Vanessa's data and research-driven educational reporting spans student protests to lead contamination to classroom racial disparities sparking federal investigations to school shootings prompting safety changes.

Midlothian High water fountain had 27 times more lead than safety limit, testing shows

Every day for the past three years, Helen Trout has filled up her 17-ounce water bottle at a fountain near the cafeteria at Midlothian High School. Then earlier this year, that water fountain in the small commons area stopped flowing. Analyzing water testing reports along with researching health regulations and the history of lead contamination revealed that hundreds of students could be drinking out of unsafe water fountains in part due to lagging regulations that school officials hoped state lawmakers would tighten. Using Excel and other programs, Vanessa created a graphic that mapped the lead levels for local schools.

Transgender student goes through Stafford schools

Reina Robinson clamped her daughter’s curly blond locks into a red-hot flat iron. Every morning after her husband, Greg, left for work, Reina would sizzle her child’s hair into submission. But one summer day in 2010, her teenager couldn’t take it anymore. This feature came about following a firestorm faced by school officials in Stafford when a transgender elementary school student wanted to use the female bathroom. It combined scientific data with Brian's personal narrative to explore the issue that had divided a community.

State Board of Education rejects proposal to require notifying parents about explicit materials

The Virginia Board of Education gutted a controversial measure allowing Virginia parents to be notified and opt their children out of classroom material deemed “sexually explicit.” Objections to some scenes in “Beloved,” Toni Morrison’s post-Civil War and Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, gave the vetoed bill its moniker and led to a debate that pitted free-speech groups and teachers against concerned parents.

Three days after a TJ High School senior is killed in North Richmond, his girlfriend gives birth to his son

Three days after her boyfriend was found shot and lying on the ground in Richmond’s North Side, Shaunte Townes felt the pains she had been expecting for nine months. She was going into labor, and she would have to do it without him. George Carrington IV was born about 10:30 p.m. Monday at 9 pounds and 7 ounces. He inherited the name of the father he will never meet.

Voter-approved Chesterfield school projects grapple with budget limits

Since Chesterfield County taxpayers approved a $304 million bond package for school revitalization projects three years ago, the three jobs significantly underway have struggled to stay within budget. Higher-than-expected bids to complete renovations at Providence Middle, Monacan High and Manchester Middle have forced officials to alter plans to each school by varying degrees — and there are still eight more projects in the pipeline. The stakes are high each time changes are proposed or made. The projects are located mainly in aging northern and eastern neighborhoods, whose residents have watched new, modern schools spring up in the western part of the county amid suburban sprawl.

300-500 Richmond-area students gather again to rally against gun violence

Carlos Brown wished he was in biology class with Mrs. Nelson at Henrico High School on Friday. He didn’t really want to be shouting and screaming in front of the crowd of hundreds on the steps of the Capitol building. He didn’t really want to be part of a demonstration of students protesting gun violence. But he had to face reality, he said. “Too many people’s lives have been cut short because of gun violence,” Brown said. “I wish I was in bio class right now because that would mean my three little sisters ... have learned to read before they’ve learned to hide from an active shooter. ... That politicians were taking notes instead of checks.”

He shifted his tassel from the Bon Air correctional facility Monday. Years ago, this moment was only a dream.

Joana DeLaRosa slid on her headband lined with gold roses Monday morning, the one that matched her golden-hued dress. Her eldest daughter decided on a floral-print white dress for the graduation, while her middle daughter put on a X-Men T-shirt. They lined up with the rest of the families wearing sundresses and suits, moving past the fences topped with barbed wire.

... one of the best submissions this year. The teacher morale story was extremely salient and relevant. Excellent writing.

Virginia Press Association judge on award for educational writing