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Student United Way’s Graduating Seniors Give Farewell Speeches

There were some tears, there were a few laughs, and there were moments when the audience sucked in its collective breath in pride and amazement at what the graduating seniors of the Student United Way program had to say about themselves, their times, their community, and the future last Tuesday night at the Hotel Roanoke.

Having been chosen as pioneers in a pilot Student United Way program, when they were but wee  sophomores three short years ago, the young men and women made their farewell speeches to their parents, United Way staff  and board members, teachers, and of course, each other. They spoke of great opportunities to demonstrate leadership and responsibility and how much they treasured this chance to give, advocate, and volunteer (the United Way motto). A sampling:

On visiting the Turning Point and other United Way-supported programs early in their Student United Way orientation:

When we visited the [battered women’s shelter], there were some high school students there hiding out from us, because they didn’t want to be recognized and it dawned on me that these were real people and everyone knows someone who has been helped by United Way.

“I had no idea that this happened here.”

“It was heartbreaking.”

“The closest I ever came to that before was watching Lifetime with my mother.”

“It opened my eyes.”

On learning about United Way:

“I learned that United Way is related to all these different agencies.”

“United Way is so dedicated and it’s in it for the people of the Roanoke Valley.”

“I have learned the definition of giving – time and money.”

“United Way helps the community and brings the community together.”

“It’s many agencies coming together for one goal.”

On their time in Student United Way:

“I was flattered, but I had no idea what I was getting into – what a great experience it was going to be.”

“People are so generous here.”

“We raised $ 1,700 in our student/ faculty volleyball game not bad for the first year!”

“I leaned valuable lessons Ill take with me to college.”

“We met CEOS from big businesses around the Roanoke Valley.”

“This big thing has changed the person who I am, changed my fundamental beliefs.”

“I got to collaborate with students from around the Roanoke Valley to help people.”

“One young man, confined to  a wheelchair as a result of childhood cancer, said, Even though I can’t do the stand-up Helping Hand (a large white hand costume that people can get inside of to represent United Way),  I can give back to the community that gave straight to me when I needed it.  I’m very honored and proud to be one of the guinea pigs, and I’m glad this program is continuing next year.”

Jean Glontz, United Way board member, who with Lucy Walton, former board member, lead the inaugural group, thanked the parents for letting us have them for a short time.  We are so proud of them, and you can see why.

By Linda Webb
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