Author

Mechelle Hankerson

Mechelle Hankerson

Mechelle, born and raised in Virginia Beach, is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in mass communications and a concentration in print journalism. She covered the General Assembly for the university’s Capital News Service and was among 12 student journalists in swing states selected by the Washington Post to cover the 2012 presidential election. For the past five years, she has covered local government, crime, housing, infrastructure and other issues at the Raleigh News & Observer and The Virginian-Pilot, where she most recently covered the state’s biggest city, Virginia Beach. Mechelle was with the Virginia Mercury until January 3rd, 2019.

How Virginia’s new student loan ombudsman helps borrowers

By: - September 23, 2019

Student loans: Just over a million Virginians have $38 billion worth of them and have made thousands of complaints about confusing rules, ballooning balances and misapplied payments to the federal government in the past three years. Since January, students have been able to send concerns to Scott Kemp, the state’s first student loan ombudsman. He’s […]

Elections officials say overseas voters should send ballots back early in case the U.S. leaves an international mail agreement

By: - September 17, 2019

State elections officials have asked deployed service members and other overseas voters to submit their absentee ballots three weeks before Election Day in case the United States leaves an international postal agreement. “It may be that mail won’t get delivered from these locations,” said Chris Piper, elections commissioner. “That obviously affects our uniformed and overseas […]

‘My community doesn’t have a voice’: Are Virginia schools meeting the needs of an increasing Hispanic population?

By: - September 16, 2019

Over the last five years, Jimmy Trujillo’s stepdaughter has moved through elementary and middle school in Richmond with average grades but below-average and stagnating English skills. His daughter, now in high school, can only read, write and speak a handful of English words, according to her standardized language test results. Without a better grasp of […]

Groups want a passenger train route from the ‘Blue Ridge to the beach’

By: - September 11, 2019

As a long-awaited higher-speed passenger rail project between Richmond and Washington gets a key federal approval, a coalition of business, higher education, transportation and environmental groups wants the state to study the possibility of connecting the state via east-west passenger rail service. On Tuesday, the Virginia Department of Rail and Transportation announced that the lengthy […]

Virginia State Capitol

A million people likely won’t get state tax refund checks, report says

By: - September 11, 2019

A liberal think tank estimates that more than a million Virginia taxpayers won’t receive tax refund checks lawmakers approved as part of a major tax policy change earlier this year. Most of those will be lower-income Virginians, according to a new analysis by The Commonwealth Institute, a Richmond policy nonprofit.  “Although this group of taxpayers […]

NRA drops an unusual high dollar donation on Virginia Republican leader’s PAC

By: - September 4, 2019

The National Rifle Association dropped a $200,000 donation into House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert’s political action committee this week, a departure from its usual practice in Virginia of relying on grassroots support to stop gun law changes. Before this week’s donation, the Fairfax-based NRA had donated less than a million dollars total to state lawmakers […]

Republican state senator pushes back on Richmond’s proposals to increase diversity at its whitest schools

By: - September 3, 2019

After the morning bell rang on the first day of school at Fox Elementary in Richmond and the children had filed into their classrooms, four people remained outside the school. Two people at one corner of the school held signs that read “Save Our Neighborhood Schools,” while the other two waited to approach passersby. The […]

‘A small renaissance’: Pawpaws, George Washington’s favorite fruit, seeing a resurgence

By: - September 3, 2019

Michael McConkey can’t keep enough pawpaw trees in stock at his landscaping business in Afton. “There’s a small renaissance going on with it. There are an awful lot of backyard growers,” McConkey said. He’s stocked the fruit tree at his store, Edible Landscaping, since the business opened in 1987.  And as popularity of the once-obscure […]

Which Virginia localities rely most on traffic fines for revenue?

By: - September 2, 2019

Emporia is a well-known speed trap, dreaded by heavy-footed drivers who might think the city near the border of North Carolina funds its operations entirely through the punishment of too-fast drivers. But 124 miles away, there’s a town that relies on bad drivers’ traffic fines and similar payments more than Emporia: Eastville, a 200-person town […]

Surprise? Trump’s support among Latinos in Virginia is dropping, according to poll

By: - August 29, 2019

The percentage of Latino voters in Virginia who support Trump is getting smaller, according to polling from Equis Labs, which released an 11-state survey this week it calls the deepest look yet at voter sentiment in the demographic. Equis polled 500 Latino voters in the state and found 20 percent plan on voting for Trump […]

What happens if voters spell Del. Nick Freitas’ name wrong during his write-in campaign

By: - August 28, 2019

The spelling rhyme goes something like: I before E except after C — and R if your name is Nick Freitas. Freitas, R-Culpeper, is running a write-in campaign to win re-election to the House of the Delegates. The conservative up-and-comer failed to make it on the ballot as the Republican nominee because his candidate qualification […]

Decades after Brown decision, Virginia is still grappling with school segregation

By: - August 26, 2019

Jenny Aghomo was excited about the new teachers and friends her daughter would meet if the majority-black school she attended in Richmond merged with a nearby majority-white school as part of a plan to increase the diversity of both student bodies. Then Aghomo heard what some parents from that majority-white school, Fox Elementary, were saying […]