Awards & Success Stories
While working with hundreds of individuals and businesses throughout the course of a year, you come across a variety of amazing success stories, including those deserving of special awards. We periodically list extraordinary individuals and businesses on this page.
The Great River Workforce Development Corporation, Inc., NFP Proudly Presents Its
2011 Educational Scholarship Winners
Neil Berkel graduated from Triad High School ranked number one in his class with a 4.0 grade point average. Since an early age, Neil has always been interested in math and science. During high school he was an active member of both the math club and the science club. He is currently attending Lewis and Clark Community College and plans to eventually transfer to a four year institution to major in chemistry and minor in mathematics.
Molly Grant graduated from Bond County Community High School in Greenville and finished with a 3.13 grade point average. At the age of 11, Molly was involved in a very serious ATV accident and during her recovery was greatly influenced by years of occupational and physical therapy. Her plans are to become an Occupational Therapist and she is currently attending Kaskaskia College.
Alison Howard graduated from Howard Christian Academy in Collinsville with a 3.88 grade point average. During school, Alison participated in the FIRST robotics program and quickly discovered that computer programming was what she wanted to do with her life. She is currently attending Lewis and Clark Community College and plans to eventually transfer to a four year institution to major in Computer Engineering with an emphasis on programming.
Ryan Howard graduated from Howard Christian Academy in Collinsville with a 3.84 grade point average. During school, Ryan participated in various robotic and rocketry competitions, which lead him to pursue a career in engineering. He is currently attending Lewis and Clark Community College and plans to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering with a dual minor in electrical and computer engineering.
Dylan Rutz graduated from Highland High School, finishing with a 4.79 grade point average. Dylan grew up around farming and has always been very interested in agriculture. He was Vice President of the local FFA chapter and worked numerous related jobs during high school. He is currently attending Kaskaskia College and plans to eventually major in Agriculture.
Katie Sutphin graduated from Alton High School with a 3.31 grade point average. Since the third grade, Katie has wanted to be a Special Education Teacher. During that time, she was also diagnosed with a medical condition which requires her to put in more time for studying and completing homework tasks. She continues to overcome that obstacle and still plans on becoming a Special Education Teacher. Katie is currently attending Lewis and Clark Community College.
Individual Achievement Award Winners . . .
...recognizing the determination, accomplishments
and perseverance of individuals who have overcome
significant obstacles in achieving their personal career goals.
Amber Allison - Nominated by Leonard Dollins
Amber Allison first came into the WorkNet Center as a 21 year old high school dropout with little more than an 8th grade education. She was pregnant with her second child and came in to apply for energy assistance. She had a job at Long John Silver’s, but was only getting about 10 hours a week. Having failed the GED test once, Amber was not in a big hurry to take it again. However, Amber was encouraged to enroll in the Madison County E-Learning program. She took some math workshops, studied on line for a while, and then started working on worksheets and practice workbooks. After about a year of working on her GED studies, however, she hadn’t made much progress and was now pregnant with her third child.
With three children, and still only working a few hours at Long John Silver’s, she knew she wanted more out of life. Amber needed motivation to work on her GED and work experience to move out of the fast food industry. In May of 2010, Amber took a paid work experience position as a Resource Room Assistant in our Granite City WorkNet Center. Struggling at first, Amber finally settled into the job, worked hard on her studies and was ready to again take her GED test.
Amber was still apprehensive, but with the persistent encouragement of her coworkers and career specialist, Amber finally took the GED test again. This time, she passed it with flying colors. She was so proud of herself her self esteem skyrocketed.
Now Amber knew, with a little effort, she could do anything she wanted. Unfortunately her paid work experience time ended at the WorkNet office, and she had to return to the fast food industry. However, full of confidence and motivated, Amber enrolled in general studies classes at SWIC. She is currently working part time, going to school, and raising three kids, but has a definite goal. She will continue her education until she has a career instead of a job. The WorkNet center staff knows Amber will accomplish her goal, and they are all very proud of her achievements.
