WILMINGTON — Students from Laurel Oaks Career Campus and Wilmington High School would “Lead the Way” and the Great Oaks President and CEO was guest speaker as the Wilmington-Clinton County Chamber of Commerce held its Annual Meeting & Luncheon Friday at the Roberts Centre.
Project Lead the Way Engineering is a satellite partnership between Great Oaks Career Campuses and Wilmington City Schools.
The Wilmington-Clinton County Chamber of Commerce recently hosted a recognition event to honor the first class of four-year senior graduates from the Lead the Way engineering program.
These seniors completed courses in Intro to Engineering Design, Principles of Engineering, Digital Electronics, and Aerospace Engineering. The students will further their careers at local colleges and universities and the U.S. Air Force. Students also received a special recognition certificate from U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers.
“The Chamber of Commerce is a proud partner of Project Lead the Way, and it was an honor to help recognize these graduating seniors who display the hard work, dedication, and highly skilled technical training that is so crucial to today’s workforce,” Chamber Executive Director Dessie Rogers said recently.
Great Oaks rising
Great Oaks President and CEO Harry Snyder, who has led the way at Great Oaks since 2014, talked about the role of Great Oaks Career Campuses in the community and as a force for economic development.
He emphasized the importance of partnerships with business in order to offer high-quality career education and training that prepares graduates for the current and future needs of the regional workforce.
About two dozen Laurel Oaks Career Campus students were in attendance, speaking to chamber members at booths representing their respective programs.
Snyder talked about plans regarding the future of Great Oaks’ fastest-growing campus, Laurel Oaks Career Campus in Wilmington, where a $25-30 million construction and renovation project will begin in June and provide space for students and new programs.
Snyder, a native of Blanchester, said that, five years ago, about 450 high school seniors and juniors attended Laurel Oaks. That has risen to more than 600 students.
The new facilities will have a capacity of up to 700 students and provide a campus much simpler to navigate through and better curb appeal.
In addition to expansion, another key consideration for the project is to improve the security of students and staff, he said.
New features will include an identifiable main entrance and newly designed access so nobody has to cross a street with motor vehicle traffic.
The project is expected to take three years to complete. Rather than a ground-breaking, this June there will be what’s being called a lift-off, a nod to Laurel’s aviation maintenance technician program.
The expansion project at the Wilmington campus was made possible when Great Oaks Career Campuses’ 2.7-mills renewal levy was approved by voters in southwest Ohio last November. The levy passed as a continual levy, and thus can finance building projects for longer than the term of a levy that had to be renewed after a certain period.
High-bay structures have higher ceilings and so one of the new Laurel Oaks’ high-bay spaces will be utilized by the heavy equipment program. Snyder said the use of the second high-bay space has yet to be determined, with Oaks’ officials exploring various program options.
An extra classroom/career lab may be used for a cyber security program, said Snyder. If so, it would complement Laurel’s current programs in computer networking, digital arts and design, and web applications.
Snyder said Great Oaks is helping students get an early start, with career exploration programs reaching all the way to fifth-graders.
He pointed out statistics that showed how their adult programs bring a huge return on investment to participants.
Chamber moving forward
The Wilmington-Clinton County Chamber of Commerce is growing strong, said Chamber Executive Director Dessie Rogers and Marketing and Communications Director Ruth Brindle.
Membership is now up to 300, with 49 of those companies and organizations joining since January 2018. The chamber posted 291 jobs on its website in the past year, with over 29,000 views.
The chamber also participated in 40 ribbon cuttings and open houses.
The chamber has two new initiatives for its members this year. They already started the Lunch and Learn events. And in November they will begin a Chamber Ambassador Program with the goals of chamber members learning more about each other and mingling more with fellow members. They also promise some fun incentives.
Premium sponsor for the annual chamber event was the Clinton County Convention and Visitors Bureau.