Chaz Haywood said he first heard about On the Road when his kids were at Skyline Middle School. As a parent, he would go have lunch with his kids at least once a month in the school cafeteria, something his father used to do with him.
“So, I was probably sitting at a lunch table at Skyline Middle School when I first started to hear about On the Road Collaborative,” Chaz remembered. “And it was there that I got to start meeting some of these other kids that were with On the Road and got to hear their excitement and things they were learning and people they were starting to meet.”
It was his professional role as Clerk of Court at Rockingham County Circuit Court, however, that first allowed him to get involved with On the Road.
As Clerk of Court, Chaz serves as the recorder of deeds and as the official court administrator for all civil and criminal court cases. So, when we started our Mock Trial Career Enrichment Course, Chaz jumped in to offer support.
“I heard there was a group that was starting to look at a mock trial and work through the problem solving of a court case,” Chaz said. “So when I heard that they had a court angle, it only made sense to jump in on it and try to do all I can — whether it’s through using the court space or finding ways that we can support our possible future attorneys.”
As a corporate sponsor, Chaz and his team have helped make our Mock Trial Career Enrichment Course possible, which allows our youth to learn about a variety of possible career paths that are available in the legal field while gaining hands-on experience arguing a case in the Rockingham County Courthouse.
An On the Road youth during a Mock Trial at the Rockingham County Courthouse.
Chaz says that he sees On the Road as a place where kids can go and not just get homework help, but get the opportunity to explore and learn more about themselves—which, from his perspective, is what kids need.
“There’s no doubt that if you don’t give [youth] something positive to be involved in, they’re gonna find something—and you just don’t know what that something’s gonna be,” Chaz said.
Youth during an On the Road Career Enrichment Course.
Wilma Knight, Assistant Vice President and Branch Manager at United Bank, agrees. She said that when she first heard about On the Road, she was surprised by the depth of our programs.
“I thought they just did some extra school tutoring and some activities and things of that nature,” Wilma remembered. “When I realized the number of programs and the depth that they go into with these children and the parents, I was really floored.
She said just like Chaz and the team at the Rockingham County Courthouse, United Bank, one of our corporate sponsors, sees the value of education and how important it is to support our next generation.
“United Bank has the philosophy that we want to be able to teach the children and be able to lead a new passageway for children to be financially strong and supportive of their own self,” Wilma said, adding that for many, it’s about breaking generational cycles.
“What I like the most about On the Road is that they also take into consideration the parents,” Wilma said. “So, if they’re teaching the children something, and [the youth’s] avenue for help and support are the parents at home, then [On the Road’s] not forgetting that aspect.”
Becca Miller, Domino’s Owner & Franchisee at Commonwealth Pizza, Inc., said that was something that struck her about our organization, too.
“I think On the Road fills a need of an underserved community that we have—and not just the youth. I think it affects the whole family in general,” Becca said. “It’s almost breaking a cycle, and it’s really helping these kids succeed and make better choices.”
“They’re also not given the opportunity to make the bad choices because they’re engaged and they’re staying busy,” Becca added. “And they’re staying active in their community, which is fantastic.”
Both Becca and Chaz said that when they see our youth, it reminds them of themselves when they were younger.
“When these kids come in and I get to talk to them, I see myself,” Chaz said. “My parents worked hard so they couldn’t be around all the time. So, I was that kid who didn’t necessarily have somebody right there throughout offering that direction”
“There was a great quote I saw years ago that said something like, “Be the person you needed when you were 10 years old,” and that’s what On the Road does,” Chaz added. “On the Road makes specific efforts to put their arm around the kid, push them forward, and let them know that they can do it and that they’ve got that support behind them. And that is what it’s all about.”
She grew up in Rockingham County and said she was one of those kids who rode the bus home and spent the rest of the afternoon alone.
So as a mother with kids in the Harrisonburg City Schools, she was excited to see an organization that offered engaged learning opportunities for youth after the school bell rings.
“I think that there’s so much that these kids can do, but sometimes they get caught in a cycle,” Becca said. “The [Youth Leaders] are just really supporting them and showing them different ways, which I love.”
As an organization, our work is truly about being a champion for our young people by providing educational opportunities and hands-on career experiences to middle and high-school youth outside of regular school hours.
With this extra support and the relationships we build along the way, we can help close the learning gap while building our youth’s confidence and skills along the way.
And our sponsors are true partners in this work.
Thanks to sponsors like Dominos, Rockingham County Circuit Court, and United Bank, we’ve been able to serve more than 900 local youth.
And Becca, Chaz, and Wilma all said they hope other people join in to continue building a world where all youth are on the road to realizing their promise
For Chaz, he said he’d want people “to go back to remembering what you were like when you were that kid.”
“You could be that opportunity for that kid. Or if you had support at home growing up, what if you didn’t have that support?” Chaz added. “It’s not always about hard work. It’s not always about keeping your nose to the grindstone. Sometimes it’s just about caring for a kid.”
And he says he sees that so clearly with On the Road.
“From a leadership side, I just love how Brent does things, because he honors his people,” Chaz added. “And I think by honoring his people, that gives them a better opportunity of honoring the students and the communities they serve, I think it definitely trickles down.”
“What stands out to me the most is the fact that they still have that passion … after all these years,” Wilma said. “And it’s not just Brent; it’s the staff, too. I haven’t run into a single staff member that doesn’t have that passion.”
Wilma says she hopes others will choose to learn more about On the Road and how they can get involved.
“I would try to persuade other organizations as well as individuals that’s looking for some community involvement to look into this program,” Wilma said. “It’s a very in-depth program that requires a lot of volunteers plus the staff that Brent has on file … and it’s something that is worthwhile—not just to the education, but it’s worthwhile to your heart to watch [the youth] and see something that connects with them.”
Chaz said for people looking to make a difference, he’d encourage them to check out On the Road.
“Whether it’s through a financial donation or whether it’s through showing up at one of the programs and spending a couple hours with kids, that’s it. It’s as much or as little as you want it to be to make a difference in a kid’s life,” Chaz said.
Becca said that’s exactly why she got involved, too.
“You can donate money to a lot of different charities and organizations,” Becca said. “But when you’re giving to one like this, it’s easy to see where that money is going and the impact you’re making and how it’s affecting the kids.”
“You feel like it makes a difference.”
We are incredibly thankful to Wilma Knight and United Bank, Chaz Haywood and the Rockingham County Circuit Court, and Becca Miller and our local Dominos — as well as all of our other amazing sponsors — for their support. We couldn’t do this work without them.