Why you know her: Irene Andrade inspired the Richmond education community as the Class of 2018 co-valedictorian at Huguenot High School. She led her class academically but also mentored other Latino students to help them graduate on time, one of a litany of issues in the city’s public school system.

What’s new: Andrade is a freshman at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg.

She’s studying psychology but has taken general education classes this semester before moving into psychology classes. College was “a little bit of a shock,” she said.

“Just getting used to everything and adjusting, it just takes time,” Andrade said.

Early in the semester, she went to the university’s club fair, an event for organizations to pitch students on their activities, and she ended up joining the Latino Student Association and the boxing club. Boxing was a first for her — she didn’t participate in any sports in high school — and she hopes to join the LSA leadership team.

Between punches and LSA events, Andrade often finds herself at Mary Washington’s James Farmer Multicultural Center.

“It’s such a relaxing environment there,” she said.

She volunteers for the center, connecting to her community the same way she did in Richmond as a mentor for the Exito Mentor Escolar and as a member of the League of United Latin American Citizens and the Latino Education Achievement Program from grades 8-11.

In Richmond, only 38 percent of Hispanic students graduate on time and 3 in 5 English language learners drop out, according to data from the Virginia Department of Education. While balancing her own schoolwork, Andrade mentored other students in hopes that they wouldn’t become another statistic.

“Working with the multicultural center here is a first step for me,” she said. “I hope to have the same integration here as I did in Richmond and eventually feel like it’s a home in a sense for me, too.”

Andrade said she misses Richmond but tries to speak with her family, who still live in the city, every day.

Said Andrade: “Adjustments take some time in the beginning, but I didn’t expect to adapt so well.”

She’s home for winter break now before returning to Fredericksburg in January, ready to get involved in her community even more.


(804) 649-6012

Twitter: @jmattingly306

Education Reporter

Justin Mattingly covers K-12 schools and higher education. A northern New York native and a Syracuse University alumnus, he's worked at the RTD since 2017. You can follow him on Twitter at @jmattingly306.

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