Casey Coppersmith - Nominated by Michele March
Casey Coppersmith was a senior in high school when she found herself in an impossible situation. She asked herself; “How am I going to graduate from high school, raise a new baby and go to college at virtually the same time?” Fortunately, her caring parents shared their home to Casey and her son during this difficult time.
Casey graduated from high school and started planning for her college aspirations. Casey’s son was only two weeks old when she started classes at Southwestern Illinois College in 2006 to begin her prerequisites for the nursing program. Nursing was her passion and her calling. Casey was accepted into the nursing program in 2009, and she qualified and received WIA funding through MCETD. She was one of 80 students out of 300 applicants that were allowed to begin the program.
Casey started her nursing classes with enthusiasm and excellent grades. During the second semester, Casey was challenged in a course that required a high level of critical thinking that was a new concept to her. She barely missed passing her final exam by two tenths of a point. This was devastating due to the fact that she would be required to repeat this class that was not offered again for almost a year. She could not continue with other classes during this time because of the progressive sequence of the nursing curriculum. The counselors at MCETD appealed to SWIC’s administration to hold her financial status until Casey could return to college to repeat this course. They agreed that Casey had the drive and determination to succeed in her classes and was worthy of exception.
Casey returned to college nearly a year later, and received her Associate Degree in May of 2011. She promptly secured a registered nursing position in July of 2011 at Gateway Regional Medical Center. Casey’s career accomplishment will now help her realize her dream of independence for herself and her son. Congratulations Casey on your determination, persistence and achievement in overcoming numerous obstacles to achieve your career goals!
Kim Fanning - Nominated by Frank Beam
Kim Fanning has had one goal in mind for years, to become a Registered Nurse. She has worked as a pharmacy technician, and through this connection, Kim realized that nursing was what she wanted as her career.
She first started her nurses training in 2002 through the WIA program. Not long after she started training, she got married and had a child. With all the pressure of maintaining a household, she dropped out of training and went back to work as a pharmacy technician.
Skip forward to 2009. Kim’s husband had a good job, and they now had two little girls. Things were going fine for a while until her husband was laid off. Kim realized she needed to get back into nurses training. She wanted a job that was not only in demand but would make her feel that she was making a difference in people’s lives. She was accepted back into the program, and this time she succeeded.
Kim graduated in May 2011 and passed her board tests in July.
Through the course of her time with the WIA program, her career specialist was able to sit and talk with Kim about her goal to become a nurse. He had never seen a more determined person. All she could see in her future was nursing. He never had any doubt in his mind that some day she would get her nursing degree.
Kim is now a staff nurse at St. Louis University Hospital on the surgical / trauma floor. She shows a great deal of enthusiasm when she talks about being an RN. She has a compassion for helping people, and anyone she takes care of is lucky to have Kim as their nurse.
Linda Haase - Nominated by Kaye O’Dell
Linda will always remember these words: “I am sorry but we are going to have to let you go. We can no longer afford you as an employee.” That was April 2009, when the job market was at an all time low. She was 58 years old and without a job. After searching through employment ads, she was aware that the medical field offered the most options and was a field she found highly interesting. Experienced in office work, Linda enrolled in the Medical Terminology class at SWIC, passed with an ”A” and applied for positions in that field. Since she did not have experience in the medical field, she could not obtain employment. Then she heard about the WIA program, and visited the Greenville Worknet Center. She claims that was the visit which changed her life!!!! Her career specialist sat down with her and outlined the course of action.
A career as an RN was her ultimate goal; however, Linda lacked many of the prerequisites required, so her immediate goal was to become an LPN. Linda first had to obtain a CNA certificate, so she quickly enrolled in the program through the WIA sponsorship with SWIC in Belleville. Linda also enrolled in the required Algebra class for RN school on her own. She passed both classes with an “A” and received the Vice President’s Award for High Honors. Capital Area School for Practical Nurses required an entrance exam, which she passed on the first try. At last, Linda was going to LPN school. It was 140 miles round trip five (5) days a week, so, to offset the cost of gas, she worked as a CNA at Hitz Home on weekends using her newly acquired CNA certificate.
