has a Master’s in Education from San Diego State University. After working for several years in the entertainment industry he turned his attention to a career in education, working in college admissions at his alma mater and later at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California. He then spent 14 years working as a college counselor, dean, and English teacher at the Sage Hill School in Newport Coast, California before making the move to join the UP RVA team. When not working, Greg enjoys spending time with his husband and two young children. He also loves running, yoga, and getting lost in used record and book shops.

  • Paul Bateera

    Chief Operations and Financial Officer

    Paul was born and raised in the Richmond area and graduated from the University of Virginia in 2014 with a B.A. in Biology. After working in physical therapy for a short time, he turned his focus to his passion for working with young people. Since then, he has worked for the Washington Nationals and the MLK Boys and Girls Club before being introduced to UP RVA while volunteering at Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School. He has been with UP RVA since 2016 and manages the day-to-day operations of the program.

  • Toby Desch

    Director of Development

    Toby Desch started UP RVA in August of 2015 with the dream of making Independent Schools more accessible to students from the East End of Richmond. While working at The Collegiate School he saw how difficult the transition from inner-city education to private education could be. Toby is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, where he studied education. He initially thought that he wanted to be a Kindergarten teacher, but that changed after he started working with high school students at Collegiate. When not working, Toby enjoys playing golf and spending time with his wife and son, and their two dogs.

  • Amanda Hach

    Director of Academic Success

    Amanda Hach joins UP RVA after 16 years of teaching at the middle and high school levels. She grew up in Richmond, VA, and graduated from Virginia Tech with a B.A. in History and a Master’s degree in Social Studies Secondary Education, which allowed her to stay for an extra football season.
    After four years teaching history at Pocahontas Middle School, she transferred to Glen Allen High School in 2011. Over the course of 12 years, Amanda taught U.S. History and African American History and helped to grow the school’s largest spirit competition, Battle of the Classes. Yet, she is most proud of a mentor program she helped to create and sustain for eight years called S.T.E.P., the Student Transformation and Empowerment Project. She’s excited to use the skills she’s honed through these pursuits to further UP RVA’s mission of empowering students to achieve economic sustainability and a lifetime of success! When not working, Amanda enjoys live music, anything outside, and spending time with family and friends.
  • Marchelle Roane

    Operations Manager

    Marchelle was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia. In 1995, she established “Services by Marchelle,” a minority-based business that provides various services and companionship needs for people with a focus on the aging population. Marchelle joined UP RVA in 2018 as a driver, and in 2022 she was promoted to her new role as Transportation Specialist. She loves traveling, spending time with her husband and children, and, more than anything, being a “Yaya” to her grandchildren.

  • Tyler Gooden

    Director of After School

      Tyler was born in Newport News, Virginia. She moved to Richmond in 2018 to attend Virginia Commonwealth University, where she received her B.S. in Psychology. Tyler has always had a passion for working with kids and has been doing so in some capacity since 2016. After graduating, she joined the UP RVA team to run the After School Program.
  • Tucker Surgner

    Assistant Director of Development

    Tucker was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, and graduated with a B.S in Communication Studies from James Madison University. He grew up with a mother who worked in development, and he saw the importance of helping others and how critical development is to an organization. In his free time, he enjoys watching sports, playing golf, and being with friends and family.

  • Sarah Cowles

    Development Assistant

    Sarah joined UP RVA in 2020 as Development Assistant. She graduated from Hood College with a B.A. in Business. Prior to this role, she served as Associate Director of Annual Giving at Collegiate School for many years. After a short break, she realized how much she missed not only the students but helping to make a difference in their lives. She loves spending time with friends, family, and pets doing anything outdoors.

  • Biz Read

    Academic Strategies Coach

    A graduate of The University of Virginia, Biz started her career in public relations and magazine writing. In 2020, she began her training through Landmark College, Putney, VT (Institute for Research and Training), and then with Peg Dawson, EdD, and Richard Guare, PhD in the field of Executive Functioning. Biz worked with a UP RVA student during her practicum with Dawson and Guare. She joined the staff officially in 2021. Biz meets one-on-one with our high school students during their study halls at school and with our college students remotely. Together, Biz and UP RVA students work on time management skills, organization habits, self-advocacy, self-care, study strategies, and other life skills.

Our Drivers

Full-Time Drivers: Mr. Brandon, Ms. Khalidah, Ms. Crystal, Ms. Stephanie, and Mr. Trey. Part-Time Drivers: Mr. Kevin, Ms. Debbie, Ms. Gwen, and Ms. Stephanie.

Board of Directors

Our board comes from many backgrounds and walks of life. What they have in common is their firm belief in the power of unlimited potential to transform the lives of our students. At the end of the day, we are all here to serve the students and promote their success.

  • Pam Schutz


  • Joe O'Hallaron


  • Rand Robins


  • Tom Byrd

  • Richard Cullen, Jr.

  • Sarah Demm

  • Gary Marshall

  • Mike Maruca

  • Meleah Mitchell

  • Anne Rusbuldt

  • Fitz Totten

  • Donny Wade

  • Alissa Yazinski

Partner Schools

Our partner schools consist of a wide range of independent schools across the city of Richmond and the surrounding areas. These schools agree that successful students need supportive teachers that help push our students beyond the limits they have set for themselves. In addition, these schools are dedicated to working with UP RVA to ensure the most positive outcome for our students.






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