In 1991, the members of the Richmond
Black Professional Firefighters Association (RBPFFA) noticed a disturbing
trend of violence in the community. Far too often, it was young African-
American males who were victims of the social epidemic, which lead
to serious injury and death. In an effort to provide assistance to
youth who were at-risk of this violent trend, the members felt an obligation
to provide an opportunity for youth to become involved in activities
that would be beneficial to their growth and development.
formal background in program development, Captain Berhel presented
a proposal to the former President Captain Ron Williams, which shaped
the foundation of the Richmond Youth Academy (RYA).
program proposal addressed the conditions and destructive plight
of young African- American males in the Richmond community. The RYA
concept is to share our knowledge as firefighters and provide professional
guidance and life- skills to young teenagers. The fundamental principles
remain pillars of the program today; academic achievement, community
service and self-discipline. Presently, the RYA serves a diverse
group of young men and women from all ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds.
The RYA was granted a conditional use of a retired fire station
located in the City of Richmond. Initially this facility was used
for fire department trainings and was filled with old furnishing
and old fire equipment.
The then newly appointed RBPFFA President
and Richmond Youth Academy Project designer, Byron Berhel presented
the program to Floyd Cormier Jr., who was then presiding as Fire
Chief. Chief Cormier gave authorization to utilize the facility for
the purpose of providing this community resource.
The Richmond Fire
Department has been a loyal supporter and partner of the Richmond
Youth Academy since its inception in 1994. Other civic partners in
the education and faith-based community have played significant roles
in assisting the members of the RBPFFA to help hundreds of young
people accept the challenge to realize and maximize their full potential.
We are a non-profit organization – our 501©3 Tax ID # is