What‘s Happening at CHS

Y Street youth volunteers at CHS

“Rev your Bev” campaign encourages better hydration

Rev Your Bev Day hydration station
“Rev Your Bev Day” hydration station encourages students to “Make a Splash” with healthy hydration.

Y Street, the award winning volunteer group of the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth, recently sponsored “Rev Your Bev Day” at more than 700 schools across the state, including Charlottesville High School.

About 10 CHS Y Street Youth hosted a hydration station during lunches where students could learn more about the benefits of drinking water rather than sugary soft drinks, take a survey and then taste-test waters flavored with fruit and other natural ingredients. The first choice, “Orange Crush,” was a blend of water, sliced oranges and vanilla extract, while the second option, “Lemon Rasberry,” blended lemon slices, whole rasperries, and fresh mint leaves in seltzer water.

Y Street youth volunteers at CHS
Y Street students Ashlyn Cherrix, Abbey Tackett, and Jamez Lynch.

Sponsored by Charlottesville Schools PE Coordinator Jessica Brantley, Y Street also holds other awareness campaigns throughout the year to promote active, nutritious, tobacco-free living. Club leaders Ashlyn Cherrix and Abbey Tackett attended a Y Street Youth Summit recently to learn more about leading the program at CHS.

Cherrix said they plan to offer hydration stations year-round where students can fill up their cups or water bottles with water throughout the school day.

For more on “Rev Your Bev Day,” see the CBS19 news coverage here.

About Y Street

Founded in 2004, Y Street is the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth’s teen volunteer
group for high school students. Y Street youth work on obesity and tobacco-use prevention
campaigns, as well as campaigns such as Rev Your Bev and Share The Air, to help promote a healthier Virginia. Y Street members have worked on public health issues with top government officials, including the U.S. Surgeon General and Virginia’s Governor, Attorney General, and First Lady. For more information, visit www.YStreet.org.

CHS orchestra director elected new VBODA president

Laura Thomas congratulatory graphic for VBODA President-electFor the first time, an orchestra director will lead the Virginia Band and Orchestra Director’s Association (VBODA), and it is our very own CHS orchestra teacher, Ms. Laura Mulligan Thomas!  This will be the third time a female has been elected president of the VBODA, an organization of high school, middle school, and elementary school band and orchestra directors within the Commonwealth of Virginia, whose mission is to help promote opportunities of music education to K-12 students. 

The primary arbiter for various band and orchestra events throughout the state, the VBODA organizes many competitions and provides outstanding individual student musicians opportunities to work with renowned conductors around the United States.

Mulligan Thomas has served as the director of the Charlottesville High School Orchestra for three decades. She came to CHS after graduating with honors from James Madison University in 1982 and began immediately to develop and nourish the orchestra program of eight students she inherited. Today an award-winning group of 110, a number of CHSO graduates are professional musicians who perform with orchestras and pop, rock, and country artists in the U.S. and Europe. Still other alumni have followed in Ms. Thomas’s footsteps and pursued careers in music education. The CHSO consistently earns superior ratings and top honors at district, national, and international music festivals.

Honored as Charlottesville’s Woman of the Year in 1999 by the Virginia Women’s Forum, Mulligan Thomas was also named one of the Charlottesville Top 25 Citizens by C-ville. Numerous additional awards for her work with young musicians include Charlottesville’s Distinguished Teacher Award, the Golden Apple Award, the Piedmont Council of the Arts Award, and Outstanding Educator in Central Virginia awarded by Phi Delta Kappa. She studied orchestra conducting with Thomas Wilkins, Carl Roskott, and Ray Fowler, and earned her master’s degree from Shenandoah Conservatory in 1996. In 2002, Shenandoah University honored her with its first graduate Alumna of Excellence Award.

Mulligan Thomas spent her early years in Alexandria, Virginia, where she studied piano with National Symphony pianist Marion Herrett and learned cello in the Alexandria City Schools string program. She has guest-conducted dozens of youth orchestras throughout Virginia, and serves as secretary on the executive board of the Virginia Band and Orchestra Directors Association. She is the chair of the Fine Arts department at Charlottesville High School, and for three years directed the University of Richmond Orchestra. An active performer, Mulligan Thomas plays piano and cello with several Charlottesville chamber ensembles, and whenever possible performs with her three siblings as the Mulligan String Quartet.


Logo for Certified Financially Literate from Wise Program

CHS receives Blue Star School Award for financial literacy among students

Logo for Certified Financially Literate from Wise ProgramFor the fifth time, CHS students have earned the W!SE Financial Literacy Blue Star School Award by demonstrating financial literacy on a national, standardized Financial Literacy Certification Test.

