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.


  • Toby Desch

    Executive Director & Founder

    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 originally 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.

  • Paul Bateera

    Operations Manager

    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.

  • 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.

  • Sarah Cowles

    Development Assistant

    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.

  • Salisa Nolan

    Operations Assistant

    Salisa was born in Brooklyn, New York. Her family moved to Richmond when she was 9. She graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with her Bachelors in Social Work. Salisa interned with UP RVA in her junior year in the social work program. She realized her passion is working with children and decided to work with the organization full time.

Our Drivers

Ms. Marchell, Mr. Mike, Ms. Star, Mr. Devon and Ms. Crystal

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


  • Dan Ludwin


  • Rand Robins


  • Sarah Demm

  • Peter Goodwin

  • Shane Maley

  • Gary Marshall

  • Mike Maruca

  • Joe O'Hallaron

  • Anne Rusbuldt

  • Amanda Surgner

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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