Rachel Haines came to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the United Way of Southwest Virginia (UWSWVA) as they had just received funding for three new initiatives (credential study, a speakers’ bureau, and internships). At first it was a challenge to comprehend the scope of the region’s 19 cities/counties and 92 schools, but Rachel successfully navigated the area’s various unique communities and their needs. Rachel serves as a Youth Success Coordinator for UWSWVA’s Ignite Program. Ignite is the only regional workforce development program in the K12 school system providing career awareness and hands-on skill development to more than 30,000 students in the region. Rachel has worked hard to fully comprehend the scope of need in these communities and whole-heartedly believes that awareness is a small success in an effort to create a real and sustainable change.
As the Youth Success Coordinator, Rachel recruited volunteers for UWSWVA’s largest ever Careers Expo hosting nearly 5,000 7th graders. She also conducted a service plunge event prior to the Careers EXPO in which volunteers prepared materials for attendees. Rachel assisted with hosting “Educators in Industry” tours, which allowed nearly 70 middle school teachers to experience industries in the region and get a better sense of workforce needs to share in their classrooms. She was also involved in a Celebrity Bagging event to spread the news about the Backpacks Unite program and worked to collect, analyze, and compile data gathered from a credential study to show comparison of school credentials verses entry level credentials that may be required by local companies. Rachel volunteered and participated in two Reality Store (real life financial simulations) experiences for 8th grade students in the region and gathered resources for the internship program to create manuals and other assets to share with students, parents, schools, and businesses.
The Youth Success Team recruited over 35 businesses with 94 available internships. A vital part of the internships being successful is the UWSWVA’s communication to the 39 high schools, 35 businesses, and hundreds of students applying for the positions. A huge reason for the program’s success is due to Rachel’s work creating easy-to-follow user manuals for the program – which will be utilized long after she completes her year of service.
Recently, Rachel was honored as Volunteer of Year at United Way of Southwest Virginia’s Impact Awards in March 2019.
Thanks Rachel for making a difference in Virginia!