Agency Q&A: Goodwill of Central and Coastal Virginia

United Way works with 40+ local and regional nonprofit agencies to tackle each of our nine Steps to SuccessGet to know these agencies and learn about their partnership with United Way. We invited Melody Walker, Operations Manager at Goodwill of Central and Coastal Virginia, to tell us about her work.

Melody Walker oversees the Education for Employment component of several Goodwill workforce programs for various populations, including youth with limited opportunities, youth and adults aiming to enter the workforce following incarceration and adults transitioning from public assistance to independence.

Tell us about yourself and your professional background.

I’m a native Richmonder and have worked with disadvantaged populations since graduating from William and Mary. For 12 years, my career has involved implementing school- and community-based programs for youth and adults throughout Virginia. This includes programs to assist TANF recipients and the re-entry population. I am driven by Goodwill’s vision and truly believe that everyone should have the opportunity to find their purpose and reach their highest level of self-sufficiency.

What is Goodwill’s Education to Occupation program?

Education to Occupation (E2O) is a school-based program designed to help juniors and seniors implement career plans and develop the skills sets required to successfully transition into post-secondary education, the military or a career pathway. Throughout the school year, Goodwill provides job readiness and soft-skills training, one-on-one career advising, individualized career plans, work experience opportunities and job development services.

How does this program support the College- or Career-ready component of United Way’s Steps to Success?

Between ages of 16 and 20, young people make important decisions about their educational direction, career pathways and financial well-being that can significantly impact the course of their lives. The E2O program plays a key role in the College- or Career-Ready Step because it helps students to not only discover their paths, but to gain a foothold on the path to future success.

We provide a robust roster of services including competency-based job skills training; career planning with connections to post-secondary education, military recruiters or credentials; and, job development services with opportunities to meet employers that match their aptitudes and interests. Timely access to the E2O program helps students develop the skills needed to make informed decisions about their future and is critical to obtaining and maintaining long-term self-sufficiency.

I believe that a collaborative approach to service delivery is an essential part of a program’s success and long-term impact. My team develops strong partnerships with schools, service providers, military recruiters, the community college system and community employers.

What are some of the greatest successes you have seen from this program?

We have countless stories of how students improve their confidence though the E2O program. Once students see that they are completing the steps outlined in their plans and they practice the skills we teach, they develop a new sense of accomplishment and control over their futures. They begin the critical shift needed to overcome the multiple barriers they face and stay focused on their goals.

Kayla Hendricks is a rising senior at Petersburg High School who worked at the Petersburg Commissioner of Revenue office during the 2018 summer work experience component. Kayla felt that the program gave her direction and an edge. “This was my first job ever,” she said. “I learned how to conduct myself in the workplace, as well as how a part of city government operates.”

Helping young people discover that they can actively plan and change the trajectory of their lives is tremendously rewarding, and Goodwill greatly appreciates United Way’s support in this life-changing work.

Describe the ideal program participant. Are there any prerequisites?

Our services are designed to meet students “where they are” in their personal development and circumstances, so any junior or senior would be an ideal fit for our program.

How can someone sign up to participate in this program?

Goodwill partners with specific schools in Richmond and Petersburg to make our services available on-site. We currently deliver the program at Petersburg High School, Blandford Academy, Richmond Technical Center and The Performance Learning Center.

If students who don’t attend these schools are interested in receiving these same types of services, at no charge to them, they can visit one of our five Community Employment Centers to get one-on-one support. Our website has more information at

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