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.Read More
Deyeah was able to secure a ride to school everyday, and Toby gave her a ride home. Toby also agreed to buy her a computer and help in any way he was able. When Deyeah returned to school that next week, it was the first full week she had completed all year.
Toby quickly realized that there were other students like Deyeah that were from the East End of Richmond and were enrolled in other Independent Schools in town. The other students also struggled with the same needs as Deyeah and needed help to be successful at school.
In 2015, Toby started UP RVA with himself, a driver, a van, and a partnership with Anna Julia Cooper, a school in the East End of Richmond. There were many long days that included driving seven students that attended four different Independent Schools. They would start in the morning and run transportation until 8:00 o’clock at night. During the day, Toby would go out into the community and fundraise so that the program could continue to run and grow.
Through determination and hard work, UP RVA has grown to include 55 students at 8 different schools, 14 team members, 6 vehicles that provide safe transportation, and countless volunteers. Toby was lucky to learn this piece of Adobe as a middle school student from a friend’s father: “if you love what you do, success will follow.” This couldn’t be truer for Toby today as he follows his dream of growing UP RVA and making it available to more students.
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 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 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 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.
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.
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 joined UP RVA in early 2020 as Development Assistant. Prior to this role, she served as Associate Director of Annual Giving at Collegiate School. 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.
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.
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.