2016 Distinguished Alumni Inducted into Hall of Fame
2016 Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame Inductees
Each year, the Warren County Career Center inducts outstanding alumni into its Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame. The alumni honored this year, in the 40th Anniversary celebration year, are excellent examples of the hard work and dedication demonstrated by WCCC students. They are:
Christine Benitez, Goshen, 2003, Adult Education Medical, Executive, Legal Secretary
Christine Benitez has relied on Career Technical Education in high school and as an adult when she needed more skills in the job market. Her experience at the Warren County Career Center as an adult student in the Medical, Executive, Legal Secretary program led to a position at WCCC as the Administrative Assistant to the Director of Adult Education, where she continues in that role.
She began in Broadcasting Arts at Great Oaks’ Scarlet Oaks campus, graduating in 1975. In high school she did a TV newscast at lunchtime and was a radio station DJ. She was the only girl in the program those years. She worked in the insurance industry for 11 years, taking self-study courses to advance to a business underwriter. When she and her husband, Jorge, began having children, she became a domestic engineer for several years.
During her children's younger years, she volunteered at the Little Miami School District as a field trip chaperone, helped with Girl Scout activities and was a big part of helping her children with their involvement with the Pleasant Plain Lucky Clovers 4-H Club and Warren County Junior Fair Board. She helped with 4-H community service activities, assisted new 4-H members and helped where she could with the 4-H Program. The Benitez Family was very involved in Warren County 4-H and supported the 4-H Livestock Auction, Trophy Sponsorship, and other parts of the 4-H Program.
“Mom was a big part of helping me, her oldest son, find my career choice by attending college and obtaining a job as an Extension Educator for 4-H Youth Development with Purdue University Cooperative Extension, Union County in Indiana,” son JT said. “Her support led me to my dream of
working in the Extension Service for which I have taken the lessons learned from my family of helping others into my daily commitment to my community.”
As their two sons and daughter grew older, she went back to work part-time, but found that she needed technical skills to keep up with the changing job market.
“I was working at Little Miami Schools in the library at Morrow Elementary and was laid off,” she said. “I was looking for another job and didn’t have the computer skills I needed. I saw an ad in the help wanted section of the paper for training at the Career Center, called and ended up enrolling. I had also looked at programs at UC, but didn’t want to make a four-year commitment. I wanted training in less than a year, and job placement, and the Career Center was my best option.”
After she began the program, she was called back to work at Little Miami. During that year of training, she worked part-time, took the full-time program and was an active wife and mother with three children in many school and community activities. She said she was up until 1 or 2 in the morning to study, but she made it through, and the hard work paid off.
“It just shows that you are never too old to go back to school,” she said. “I finished in 2002, and got a full-time job right away. In 2005, I applied for and was hired as the administrative assistant at the Career Center to my former instructor, Nancy Parker Russell. My instructors, Nancy Parker Russell and Sharon Miles, were not only great instructors but great mentors. They encouraged me in both field of study and career. Over my 11 years here, I have worked for three Adult Education directors. I always enjoy the opportunity to speak with the students who are hesitant about enrolling and encourage them and share my own career path that brought me to working here full time.”
Her advice for adapting to change in the workplace is to observe the business style and priorities of a new manager, voice your needs, find out their expectations of you, and make it a two-way communication from the beginning. Also, always welcome suggestions for improvement and listen.
“Her team player mind-set, desire and ability to excel in everything that she does, and her enthusiastic embrace of change make her a valuable asset,” Nancy Parker Russell said in her nomination letter. “She is willing to work to successfully meet any challenge that is required of her. Chris is a true professional who displays everything that a former Warren County Career Center student needs to be successful in the world-of-work.”
“Chris is dependable, accurate, driven, and an absolutely pleasant individual to work with,” WCCC Adult Education Director Tom Harris said in a letter of endorsement. “In such a highly visible, hectic, constantly changing office it can be difficult to keep customer service at the forefront. Chris is always ready for the challenge with a smile on her face. Visitors remark to me on a continual basis that Chris is one of the most outstanding administrative support staff they have ever encountered. Employees of the WCCC contend that Chris has a caring and fun attitude, going out of her way to assist and nurture classified and certified staff members to meet schedules and deadlines. Her commitment to organization and her creative administrative solutions are both admired and appreciated by staff throughout the WCCC.”
Christine and her husband, Jorge, live in Goshen and have three grown children, JT, Raquel and Jose.
