Hometown Mentor: Blacksburg man continues offering internships for Virginia Tech, Radford students during pandemic

Published: Mar. 1, 2021 at 6:01 AM EST
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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - When the coronavirus pandemic forced schools to shut down in-person learning in March 2020, many college students lost the opportunity to gain real-world experience through internships. But one Virginia Tech alumnus was determined to keep internships alive for students at Radford University and Virginia Tech.

Matt McHugh was nominated to be a WDBJ7 Hometown Mentor because of his dedication to local students even in the toughest of times. McHugh, who is the vice president for mentorship and growth at Exelaration in Blacksburg, has been overseeing the internship program for the last decade.

“I absolutely love the fact that I can be here in Blacksburg and the gorgeous New River Valley, at a place that I love and work with these extremely talented individuals from the two local universities,” McHugh said.

Exelaration is an IT consulting firm that gives students real-world experience working for clients while performing software delivery services. McHugh and his team transitioned from in-person mentorship to virtual using technology like Zoom.

“There’s a huge aspect of independent learning, but also having the ability to always reach out for questions and always feeling like, even though I’d be online, I could always hop on a Zoom call,” said Virginia Tech sophomore Nicholas Hoang.

McHugh views his role as a way to embody the Virginia Tech motto Ut Prosim, which means “so I may serve.”

“I’m helping serve these students for their future, and I’m getting just as much from them as they’re getting from me,” he said.

McHugh’s personal connection to Blacksburg is an important one for the students he now mentors. In some cases, he can relate to the struggles they go through each semester.

“It’s always great to come to the office and tell him like, okay this is what is happening in this class, and he’s like, oh I definitely went through that. Here’s how you can work through it,” said Virginia Tech senior Amber Amos.

Despite the pandemic, McHugh is currently mentoring 16 students through the program.

If you know a teacher, coach or community member making a difference in students’ lives, we want to hear about them. Email jbirch@wdbj7.com or nominate them to be a Hometown Mentor.

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