Linda graduated from Capital Area LPN School in December 2010 with a 97.7 percent average. Yes, she once again earned all A’s. She received awards from the National Honor Society, highest grade in ATI testing for nutrition, perfect attendance and student council secretary. She passed the LPN nursing exam in February 2011, now having a license as a Practical Nurse, Linda started working as an LPN at Metropolis Nursing and Rehab the very same day she received her license. She presently is employed with Gateway Foundation in Carbondale as an LPN, and on a part-time as needed basis at Metropolis Nursing and Rehab Center on weekends.
Currently, Linda is also attending Shawnee Community College, enrolled in prerequisite classes for the bridge program for LPN to RN. She has completed Anatomy, Physiology, and two English courses, obtaining A’s in all the classes. She will be taking the entrance exam next month for the on-line bridge program starting in August. The best news – since Linda is 60 years old, she qualifies for a senior citizen discount and her tuition is free!
She truly appreciates all the assistance she received from the WIA agency as she claims it has helped her obtain a career as a nurse. It has been her life time dream to become a nurse and, at 60 years old, it finally has become a reality!!! She has extended a special thank-you to everyone with the WIA agency for their efforts, faith and compassion in helping all of the “unemployed” individuals that need a helping hand.
Laura Halley - Nominated by Kathy Pinkas-Mothershed
Since 2000, Laura has been struggling to put her life in order. She removed herself from an abusive situation which left her with many financial hardships. Her security guard job wasn’t sufficient, so she decided she needed to make a career change. She decided on Respiratory Therapy and proceeded to complete the prerequisites, while trying to work part time and get financial assistance.
When Laura was accepted into the Respiratory Therapy program, she applied for assistance from WIA, but there was no funding available at that time. So she continued to struggle semester after semester using financial aid, part time work, and the help of friends. She did well in school but the financial hardships continued to pile up. A few semesters later, Laura again applied for WIA assistance, but funding was still unavailable. She then combined resources with a friend, and they continued to work together to succeed both scholastically and financially, while providing each other with positive reinforcement.
For a third time, Laura applied this past semester and was awarded WIA funding for the last semester of her program. WIA funding will help pay for the big expenses of graduation, testing and certification. Transportation had been an ongoing problem, but she never missed a day of class or clinicals. She has continued to work part time to help make expenses. Laura has overcome many barriers to achieve a GPA of 3.143. At no time did she ever quit. She always looked for ways to overcome the problem and complete school.
Madison County Employment and Training was able to give her the little boost she needed the last semester of schooling, and it has proven to be a very well spent investment. Laura will graduate this semester, and her career specialist expects to see great things from her. Anyone who has overcome the challenges she has faced will find employment and prove herself to be a terrific employee.
Samantha Kibbons - Nominated by Samantha Kibbons
Samantha Kibbons was a quiet, shy girl when she came into the Madison County Employment and Training office. She needed help in obtaining her high school diploma, so she was immediately referred to our Madison County E-Learning program. Sam was only a few credits short of completing the requirements for a high school diploma from Granite City High School.
While studying her online classes and working towards her goal, she became pregnant. To keep her motivated, she was interviewed for a work experience position at the Alton WorkNet Center. She started working as a Resource Room Assistant in December 2009. At first, Sam was very shy and not assertive in helping customers with their Internet job searches and resumes. She needed to learn customer service skills. Several staff members and an older worker from the Area Agency on Aging took her under their wing and gave her the mentoring she needed. As a result, Sam blossomed from a shy girl to a confident, young woman.
After her son, Mitchell was born in May 2010, she returned to her work experience position after only four (4) weeks. She continued her studies and earned her high school diploma in December, 2010. At the same time, Sam became a valuable asset in our resource area, confidently assisting customers with their job searches. Unfortunately, her work experience time ended in January 2012. By then, Sam had been working a second job at Steak n Shake as a server, and her acquired customer service skills have helped her in her job there as well.