Donnie Powell, Little Miami, 2000 High School Landscape Technology
Donnie Powell remembers his education at the Warren County Career Center fondly, and tells everyone he talks to how it changed his life and sparked his entrepreneurial spirit. He graduated in 2000 from the WCCC Landscape program and Little Miami High School, and worked for two years in a landscape company before starting his own business in 2003, Finer Lawn & Landscaping, which he continues to operate.
“We learned so much in the Landscape program,” he said. “There was a plant list we had to memorize and I still carry that and use it, 16 years later. We learned about small engine repair, the germination process in a greenhouse, and how to water, fertilize, trim and prune. I still do that every week. But the most important thing I learned was that I could make money doing what I love to do – landscaping. My instructor, Mr. Schlosser, asked me how I wanted to make money. I said I loved landscaping but wasn’t sure I could make money at it. He showed me how. Enrolling in the Landscape program was the best decision I ever made, and I don’t think I would have started my own business if I hadn’t been there.”
Among the many lessons in his lab, he said the lessons that most influenced his entrepreneurship were the ones he learned about teamwork, and how if you surround yourself with people willing to work as hard as you do, you can succeed. Donnie’s business has been founded on that premise, and has grown and flourished in the past 13 years. “Entrepreneurs can begin at WCCC,” he said. “I learned that I can actually do this. Students who apply themselves can succeed.”
Donnie represented the school at the Ohio FFA competition one year, and was also named the 2000 WCCC Prom King his senior year. He remembers wearing a gold suit that evening. “If you have some old pictures of that prom, you won’t miss me!”
“When I think about all those little things we learned over the two years, they are what add up to make your business a success,” he said. “We learned to design on a computer; pick a house and design a landscape for it. In my business over the years, we started out in 2003 doing a lot of maintenance, mulching, cutting grass and planting flowers. Now we are doing water features, sidewalks, installing backyard paver patios, concrete walls, driveways and patios. Learning the necessities allowed me to evolve to what we do now. My business grows each year, and even though the economy crashed in 2008, everyone still needed their lawn taken care of, and that is what I learned at the career center. Now I am on track that 2016 will be one of busiest years I have ever had. And always, always when talking to people, I give God the glory, and tell them that going to WCCC was best thing I ever did.”
He has recently earned his real estate license in order to buy houses and fix them up and resell them. He said he is always looking for new services to offer to his clients, using his foundation of knowledge from WCCC every day. He was technologically ahead of his time when he started his business, developing a website before they were commonplace.
“Donnie graduated in a time when the internet hadn't caught its stride yet. Memos and invoices were still in paper format and the Yellow Pages were for many the main way to find local businesses,” WCCC Media Specialist Winnie Milner said in a letter of endorsement. “Even without any formal training, Donnie established his own professional, very functional, and multi-faceted website, finerlawn.com, but another example of how Donnie has established himself as a respected community businessman in the field of landscaping.”
Donnie and his wife Amy, a dental hygienist, were married in 2005 and live in Loveland, with their children Maylin, 3, Kempton, 5, and Jolie, 7. All of them attend Lebanon Christian School.
Doug Rolph, Springboro, 1999 High School Landscape Technology, 2002 Adult Education EMT
Doug Rolph completed the WCCC Landscape Technology program and graduated from Springboro High School in 1999. He began working in landscape right after high school and operated his own business for a short time. He also worked in construction, and after being laid off for the winter, decided he wanted to volunteer as a firefighter.
In 2002 he enrolled in the WCCC Adult Education Emergency Medical Technician class to begin to get certified to work in public safety. “About 12 hours into the training, I knew that was what I wanted to do,” he said. “Now I have been in the field for 14 years, working with various departments and continuing my education. In 2006 I started at Mason part-time and in 2008 was hired full-time as a firefighter paramedic with the Mason Fire Department.”
Doug holds certification in EMT, Paramedic I and II, Firefighter I and II, Fire Safety Inspector, Fire Instructor, Emergency Vehicle Operations Course Instructor, Fire Investigator, and Fire Officer I, II, III and IV. He was promoted to Lieutenant in the Mason City Fire Department in 2015 and serves as a tactical paramedic with the Warren County Sheriff’s Office Tactical Response Unit. He earned his Associate Degree in Fire Science from Sinclair Community College in 2012. He has earned two unit citations from the Mason City Fire Department and the Medal of Honor for his actions at a multi-fatality residential structure fire in 2008.
He still uses his knowledge in landscaping, but now it is for pleasure. “Landscape still comes into play,” he said. “I enjoy working outside, doing my own lawn and helping family and friends. I take pride in my lawn every year.”
