Home to four local school districts, two colleges and one technical school, Clinton County’s educational history tells a story of cooperation, not only between institutions, but with area business and industry as well.
| Public Schools
At the local level, a key strategy of school districts is the utilization of technology to expose students to life beyond their immediate rural communities. Wilmington, Blanchester, East Clinton and Clinton-Massie school districts all boast desktop classroom computers, multiple computer labs and smart boards, an interactive, computerized version of the traditional whiteboard. Other technologies include responders, online course supplements and programs, streaming audio and video elements, mobile labs, laptops and document cameras.
“Technology opens up so much of the world,” said Bev Carroll, director of instruction at Blanchester. “We’re preparing students for jobs that haven’t even been created yet.”
Another way local high schools work with the community is through partnerships with area businesses. For example, Alkermes, a pharmaceutical manufacturing company in Wilmington recently announced its partnership with Wilmington High School to create an internship program for outstanding seniors who plan to major in science in college.
Tom Hitesman, senior trainer at the Wilmington Alkemes facility, said that the students rotate around different departments at the facility, “shadowing” real hands-on activities. By the end of the internship, each student will have been paired up with 30 or 40 Alkermes workers, gaining an experience of a science-based workplace that gives them a clearer idea of what may lie ahead in a science-related career.
| Technical & Vocational Training
The four districts also work with Laurel Oaks, the Wilmington campus of the Great Oaks Institute vocational program, to prepare students to take the next step after graduation, be it secondary education or job skills training.
One of the largest vocational programs in the country, Great Oaks covers 2,200 square miles, the largest district area in the state of Ohio. The Institute as a whole has about 2,800 students enrolled on its four campuses, as well as about 11,000 high school students who attend programs at their home schools and about 40,000 adults who attend short seminars, offered at various times throughout the year. Since opening in 1972, over 10,000 students have passed through its halls, completing training in programs ranging from aviation repair, agricultural mechanics, meat processing, park and wildlife programs, auto and building technology to machine trades, electronics, cosmetology, sports rehabilitation therapy and dental hygiene.
“We’re very connected to business in the area. Each of our programs has a business advisory council composed of people actually in the field who review our programs and make sure students are learning the skills they will actually need that the businesses seek,” said Jon Weidlich, director of community relations at Laurel Oaks.
Seniors who are eligible also participate in placements in area businesses, usually working half-days. The programs also provide certifications that allow the students to begin working with those credentials as soon as they graduate. “The goal of most students is to stay in the area or go on to college and come back,” said Weidlich. “We try to offer programs really in demand in the area. We recently started a biotechnology program at Laurel Oaks because the field is picking up. Our programs are designed to serve the area we serve.”
Laurel Oaks also has articulation agreements with local colleges including SSCC and WC in which students at Laurel Oaks can earn college credits if the college has a similar field of study.
More on Laurel Oaks Career Development Campus
| Higher Education
Southern State Community College offers 27 two-year associate degree programs in the arts and sciences, as well as technical education and two-year programs for transfer to four-year schools and bachelor degree programs.
The $6 million, 35,000-square-foot Wilmington branch, located on Davids Drive, opened in May 2000. The north campus facilities are unique from the other locations, featuring a child care center, a learning center and an emergency medical services program.
Terri Limbert, director of the SSCC north campus, said that community colleges are known for developing the work forces in their communities. “Our location is particularly significant now,” she said. “We’re working to stay close to the community. We’re also trying to be available for any training, and we’re open to any companies seeking to build a workforce.”
Limbert said that another unique feature of the school is its working relationship with Wilmington College.
“We have a lot of students complete introductory business classes and general education requirements before transferring to Wilmington College to complete a bachelor’s program,” she said.
Wilmington College was originally known as Franklin College, chartered by Quakers in 1870. In 1875, the first class graduated with a total of four students. Today, about 1,100 students attend Wilmington College, engaged in 24 areas of study ranging from communications, business and political or social science to agriculture, sports management, chemistry, biology and theatre. An active internship program at the college has placed students in 53 different local organizations in the last five years. Examples include communications majors at the Wilmington News Journal or Clinton County-Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, agriculture majors at Buckley Brothers, accounting majors at Emsar, finance majors at National Bank and Trust, criminal justice majors at the Wilmington Police Department, political science majors in the Clinton County Juvenile Probation system, psychology majors in local school districts (guidance counselors), and student teachers in local school districts.
“An internship is an extremely valuable asset on a resume. We appreciate the willingness of the community to give workplace experience to our students,” said Barb Kaplan, director of career services at WC. “The feedback from the businesses has been very very positive. Our students generally do a wonderful job and are beneficial to the businesses, often allowing them to tackle projects they would not have been able to get to without the extra hands.”
According to Randy Sarvis, director of public relations at the college, an independent economic impact survey conducted by the University of Cincinnati last summer showed that Wilmington College contributed nearly $30 million to the local economy in 2010.
Employees and alumni of the college are also very active in the community. Alumni can be found in leadership positions throughout various local industries including banking, financial services, retail, agriculture, medicine, non-profits and education. Employees can be found on the boards of local organizations and non-profits such as the Clinton County Leadership Institute, Rails-to-Trails and the Lytle Creek Greenway.
Employees have also logged more than 20,000 hours of voluntary community service.
“That doesn’t even include the thousands of hours logged by student volunteers,” said Sarvis. “Add the cultural and athletic offerings and such areas of outreach as Grow Food, Grow Hope, and one can see that Wilmington College is a pillar of the community.”
Individual classes also interact with area businesses. An example of this cooperation can be seen through Professor Angela Mitchell’s marketing research class. Every spring students are paired with an area business. The business chooses a topic and the students conduct background research, observe and compare similar businesses, conduct focus groups and surveys and present the information.
Area businesses have included small operations such as Swindler and Son’s Florist to restaurants such as Damon’s or Skyline Chili, to large institutions such as the college itself, addressing topics from how to improve sales to decisions on expanding menus.
“It’s a win-win situation,” said Mitchell. “The businesses get information, and the students get a significant project to add to their resumes.”