Sam’s new goal is to continue her education, possibly in the medical field. Sam will continue to be successful, because she now has the confidence & perseverance to reach her goals.
Ian Powell - Nominated by Leonard Dollins
Ian Powell dreamed of becoming a US Marine just like his grandfather. Unfortunately, Ian did not take high school seriously enough, and dropped out with only one credit short of graduating. Ian knew that he needed his diploma before he could join the Marines, but now at age 20, he was too embarrassed to return to high school.
His Marine recruiter suggested he contact the Madison County E-Learning program for assistance, and Ian wasted no time in completing all the requirements to get into the program. Normally it takes a student several months to earn a full credit, but Ian did it in about six weeks. Ian was also responsible to complete a career and job search exercise which he completed in only a few days.
With the credit he earned from the E-Learning program, Ian graduated from high school in June 2011 and entered the Marines in July 2011. Ian completed his basic training on November 4th, qualifying as an expert marksman and receiving an award for fitness. His mother, Wendy, and his grandfather, former Marine Don Harris, traveled to San Diego to watch Ian graduate Boot Camp and could not believe the transformation!
When Ian came home during the Thanksgiving holidays, he stopped by the Madison County Employment and Training East Alton office in his dress blues, accompanied by his mother and grandfather, to express his gratitude for what the E-learning program had done for him.
Emily Schwendemann - Nominated by Kaye O’Dell
In August of 2009, single mom Emily came across a flyer advertising the Bond County WIA –MERS/Goodwill Youth Program. At the time, Emily was pregnant and was unable to find employment. The MERS/Goodwill case manager who met with Emily noted she was very determined to find a job and pursue a career. Emily had minimal job experience, so, with the help of the case manager, Emily completed job readiness training, created a resume, and practiced job interviews. The case manager provided career counseling and gave Emily the opportunity to participate in the paid work experience component of the program. She was assigned to the Bond County Housing Authority as a clerical assistant.
Emily learned many valuable skills such as basic office operations and customer service. Emily soon was viewed as a trusted member of the staff and was allowed to assist with grant writing. She also worked with various groups of people and individuals. Many were undergoing crisis in their life. Case by case, Emily realized that she had a heart for helping people. When Emily was ready to be exited from the program, she was hired as a permanent employee at the Bond County Housing Authority in Greenville Illinois.
In high school, Emily's favorite classes were AP biology and chemistry. As a result of career counseling and subsidized employment, Emily realized that she wanted to be a doctor. Being a doctor has become Emily's long term goal. She will be attending Greenville College in the fall as the first step toward her goal.
Emily has made great strides forward as a young single mother. Her participation in the WIA Youth Program in Bond County has been exemplary. She will continue to work at the Bond County Housing Authority while pursuing her dream. Emily is a success story, and she is a great example of what WIA youth funding and case management can help accomplish.
Nicholas Williams - Nominated by Tony Stephens
Nick worked in retail management for nearly 10 years, and was laid off three times. It was a rough time for his family, because not only was there very little economic stability in his career field, working in retail management was not something he enjoyed doing. He was pretty unhappy most of the time, and struggled with the thought that he was not doing anything worthwhile with his life. Nick wanted to find a career where he was actually doing something good for his community. After the last layoff, he could not find work and was in desperate need of a new start.
Nick’s father has worked as a nurse for over 17 years, and one day he told Nick that if he really wanted to be happy, all he had to do was find the thing that breaks his heart, and spend the rest of his life working to fix it. That was when he knew that the best way for him to do the most good for his community was to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a nurse.
He went to the local IDES office and found some information about the Workforce Investment Act. Nick was able to meet with a career specialist right away, and was amazed at how helpful everyone was. He will never forget sitting in her office as the career specialist told him that the WIA program was going to help him with his tuition, books, uniforms, vaccinations, and all the other myriad of expenses associated with the nursing program. Nick was not ashamed to admit that when he found out just how much WIA could help him and his family, he was overwhelmed to the point of tears.
