October 23, 2018 News & Features » Cover Story

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Valaryee Mitchell, 39 

Workforce Administrator at the Office of Community Wealth Building

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Scott Elmquist

Since 2016, Valaryee Mitchell has served the Office of Community Wealth Building as a workforce administrator. The office aims to help unemployed and under-employed residents achieve a living wage. Thanks to Mitchell's grant writing abilities, $10 million in funds has been secured. Already she's grown the number of career stations from one to four, which benefits approximately 650 residents. Having grown up in difficult circumstances herself, she feels strongly about building this pipeline to employment.

"I grew up in poverty and in public housing," she says. "My parents worked hard to provide for our family. As hard as they worked there were people and institutions along the way that helped them to move our family forward."

When Mitchell got into Hampton University, her life underwent a massive change. She calls the campus her home by the sea, because that was where she discovered her passion for helping others. She didn't have the finances to attend, but to her amazement, complete strangers in her community provided funds. Mentors and professors cared about her success, and she felt energized to pursue law. Even though she was accepted into law school, finances were still a struggle. It became a blessing in disguise, because she took a job in Pittsylvania County overseeing a youth workforce program.

"I realized this was where I was meant to be and I could make my passion my career," she says.   

Now with nearly two decades of experience under her belt, Mitchell is committed to parsing out what does and doesn't work for people in poverty.

"There is no better feeling than when I hear that someone has gained employment or reached a goal," she says.

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