High school students present internship experience at United Way of Southwest Virginia’s Leaders’ Breakfast

Abingdon, VA (September 25, 2019) – Students from the inaugural group of Ignite interns spoke during United Way of Southwest Virginia’s Operation Tomorrow’s Workforce Leaders’ Breakfast this morning about their experiences over their four-week Ignite 2019 Summer Internships. Speakers included intern and mentor matches from Universal Fibers, Mitsubishi Chemical Advanced Materials, Rooftop of Virginia, and LENOWISCO Planning District Commission.

United Way created the Ignite program to supply local employers with a talent pipeline of next generation skilled workers, building a robust competitive economy in Southwest Virginia.  A key part of this effort is preparing youth to be successful in the workplace by giving them opportunities to develop their skills and competencies through real-life work experiences.  By connecting students with internships, United Way helps students gain critical workplace skills through hands-on learning.  Through United Way of Southwest Virginia’s Ignite program, this summer 18 companies across the region hosted a total of 36 interns

Duane Miller, executive director of LENOWISCO Planning District Commission stated, “More businesses and organizations should utilize the Ignite internship program. You never know when you might find a future employee that will strengthen your company.” Miller served as an Ignite mentor this summer. He stated, “We are eager to participate in United Way of Southwest Virginia’s Ignite internship program again next year!”

According to Miller’s intern, Sarah Graham of Lee High School, “So few people my age get the opportunity to experience filling out a job application, getting to have a real job interview, and getting to see what goes on in ‘the real world’ before they graduate.” During Graham’s presentation she explained, “More opportunities should be available to students who may benefit from exposure from companies like LENOWISCO PDC and United Way of Southwest Virginia.”

United Way of Southwest Virginia president and ceo, Travis Staton, said “We are hopeful that these internships will enhance the relationships between educators, employers, and students within the region, creating a sustainable solution to the challenges facing the workforce of tomorrow.”


United Way of Southwest Virginia fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in Southwest Virginia because they are the building blocks for a good quality of life.  Through an initiative-based cradle-to-career approach, United Way of Southwest Virginia is creating sustainable solutions to address the challenges facing tomorrow’s workforce. United Way convenes cross-sector partners to make an impact on the most complex problems in our region. Through collaboration with government, business, nonprofit and individuals, United Way innovates for positive, lasting social change.  With a footprint that covers nearly 20% of the state of Virginia, United Way of Southwest Virginia programs and initiatives serve the counties of Bland, Buchanan, Carroll, Dickenson, Floyd, Giles, Grayson, Lee, Montgomery, Pulaski, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington, Wise, and Wythe, and the cities of Bristol, Galax, Norton, and Radford.


The United Way of Southwest Virginia Ignite Program sparks career interest in the next generation of Southwest Virginia’s workforce through career awareness and skill development. The program helps bridge the gap between the worlds of learning and work by connecting schools and students with employers and employees. Across the United Way of Southwest Virginia service area, the Ignite Program is investing in the lives of over 30,000 students – enabling middle school and high school students to realize their potential and be ready to enter and advance in the region’s workforce.