Doug credits WCCC with helping him focus on his future and guiding his career path. “Mr. Schlosser was a great instructor,” he said. “I was frustrated with traditional high school and the Career Center saved me from going down a wrong path. I am definitely a hands-on learner, and the school was a good fit for me.”
He was nominated for the Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame by his mother, Candy, and had letters of support from Warren County Sheriff Larry Sims and Mason Fire Chief John Moore. “Doug continues to be a leader in our department and we believe that he makes a terrific choice for the Warren County Career Center Distinguished Alumni Award,” Chief Moore said. “Doug’s experiences with the Tactical Rescue Unit have been beneficial in his role as a Rescue Task Force instructor for the fire department. As an RTF instructor, it is Doug’s responsibility to train all fire department members in the policies and procedures of providing medical support for active assailant calls in the Greater Miami Valley.”
“I am very flattered to have been nominated,” he said. “I don’t know if my achievements are better than any others because there are a lot of great people who have come out of the Warren County Career Center. I am honored and humbled to be recognized.”
Doug is married to wife Kristen, they have two daughters, Ella, 4, and Addison, 1, and live in Clearcreek Township.
Rick Tincher, Springboro, 1980, Adult Education Machine Shop
Rick Tincher, of Springboro, did not have the opportunity to attend the Warren County Career Center in his junior and senior years of high school because it opened in 1976 and he graduated in 1975, but a few years later he chose to continue his education in WCCC’s Adult Education Tool Room Machine Shop program. After high school, he began working in production at General Motors, but production workers there kept getting laid off. He noticed that skilled labor did not, so while he was laid off for a few years beginning in 1979, he enrolled at WCCC so he could have a stable career.
He earned his Machine Tool Operation certificate in May of 1980. He also took the Adult Education Basic Design and Drafting program, completing and earning certification in June of 1982. In order to work at GM in the tool room, he needed eight years of experience in a machine shop. While going to school, he began working at a small, local shop. He got called back to GM but only had six years of experience at that point, so he continued working at the local machine shop during the day, and then worked at GM second shift in production, going back to the other shop late at night to finish projects. This went on for two years before he could transfer into the tool room full time and begin his career in machining. He also served as a volunteer firefighter for the Clearcreek Fire Department from 1984-90. And, he owns and still operates Tincher Lawn Service.
“You have to pay your dues, and work your way up,” he said. “Education in my life has always been important. After transferring into the machining department at GM, I gained an interest in the health and safety field. I took courses at North Carolina University and became certified as an industrial hygienist technician, doing air samples and noise survey analysis evaluation the last five years of my career at GM. I retired in 2007.”
Retirement is a relative term for him, though. Rick continued to serve as the AFL CIO United Way of Greater Dayton chair, and was responsible for raising $3 million per year among labor union members. He also administered the AFL CIO food pantry, one of the largest in the region, for seven years. He left that two years ago to become director of the Springboro Cemetery. “I wanted to bring my vision and view of what the cemetery should offer the community,” he said. “So far in two years we have made great strides there. We will see what the future holds.”
Last year he oversaw a construction project that involved the WCCC high school construction trades and welding programs. Lovely’s Chapel was built on the cemetery property through a donation by the Lovely family of Springboro and the labor of WCCC students. It was dedicated in May 2016 and is designed in the fashion of an 1850s one-room chapel.
“I go way back to the beginning of the Career Center,” he said. “My father-in-law, James Hough, was the first superintendent of the Career Center. When I decided to further my education, I chose to learn manufacturing trades there. His signature is on my certificates. If it hadn’t been for the training that I got started at the Career Center, I would not have had the life that I had and the job I had as provided by GM with the training that started in the evenings 6-10, and it all comes back around.”
He lives in Springboro, with his wife of 40 years who was his high school sweetheart, Elizabeth. They have two grown sons Derek, who has two children, and Jacob.
“Two years ago in early 2014 Rick was selected by the board of directors of the Springboro Cemetery Association to take the reigns as director and bring the business into the 21st century,” longtime Springboro resident Don Wright said in his letter of nomination. “Rick went to work immediately updating all files to a computer network, adding new services, and then prospecting for a chapel. It was amazing to see it come together from the contributions of so many wonderful people. The chapel is now open for funerals as well as weddings and was dedicated the end of June this summer. Rick took an opportunity and turned it in to a blessing. The Springboro community cannot thank Rick enough for what he has done in just two short years.”