Additionally, three CHS teachers were recognized by W!se as Gold Star Teachers for achieving a 93% pass rate or higher in 2018-19–Hank Sohn, Yumeca Webb-Jordan, and former CHS teacher Meagan Maynard.

The W!se program aims to to help high school students graduate as financially capable young adults by providing high school programming that provides students with vital knowledge about personal finance.

To earn this coveted award, a school must have achieved an 80% passing rate on the W!se Financial Literacy Certification Test and have either a majority of students on a given grade level take the test or achieve a minimum average score of 85%.

CHS will be honored along with other Blue Star schools at the W!se MoneyPOWER Institute in New York City on November 5th.

Congratulations on this achievement and Go Black Knights!

Two AVID CHS graduates

Charlottesville High School on-time graduation rate hits all-time high of 95.7 percent

Two AVID CHS graduatesCharlottesville High School’s on-time graduation rate rose again to 95.7 percent, continuing a rising trend that exceeds the state rate, yields one of the highest rates among Virginia cities, and sets a new school standard.

“We are so proud of our students and staff,” notes Superintendent Dr. Rosa Atkins. “This is no small accomplishment. It really demonstrates the value of creating systems of supports in our schools so that we are meeting students’ individual needs so that they can succeed.”

The school’s rate surpasses the state’s average of 91.5 percent and tops the state’s averages in most groups, including for black students. Charlottesville’s black students’ rate is 95.9, higher than the school’s overall graduation rate and exceeding the state’s average for black students (89.7) by 6.2 points.

Group shot of graduates Class of 2019Similarly, the division’s five-year graduation completion index rose to 96.4, which also is among the highest in the state.

The school’s drop-out rate fell to 1.8 percent, compared to the state average of 5.6 percent. Charlottesville’s black students’ drop-out rate fell to 1 percent.

The school’s percentage of students earning advanced diplomas was just below state averages overall (49.8 vs 51.5), and in certain groups, this difference was greater, For instance, the rate of attaining an advanced diploma for black students was 25.5 at CHS vs 35.5 across the state.

“A 96 percent graduation rate is something to celebrate,” adds CHS Principal Eric Irizarry. “And even as we celebrate, we set new goals. As we continue to emphasize increased rigor and high expectations, we will expect to see more students pursuing the advanced diploma. But regardless of the type of diploma our students have earned, we celebrate this accomplishment and the good work our teachers, counselors, and staff are doing.”

poster to advertise concert and silent auction

CHS Choirs hold benefit concert and silent auction for Ocracoke School hurricane relief

poster to advertise concert and silent auctionThe choirs of Charlottesville High School presented a benefit concert earlier this week, along with a silent auction to benefit the Ocracoke School of Hyde County, NC.

A small public school located on Ocracoke Island, NC, a remote barrier island in the Outer Banks, the Ocracoke School serves grades preK-12 and has been closed since Hurricane Dorian struck the area in early September.

“We feel an obligation to help others, whenever and however we can,” said CHS Choir Director Will Cooke. “The island of Ocracoke was devastated, and we have an opportunity to use our time and talents to make a difference for this school.”

The silent auction raised nearly $8,000 preceding the concert. The auction remains open through Friday, October 11, and donations will also be accepted.

All proceeds and donations will go directly to the Ocracoke School.

Please use this link to access the silent auction: https://www.32auctions.com/chsocracokeschool?fbclid=IwAR0Kmfoy9cexSRO99-WDt3Q8Waub_g0MbSIyUaFhBRZK-5ZI6_XUffWZJjA

College Counseling logo

$5,000 college scholarship opportunity available for seniors who join Gear Up

Attention Seniors: Need money for college? If so, you could be eligible for up to $5,000. Don’t miss this first-come, first-served opportunity!

College Counseling logo


All CHS Seniors who were not part of our initial Gear Up cohort now have the opportunity to join! The Virginia Gear Up grant has opened up a limited number of additional spaces in the 2020 cohort, available on a first come, first served basis.

CHS seniors who are not currently part of the Gear Up cohort can join by filling out the student information release form. All Gear Up students can receive a scholarship of up to $5000 for post-secondary education by meeting the requirements below. Take the first step and join our 2020 cohort.

To qualify for a GUV scholarship, you must:
  • Be a Gear Up participant (must have a signed release form and join the cohort)
  • Have earned a high school diploma or recognized equivalent.
  • Be enrolled in a two- or four-year undergraduate degree program or high quality certificate program at an eligible institution of higher education.
  • Complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Financial Aid) and be eligible for federal student aid.
  • Be less than 22 years old at the time of award and disbursement.
For more information, visit www.gearupva.org.
Forms can be returned to Ms. Underwood in the Counseling office.
Questions? Email Cathi Shefski, Gear Up Coordinator, shefskc1@charlottesvilleschools.org.
2019-20 student School Board reps pose with Dr. Eric Irizarry at the School Board meeting.

