Serving From the Start

 In Board Profiles, Stories

Before she became Richmond’s City Manager, Shasa Curl played a pivotal part in the creation of Richmond Promise

Over the last seven years, Richmond Promise has provided resources and support to thousands of college students from Richmond. That work has benefited from the support of many community partners, but none have been more dedicated to the organization’s success than Richmond Promise’s Board of Directors. Over the next few months, we will introduce you to this passionate and dedicated group with a series of profiles that highlight their work and showcase their commitment to young people in Richmond.

Shasa Curl head shotAs Richmond’s City Manager, Shasa Curl spends a great deal of time and energy considering how decisions made now will shape the city’s long-term future.

Investing in Richmond’s youth has always been part of the plan.

Officially appointed City Manager by the Richmond City Council in 2022, Curl was one of the founding voices responsible for the creation of Richmond Promise and now serves as a Board member as she continues to champion the organization’s mission of creating a college graduating culture in Richmond. 

When the Richmond City Council voted in 2015 to use funds from the Environmental and Community and Investment Agreement (ECIA) to start the Richmond Promise, Curl served as staff for the task force charged with developing the program. She worked alongside members of the City Council and City Manager Bill Lindsay to develop the framework for the program and select its first Executive Director, Jessie Stewart.

Once Richmond Promise was up and running, Curl didn’t just hand over her duties. Instead, she has stayed involved as a member of the Board and continues to play an active role in an organization she believes can be a lasting force for good in Richmond.

“I had a lot of opportunities very similar to what I think the Richmond Promise tries to provide but from different sources,” Curl said. “And I really do think that education can be transformational. It opens all sorts of doors for you. I still really believe in the power of higher education.”

Curl’s own college journey serves as an example of how a bit of support can prove life-changing. When considering her own career path after finishing her undergraduate studies, she applied to the Urban Planning Program at UCLA with the understanding that if she received funding, she would go. She ultimately received a fellowship that allowed her to earn her Master’s degree.

Along the way, she gained an appreciation for the opportunities that college provided her. 

“I think there is something to be said for starting college and showing you can finish and that tenacity. There’s something to be said for cramming all night, writing a paper, and memorizing things that you really don’t want to memorize,” Curl said. “I feel like, at least for me, I made meaningful relationships during my internships, during undergrad and during graduate school. That created lifetime friendships with people that I’m still very much connected to today.”

Curl points to the over 3,200 students who have been awarded the Richmond Promise scholarship as a supporting data point for the program’s impact. While the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted college enrollment numbers across the country, those numbers are now rebounding, and with over 500 Richmond students applying to be part of the newest Promise cohort, scholarship award numbers are nearing pre-pandemic levels.

As the future of higher education continues to evolve, Curl’s focus remains on providing opportunities for Richmond’s youth.

It’s an investment she believes will keep providing benefits long into the future.

“It’s always really been a pleasure to serve on the Richmond Promise board,” Curl said. “I’m looking forward to thinking about and helping work as a board member to plan for the next 10 years of the Promise and what that looks like.”

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