When she was in kindergarten at Lawrence Elementary School, Valandra Riggins started at the K-3 grade after-school program offered by Every Child Valued (ECV). One of her favorite memories was the Bike-A-Thon. She remembers that all of the kids rode their bikes around the neighborhood and at the end of the event some new bikes were given out. “I wasn’t one of the kids that got a new bike, but I was just so excited that we could all get together and ride,” she recalls.
When she was in the 4-6 grade after-school program she recalls a different kind of get-together. She cites an adventure when “Mr. Kopp took us on a walkabout along the trails near our neighborhood. We learned about nature and plants and different kinds of trees. We also made a CD about the walkabout. They let us use cameras for the walk so we could take pictures of what we saw in nature and we were allowed to keep the pictures.” Valandra did not know it at the time but she was participating in a well-structured program operated by Every Child Valued and the Lawrence Township Public Schools called “Walkabout in the Natural World.” The walkabout program was designed to coincide with their science program at school.
When she went to the Lawrence Middle School and Lawrence High School, Valandra participated in the ECV mentoring program in which Rider University worked with ECV students under the direction of a tutor that Valandra knew as Ms. Rachael.
At Lawrence High School Valandra applied for the Princeton University Preparation Program (PUPP). She was accepted and a cohort of 24 students who took college preparation courses at Princeton University during the summers for all four years of high school. At Lawrence High School she was a sprinter on the track team specializing in the 200-meter and 400-meter sprints. In the fall, she ran cross country for the Lawrence Cardinals.
In 2019, after graduation from Lawrence High School, Valandra obtained a full four-year academic scholarship to attend The College of New Jersey. She is majoring in Public Health with a minor in Biology. Valandra continues in her athletic pursuits in track and field.
Valandra remembers many people who helped her along the way but she wants to especially “send a shout out to Ms. Carter, Ms. Grubb, and Ms. Johnson” who helped her during her years in the 4-6 grade program.