The Equity Center, U.Va.

The Equity Center

A UVA Democracy Initiative center for the redress of inequity through community-engaged scholarship



Youth Power

Project Leadership

Equity Center: Nancy Deutsch, Kimalee Dickerson, Daniel Fairley, Leah Puryear
University Partners: Youth Nex, Youth Action Lab, Civic and Community Engagement Program
Community Partners: Albemarle County Public School, Charlottesville City Schools


The Equity Center’s deep commitment to Youth begins with Youth Power, a series of initiatives with two overarching aims:

  • 1) supporting young people as change agents in their communities and
  • 2) addressing long-standing racial and economic educational inequities.

Recognizing that local youth are already engaged in social change to promote equity, the Equity Center provides training, resources, and a platform to enhance the impact of youth civic engagement through action research. We aim to build an infrastructure for youth to engage in research and develop solutions for inequities in our community that impact their lives. In addition to supporting local K-12 youth, the Equity Center prepares UVA students to confront and combat inequity and engage authentically in community-engaged scholarship.

The Equity Center aims to build authentic partnerships and connections with local schools, educators, and youth-serving organizations and programs to address long-standing educational disparities in public school divisions in Charlottesville, Albemarle, and surrounding counties. Our plan includes supporting existing pipeline programs designed to provide educational and career opportunities to underserved students, particularly African American, Latinx, low-wealth and immigrant youth, and helping to build additional programming and/or infrastructure where the community identifies needs.

Burley Middle School Summer Programming

CVille First Gen


Multilingual Tutoring

Project Pipeline

Montessori Science Program: Access Montessori C'Ville

Overview: Evidence indicates that Montessori education is an effective means to achieve more equi-table student outcomes. Therefore, the mis-sion of the Montessori Science Program is to advance Montessori knowledge and under-standing globally while advancing Montessori practice and access locally. This work is ac-complished through three primary strategies:

  • • Advancing research that builds evidence around the Montessori method, in particu-lar regarding the effectiveness and imple-mentation of the approach as an equity lever

  • • Higher education for Montessori teach-ers: connecting practitioners to current understandings from cognitive and de-velopmental science, anti-bias/anti-racist practices, and educational leadership
  • • Advocacy: Facilitating and supporting the local development of Montessori program-ming that reaches underserved children and families

Lillard AS, Taggart J, Yonas D, Seale MN. "An alternative to “no excuses”: Considering Montessori as culturally responsive pedagogy". Journal of Negro Education. In Press.


Snyder, A.*, Tong, X., & Lillard, A. S. (2021). "Standardized test proficiency in public Montessori schools." Journal of School Choice. Online first.

The Girls are Alwrite

Overview: Founded by Sonia Montalvo in 2019, The Girls Are Alwrite aims to provide support to Black students in the Charlottesville area who struggle with academic writing standards by creating and implementing accessible creative writing workshops for free. The goal is to offer additional learning opportunities that teach students writing practices through the art of creative writing. It seeks to deviate from traditional item teaching to encourage and assist students in becoming better writers. To combat the lack of authentic writing opportunities for students within the schools, the team created a culturally responsive alternative curriculum to push for equitable academic success for Black students.

This curriculum incorporates work and literature that exposes students to culturally relevant issues, practices that will tap into their creative processes, and exposes them to alternative methods of best writing practices.

In 2020, the second annual summer camp was hosted virtually. Rising 6th - 12th grade Black and Latinx girls joined Camp Coaches Sonia Montalvo, V the Writer, Tessa Thompson, and Brande Mccleese as they engaged in and created poetry, fiction, and nonfiction pieces.