WCCC Inducting 2 into Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame for 2017
Melissa Morris Hershner and Chris Wilkins are the 2017 inductees for the Warren County Career Center Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame.
Melissa Morris Hershner, 1986, Franklin, Data Processing
When Melissa Morris Hershner attended the Warren County Career Center, typewriters were commonly used in offices and computers were relegated to special labs for occasional use. She completed the Data Processing program in 1986, graduated from Franklin High School, and took a job teaching typing at a trade school in Middletown. Over the next several years, she adapted to new technology and saw the business world change to computerized communications and operations. She credits her instructors, Denny Thayer and Christie Leis, with teaching her not just how to type and do office work, but how to be a professional and succeed.
“At the career center, we had to dress for our profession and we practiced with mock job interviews,” she said. “I learned a lot from the career center and my instructors. I taught those skills to my students in the typing class. I was 19 years old, and my students were older than me, but I was teaching them about being a professional.”
In 1988, Melissa took a job in banking as a teller and worked her way up from a banking center manager at First Financial Bank in Lebanon to her current position as Marketing Manager at telhio Credit Union. “I worked my way up, and it was a long haul, but I enjoyed what I did,” she said. “I always wanted to learn more and in banking there are no limits. Data processing became obsolete, so you move as everything else is moving, and I took all that with me and applied in different ways. I didn’t want to just be a teller the rest of my life. The career center helped me with that; you have to be responsible, be on time, dress for your position. You have to have communication skills, and know how to write and spell.”
Melissa has never forgotten the career center as evidenced by her involvement as a member of the Warren County Career Center Education Foundation board. Melissa currently serves as the chair of this group and has volunteered her time and her knowledge in helping the WCCC Education Foundation raise money at the annual golf outing and give back to students through the scholarship program. She has also volunteered at various events to speak as a WCCC graduate.
She volunteers to teach a five-week finance class for Junior Achievement at Lebanon High School. She tells the students about her life experiences, and how glad she is that she chose to attend WCCC. “I tell them that I knew the career center would help me, because I could get training and go to work in the business field,” she said. “I knew my parents couldn’t afford to send me to college, and I knew I had to find another way to gain workplace skills. Looking back at my 28 years in banking, I think I did OK.”
In addition to her involvement in Junior Achievement, Melissa also serves on the board of the Abuse and Rape Crisis Shelter of Warren County; serves as an ambassador for the Lebanon Chamber, is on the Chamber’s golf outing committee and served on the WeEmpower Women committee. She also has volunteered at the Lebanon City School’s REDO day.
“I had the opportunity to work closely with Melissa on the Warren County Career Center Education Foundation Board,” former WCCC Superintendent Maggie Hess said in her nomination letter. “I will always be thankful to her for helping the Education Foundation meet its goals of supporting the educational and career aspirations of WCCC’s adult and high school students as well as assisting with the fundraising efforts of the Foundation.”
“Over the past few years, my professional path has crossed Melissa’s in many different situations and events,” Executive Director of the Abuse and Rape Crisis Shelter Jane Conn said in a letter of support. “This is reflective of her commitment to strengthening Warren County through a hands-on approach and unprecedented loyalty to our communities. Melissa has gained the reputation of someone who can be counted on to get a job done well. If she says she will do something, it can be considered done.”
Melissa and her husband of 31 years, Shawn, live in Lebanon. They have two children and one grandchild, Xavier, age 5. Son Shawn, 29, is in the Army National Guard and works for the City of Huber Heights Police Department, and daughter Lauren, is 25.
Chris Wilkins, 2004, Lebanon, Graphic Arts (Pictured on home page)
Chris Wilkins completed the Warren County Career Center Graphic Arts program and graduated from Lebanon High School in 2004. He moved to Ohio in his sophomore year of high school from Michigan and decided to take a tour of WCCC during sophomore visits. He was interested in a few programs, and he said when he met Graphic Arts instructor Howard Norris, he knew he wanted to be in the Graphic Arts class. “I was sold by his personality, and I told my mom I found what I wanted to do,” he said. “The Career Center fit me better. I didn’t want to do traditional academics, I wanted hands-on learning.”
After high school graduation, Chris attended the University of Cincinnati, saying it was the thing to do in his family, but he lost motivation after a year when his grandmother died. He said he was at a crossroads, and wanted a new direction. He remembered his lessons from Graphic Arts in teamwork, leadership and helping others. He began working with Butler County Developmental Disabilities and found a passion for the field. He was hired at Warren County Developmental Disabilities two years later and was there until June 2017.
He now works at the Lebanon Office of the Southwestern Ohio Council of Governments as Finance Coordinator and is finishing his degree in organizational leadership, with a minor in relational communications. SWOCG supports six county boards of developmental disabilities in southwestern Ohio: Butler, Clermont, Greene, Hamilton, Montgomery, and Warren counties. His work includes handling eligibility determination for several programs, helping families with support for their needs.
“I make sure bills get paid and families get help with food, utilities and other needs,” Chris said of his job at SWOCG. “I love giving back. That was my reason for joining the military; to be a better citizen, and give back to my community. I like working with Developmental Disabilities because there isn’t a more vulnerable population than those with disabilities. They need an advocate in their corner. My mother was in that field, too.”
Chris is also a Staff Sergeant in the Ohio Air National Guard, a member of the 126 Intelligence Squadron, space intelligence flight Springfield, Ohio. His duties include collaborating with National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) and other national intelligence agencies. He enlisted in December 2011.
“Sergeant Wilkins demonstrates self-initiative in acquiring mission taskings and by identifying objects for space vehicle tracking for the National Reconnaissance Office,” Senior Master Sergeant Delbert Shoopman said in his letter of support for nomination. “Chris excels in all tasks set before him by providing highly technical reports and products for the intelligence community and national decision makers.”
Chris says the lessons he learned in the lab with Mr. Norris included the importance of applying himself to his academic studies, and to whatever career path he followed. “Mr. Norris taught me that life is without boundaries, and I took that concept holistically, I don’t put myself in a box,” he said. “He always talked about giving back; that’s where my mission to give back came from. Mr. Norris mentored me. I didn’t have that male father figure in my life at that time. He was a coach at Northmont, and he tied life lessons into sports, and working as a team. That really resonated with me.”
“I had no doubt that whatever Chris chose he would be a success,” Howard Norris said in his nomination letter. “As the senior year came to a close, I asked Chris his plans. At that time Chris was open to opportunities that would present themselves when he entered the world of work or college. When I asked him about his interest in the Graphic Arts profession, Chris intelligently pointed out that he might pursue the field of Graphics; but should he not, there was a good reason that he attended the school. In one of the most logical explanations, Chris said that knowledge in communications and how to get projects completed would translate to any profession in which he became employed.”
Chris and his wife, Kayli, who is an intake coordinator for Warren County Job and Family Services, live in Lebanon and have three children; Samantha, 13, Anthony, 9, and Gabrielle, 7. All are involved in school sports. Samantha is a competitive cheerleader, Anthony plays football for Lebanon and select baseball in Cincinnati, and Gabrielle is a football cheerleader and runs track.
“I highly recommend to potential students that they should enroll at the Career Center,” Chris said. “The education provided sets students up for the future, not only with workforce skills, but also life skills. I do not think I would have been able to face some of the issues early on without my time with Mr. Norris. He made a big impact on my life, and I am forever grateful.”