Workforce Graduation About More Than a Certificate

Jun 23, 2021 | News, Newsletter

 Tim McDonough


The Defiance Dream Center (DDC) hosted the first-ever Defiance High School (DHS) Workforce Development graduation ceremony on Monday, showcasing six students who not only learned hands-on construction skills and a Lean Yellow Belt credential, but life skills as well as employability skills.

Honored graduates included: Isaac De Los Santos, Jaypheth Esparza, Jesse Monroe, Juan Almanza, Roger Wheeler, Jr. and Thomas Hernandez.

In attendance to honor the graduates were State Rep. Craig Riedel of Defiance, Defiance County Commissioner David Kern, Defiance Mayor Mike McCann, and representatives from several business, entities and partners involved with the DDC.

The workforce development program offered at DDC, located at 1935 E. Second St., Suite A, is a collaboration among the DDC, Defiance City Schools, Ohio Means Jobs-Defiance and Paulding counties, the Defiance County Economic Development Office and Northwest State Community College (NSCC).

At the start of the program, Bill Lammers, CEO of the DDC, shared the program isn’t just about the students learning high-demand construction skills.

“The skilled trades offered to these students was a great opportunity to learn about construction, but we took a holistic approach to this program, these students also learned life skills and learned about their own personal gifts they can share with others and in their community,” said Lammers. “The culture of collaboration to make this happen is something we should all be grateful for, and continue to grow.

“Our vision in this program was to cultivate and restore hope, and that’s what we’ve seen happen,” added Lammers.

Following videos from Ohio Lt. Gov. John Husted, and Mario DeMaria, Ohio Department of Education superintendent, in which both lauded the program and congratulated the graduates, Dr. Todd Hernandez, president of NSCC spoke about the mission of the NSCC, and urged the graduates to keep learning.

“The mission of Northwest State Community College is to serve, by providing access to excellent and affordable training and services,” said Hernandez. “The outcome of that mission is to strengthen the lives of individuals and impact communities … We want you to know that we value all types of learning, and I urge you to be life-long learners and strive for progress.”

Bob Morton, superintendent of Defiance City Schools, and Jay Jerger, Defiance High School principal shared this graduating class is the culmination of a lot of hard work, not only on their part, but in coming up with a way to make it happen through collaboration.

Said Jerger: “The Defiance Dream Center is able to do something we can’t, provide an opportunity to students for hands-on learning. (Student) Juan (Almanza) said to me earlier, ‘I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I came out here. This was more than just learning with our hands, it was about feelings and who we are. People actually care.'”

Tiffany Dargenson, workforce supervisor for Paulding-Defiance County Ohio Means Jobs, was thrilled for the graduates, and how the program worked.

“There’s a lot of great things happening in this little corner of northwest Ohio, and I’m excited everyone is here to celebrate these accomplishments,” said Dargenson. “OhioMeansJob has a unique partnership with Northwest State Community College and the Dream Center, and together we have been able to create short-term, industry-recognized credentials, which provides learners transferable skills. You know have skills you can use the rest of your lives.”

Instructors Rusty Bush and Luke Baker of the DDC were honored, as were instructors Matt Kibler and Jim Drewes of NSCC. Volunteers Scott Lantow, Joe Kurtz and Joe and Dez Silva were also honored for their roles in helping the six students reach graduation.

Each of the six graduates were called up to receive their IASCC Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt certification credential and a gift bag from the DDC. In addition, each graduate will receive a proclamation from Sen. Rob McColley of Napoleon.

In order for each graduate to receive a Lean Yellow Belt credential, they had to complete 42 hours of carpentry training, 20 hours of residential plumbing training, 20 hours of residential electrical training, 20 hours of masonry training as well as learn employability skills.

After receiving their certifications, Esparza, Wheeler, Jr., and De Los Santos spoke about the program and developing their own mission portraits. Their mission portraits included their core values, ID, mission and vision. Esparza spoke about love, Wheeler Jr., spoke about being himself, and De Los Santos spoke about thinking before acting.

Said Esparza: “To me, my mission is to do everything I value out of love for the people I care about and others. That means to show love for everyone, not close myself off and not help others, but to do what I can to show my love for others in everything I do.”

Said Wheeler Jr.: “My ID says, ‘Always be yourself.’ That means don’t follow someone else and do what they want you to do, because that makes you part of the group. Think about what’s best for me and do what I need to do to make that happen.”

Said De Los Santos: “I learned a lot, like thinking about what I’m going to do before I go and do it. In some situations you don’t always get a second chance, so I need to make the best of the first one.”

Lammers announced each graduate would receive their mission portrait as a graduation gift. Each graduate also gave a gift of a cutting board each had made, to someone in the audience who had made an impact on them during their 11 weeks in the program.

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