RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Driving around VCU it's hard to miss the brand new dorm building at West Grace Street and Shafer. It was actually designed to house a specific program, a living and learning community.
VCU ASPIRE is a first at the university. ASPIRE means Academic Scholars Program In Real Environments...a fancy acronym for a program focused on community service.
Sophomore Jordyn Moore is a member of the inaugural class.
"I thought maybe if I could just get a little bit more of a hands on experience with service projects and helping others then not only would that be enriching spiritually and mentally and personally but also educationally," said Moore.
She just moved into the almost 30-million dollar, five-story residence hall, which has apartment suites with kitchens and washers and dryers, classroom space and meeting rooms. It might be nicer than most people's apartment buildings.
"Looking at the ability to not only live here but live here comfortably, have food and have furniture and things like that. It also helped me realize how blessed I am to be here," she said.
This year there are 148 students participating. Eventually more than 400 will earn certification, which includes five classes and 100 hours of outside-the-classroom projects.
"Students can focus both on academic and personal, passionate, interesting community engagement. They actually learn the skills and knowledge of how to be civically engaged, how to make meaningful contributions to the community and then get a chance to practice it," said ASPIRE Director Mary Slade.
Now, students like Moore, who aren't from here, are making their presence known in Richmond.
"I just feel like it's totally a blessing and an honor to be able to give back to a community that I have already fallen in love with just by being here a year and a half," Moore added.
The new construction across the street will be similar in concept. There, students will focus on global education. The West Grace North Apartments Residence Hall is scheduled to open next school year.