Project attempts to spark innovation among youth

August 13, 2014

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer 

The new Innovate campaign is designed to empower young people to get a good education, encourage innovative thinking and create awareness of career opportunities with new and growing local companies. 

It also is designed to help young people to acquire the skills to become sought-after job candidates, according to the website

It adds: “You’ll learn about innovators right here at home who are making a difference in their lives, the companies they work for, and in their community. You’ll also learn about the steps you can take to get started on your own rewarding career path. Are you the next innovator?” 

The campaign — spelled Innovate with the I in contrasting type but pronounced “I Innovate” — will include videos, posters, online resources, promotions, social media postings and possibly other activities. Those efforts either are underway or will begin soon, officials said.

The campaign is being done through a partnership of businesses, economic development, education (Henry County and Martinsville school divisions, Carlisle School, Patrick Henry Community College and New College Institute) and the Harvest Foundation, said Allyson Rothrock, president of Harvest, which is providing funding. Rothrock said she did not have a final cost figure for the project. 

Among the resources on are tips for planning courses; a list of Virginia’s fastest growing occupations expected for 2010-20; options after high school (immediately joining the work force, starting an apprenticeship, volunteerism, joining the military, community college, four-year college, proprietary college/career college); interview tips; financial management tips; links to career resources in Virginia; and a job board (some area job openings with links to find out more about the company hiring and details about the position). Additional resources are planned.

A new video and related poster featuring an innovator or team of innovators will be released each month through April 2015. Then there will be an evaluation. 

The first video features innovators Johnny Buck and William Baptist, graduates of Martinsville High School.

“After William and Johnny tragically lost two close high school friends, they co-founded Rooster Walk, Martinsville-Henry County’s largest music and arts festival, donating proceeds to a scholarship named in honor of those friends. Declared the ‘#1 Up-and-Coming Festival in the Southeast’ last year, the Rooster Walk hosted its largest event yet, attracting more than 3,500 music fans and a record number of proceeds toward the scholarship fund,” according to 

In the video, Baptist and Buck discuss the festival, how they enjoy their jobs, skills they use and how the festival helps the community, generating tourism dollars and scholarship funds.

The genesis of the Innovate campaign stems from a business official’s comment several months ago: “If you don’t provide what I need in one year, I won’t be here in five years,” Rothrock recalled. 

The official made that comment at a meeting of representatives of “probably the top six employers” in the area, as well as educational, economic development and community leaders, Rothrock said.

Rothrock pondered that comment. “It was a call to action,” she said. 

Another pivotal moment was when Rothrock visited RTI and saw its advanced manufacturing space — as large as a furniture factory, in Rothrock’s eyes — operated by a relatively small number of employees, she said. She described it as “technology integrated.”

“I am a big believer (that the future) lies in youth,” Rothrock added. 

She cited the need to capture youths’ attention and let them know “there are great jobs in this community, great companies that want them, and to get them engaged.”

Brad Meeks, newly hired communications officer at Harvest, said he was not aware of the available good jobs in this area until he interned at Harvest in the summer of 2013. He graduated from Bassett High School in 2010 and from Virginia Tech in May. 

DeWitt House, a program officer for Harvest and retired superintendent for teaching and learning for Henry County Public Schools, said as part of the campaign, Tony Wagner’s book “Creating Innovators — The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World” is being provided for teachers in the Henry County and Martinsville school divisions and at Carlisle, and for any faculty members at Patrick Henry Community College and New College Institute who want one.

“He (Wagner) takes readers into the most forward-thinking schools, colleges and workplaces in the country, where teachers and employers are developing cultures of innovation based on collaboration, interdisciplinary problem-solving and intrinsic motivation,” says the book’s dust jacket. 

The campaign was developed through a series of partner meetings, Anstey Hodge Advertising Group was retained, and there were student focus groups and pre-surveys of students and parents about job and career opportunities for students, according to Rothrock and House. 


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