Nick was determined to make the most of the amazing opportunity that he had been given, and he worked hard at getting through nursing school. By his last semester of school, he was inducted into the Alpha Delta Nu Nursing Honor Society, nominated for a patient care award, and graduated from the RN Program with honors. As a student in the RN Program, Nick was able to work as a Student Nurse Technician at Christian Northeast Hospital. Upon graduation, his employment status was upgraded to Staff Registered Nurse in the Christian Northeast Hospital Emergency Department. He feels that working in the emergency room is without doubt the best job he has ever had. Nick is proud to be a nurse and happier than he has ever been.
He states, “I will always be grateful to the WIA program and everyone that has helped me over the past few years. I have a great deal of respect and admiration for all the good work that you do, and I hope that you know that during the course of my career, all the people that I help, the lives that I touch, the comfort that I bring, and the good works that I do will always be just as much yours as they are mine. Thank you for everything.”
Business Leadership Award Winners . . .
. . . recognizing a private sector company that has
demonstrated leadership and made significant contributions
to workforce/economic development activities.
Walgreens - Nominated by Linda Odle
When a late night emergency prescription is needed, it is most likely people turn to Walgreens for help. From its humble beginnings as a small neighborhood drugstore founded in 1901, the company has enjoyed enormous growth. As of Jan. 31, 2012, Walgreens reports 6,624 drugstores that include a pharmacy drive-thru as well as 1,624 stores conveniently open 24 hours a day, out of a total drugstore count of 7,830. In fiscal year 2011, 261 new stores were opened and it is anticipated the company will increase its store base by approximately 2.5% to 3% in fiscal year 2012. Walgreens leads the chain drugstore industry in sales and profit, employs approximately 247,000 workers and each store offers approximately 18,000 different items.
Walgreens also operates worksite health centers, home care facilities and specialty and mail service pharmacies. Its Take Care Health Systems subsidiary is the largest and most comprehensive provider of worksite health and wellness centers and convenient care clinics, with more than 700 locations throughout the country. And, Walgreens innovative computer system for filling prescriptions, Intercom Plus, links all stores into a single network allowing the stores to better serve customer needs.
Diversity and inclusion are of imperative importance to Walgreens and are key aspects of the company’s strong value system and culture. Through the years, the company has enacted a number of programs designed to foster vendor diversity and to enhance its business relationships throughout every community. The company particularly has a long history of outreach to individuals with disabilities. This is especially true in regard to the company’s distribution centers where the disabled work alongside those without disabilities. Walgreens created a new foundation of systems, machines and processes, as well as a universal design offering an innovative and inclusive way to look at productivity, efficiency and opportunity at the company’s distribution centers. Through this innovative approach, new job opportunities were created for people with disabilities that adapted to each individual’s needs thusencouraging success for both the company and each worker.
In addition to new stores in Troy, Maryville and East Alton, in the fall of 2011, Madison County was the beneficiary of a new state of the art 500,000 square feet Walgreens Distribution Center in Gateway Commerce Center in Edwardsville. The facility carries a twelve year lease, services internet customer orders and is open seven days a week with three shifts. In order to seek candidates for the positions, the company partnered with the Department of Human Services/Division of Rehabilitation Services in East Alton and St. Louis as well IMPACT Center for Independent Living in Alton. The Madison County Employment and Training Business Services Team also assisted in recruiting a range of candidates for the warehouse positions. In addition, Madison County Community Development was able to offer Enterprise Zone incentives. The warehouse facility opened with 100 employees and will soon be expanding to 120.
Walgreens has certainly come a long way from the little 1901 neighborhood drugstore. It’s been a valued partner in communities around the country and is a most welcome asset to Madison County. It has certainly lived up to one of its stated values, “A strong community commitment and presence built through service, expertise, and the personal engagement of every Walgreen team member.” The company’s focus on inclusion, diversity, partnerships and community has made it a company others emulate and one most certainly worthy of the 2012 Business Leadership Award.