CHS selects 2019-20 student School Board reps

2019-20 student School Board reps pose with Dr. Eric Irizarry at the School Board meeting.
Adrian Anderson, Ashlyn Cherrix, and Tiara Strait with CHS Principal Dr. Eric Irizarry at the first School Board meeting of 2019-20.

Congratulations to our 2019-20 student School Board representatives: Adrian Anderson, Tiara Strait, Ashlyn Cherrix, and alternate Eliana Goluboff-Schragger. 

Dr. Kendra King, Director of Student Services and Achievement, and Dr. Eric Irizarry, CHS Principal, introduced the students to the School Board in September, and the three will each serve one trimester.

A member of the varsity lacrosse team, senior Adrian Anderson is also involved in the Black Student Union, the Latin Club, and is interested in Engineering, currently enrolled in the Engineering 4 class.

A National Honor Society inductee, senior Tiara Strait spends her free time working and volunteering in the community. She is a junior volunteer at Martha Jefferson Hospital, a Clayborne Better Future Fellow, and a member of the School Counseling Advisory Committee.

Senior Ashlyn Cherrix, a peer college amassador in the new HERO Club, also juggles three jobs and participates in Y-Street and varsity field hockey.

A wind ensemble member at CHS, sophomore alternate Elian Goluboff-Schragger also participates in field hockey, soccer, and the Young Feminist Club.





CHSO Strings Ensemble performs on Downtown Mall

CHS orchestra strings ensemble performing on Downtown Mall.The Charlottesville High School Orchestra String Ensemble presented a short public performance at Central Place on the Downtown Mall on Wednesday, September 25 at 12:30 p.m. to kick-off fundraising efforts for a trip to Europe next year.

Led by CHSO orchestra director Laura Thomas, the CHSO String Ensemble has been invited to participate in the 2020 Lisbon International Youth Music Festival. The festival features more than 30 concerts in the best halls and open-air venues in Portugal and celebrates youth orchestras, choirs, symphonic bands and ensembles from all over the world.

For more information, visit www.chsorchestra.org.

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Group shot with students, staff, and Secretary Qarni.

Secretary Qarni visits CHS to talk mental wellness

Students discuss mental wellness with Secretary Qarni.Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni visited Charlottesville High School for a round table discussion with students and staff to learn more about the variety of mental wellness initiatives at CHS.

Recognized as a leader in using a multi-strand approach to mental wellness, social-emotional learning, and intentional community building, Charlottesville City Schools has implemented a wide range of student-led inititatives, particularly at the high school. CHS students shared some of these efforts with Secretary Qarni, including the Teen Mental Health First Aid program, the Green Dot bystander training program, the Link Crew freshman mentoring program, CHS’s calming space, and partnerships with Region Ten Community Services Board and support services such as Y-CAPP.

Group shot with students, staff, and Secretary Qarni.The visit to CHS is part of a larger effort by the governor’s administration to shed light on mental health and suicide prevention support programs throughout the state during National Suicide Awareness Month. The Commonwealth’s new program, “Recognize. Talk. Act,” launched earlier this month, aims to equip people to recognize signs of crisis and offer help.

More on CHS mental wellness initiatives

  • Teen Mental Health First Aid: CHS was one of two schools in Virginia and eight in the US to pilot this national program last year. It teaches high school students about common mental health challenges and what they can do to support their own mental health and help a friend who is struggling.
  • Green Dot: CHS is one of two area schools to participate in this national program, launched at CHS earlier this fall. The goal is to train students, faculty, and staff in bystander intervention to help prevent instances of violence or harassment and to frame and set school norms more positively.
  • Link Crew: CHS has been participating in this national teen-to-teen mentoring program for several years.  Each year, returning CHS students apply to train and serve as mentors to a small group of ninth-graders, offering support and peer-to-peer guidance throughout the year.
  • Calming Space: Last year, CHS dedicated a calming space for students and staff. Students can get a pass to stop by the room for a few minutes when they are feeling stressed or angered. The room is stocked with tactile and sensory tools to help students re-center.
  • Partnership with Region Ten Community Services Board and Y-CAPP: Through a partnership with Region Ten and Y-CAPP, CHS is able to provide in-school clinic mental health services and therapeutic day treatments to students.

To learn more about social-emotion learning and other supports in Charlottesville City Schools, click here.

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