United We Win by providing connection from high school students to employers.

United We Win by helping youth find the resources to learn and develop new professional skills.

The Youth Success team supports United Way of Southwest Virginia’s cradle-to-career approach.

Cradle to Career

United Way innovates for positive, lasting social change by creating sustainable solutions to address the challenges facing tomorrow’s workforce and through collaboration with government, business, nonprofit and individuals.

United We Achieve This By:

  • Working with local business partners to create work-based learning opportunities for students

  • Connecting schools and students to employers and employees for career exploration

  • Increase availability of and access to internship opportunities across the region

The Youth Success department at United Way of Southwest Virginia is the SWVA hub that strengthens the network of providers working together to improve youth’s access to career building opportunities.  The core services offered by the Youth Success team members include:









United We Win. Live United

Our Youth Success Initiatives

Ignite Summer Internships

United Way of Southwest Virginia’s Ignite Program provides our region’s high school students with a four-week summer internship component designed to teach critical workplace skills and prepare students for the workplace through hands-on work experience. Internships bridge the gap between the worlds of learning and work by connecting students and schools with employees and employers.

Learn More

Ignite Careers Expo for Youth

As one component of the United Way of Southwest Virginia Ignite Program, the Careers Expo for Youth is an annual event for over 4,000 7th grade students from Southwest Virginia. Students move through four zones filled with hands-on activities presented by more than 100 volunteers from regional employers. At this annual event, seventh grade students see first-hand what it’s like to participate in a chemistry experiment, climb a utility pole, practice CPR, or use a 3D printer – directly from industry professionals located in Southwest Virginia.

Learn More

Educators in Industry

Many educators in Southwest Virginia are unaware of the job opportunities available for their students in Southwest Virginia. United Way works with our business partners to host teacher tours at local employers’ work sites so teachers can learn about the workplace skills that their students will need to be successful. Teachers share the information they learn with other faculty members at their schools.

Operation Tomorrow’s Workforce

Operation Tomorrow’s Workforce: The Leaders Breakfast is an invitation-only event for business CEOs, legislators, city managers, county administrators, workforce investment boards, school superintendents, and other cross-sector leadership from throughout the region. At the breakfast, leaders receive up-to-date information and research on current workforce issues of the region and updates about our region’s emerging workforce.

Learn More

Major Clarity

In Virginia, all seventh-grade students are required to complete a career plan. However, many of these students have no idea what careers are available or what skills they need to have to be successful in the workforce. United Way of Southwest Virginia provides an individualized career planning and exploration software to more than 30,000 students across Southwest Virginia to help students prepare for the workforce.

Learn More

Reality Store

United Way of Southwest Virginia partners with the Virginia Cooperative Extension to provide Reality Store simulations for 8th grade students across the entire Southwest Virginia region.  A Reality Store is a fun, interactive financial simulation to teach students about personal accounting, financial responsibility and life choices.  During the Reality Stores, 8th-graders are assigned a job and a salary.  The students are told whether or not they are married or parents.  The students then purchase essential life items at various stations, including taxes, real estate, insurance, vehicles, child care, charities, and entertainment.  Students are responsible to make purchases that best fit their income, then balance their checkbooks.  At the end of the day the students review their decisions.

Learn More

Speakers Bureau

Many educators in Southwest Virginia are unaware of the job opportunities available for their students in Southwest Virginia. United Way works with our business partners to supply classrooms with Project Based Learning (PBL) speakers through the Ignite Program Speakers Bureau. Volunteers from local employers lead hands-on activities in classrooms, linking classroom learning to skills students will need in the workforce.

Learn More

Youth Success Team

Melinda Leland
Melinda LelandManager of Youth Success
United Way of Southwest Virginia
Office: 276-628-2160 Extension: 4031
Crystal Breeding
Crystal BreedingYouth Success Coordinator
United Way of Southwest Virginia
Office: 276-628-2160 Extension: 4073
Megan Hamilton
Megan HamiltonYouth Success Coordinator
United Way of Southwest Virginia
Office: 276-628-2160 Extension: 4067

Ready to Talk to Us?