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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
2013 Educational Scholarship Winners  

Brianna Jenkins -Southwestern Illinois College

Rebecca Billings - Lewis & Clark Community College

Audriana Lewis - Lewis & Clark Community College

Andrew Patterson - Lewis & Clark Community College

Bradley Wever - Lewis & Clark Community College

Lorraine Albert - Kaskaskia College

Award Individual Achievement Award Winners . . .

...recognizing the determination, accomplishments
and perseverance of individuals who have overcome
significant obstacles in achieving their personal career goals.

Diana Barnett - Nominated by Kaye O'Dell

Diana BarnettIn April 2012, Diana Barnett was recruited into the Bond County Employment & Training Department's MERS Goodwill out-of-school youth program.

When Diana graduated from Greenville High School in May 2010, she needed direction in her life and sought employment and training assistance. Because Diana's father died while on active duty in the Air Force, she was determined eligible for the WIA youth program. Up to this point, she had no employment experience and no marketable skills.

While an employee in a paid work experience component, she worked locally at Millersburg General Store, where she received outstanding evaluations from all her supervisors. Diana has proven to be a hard worker who prides herself with superior work ethics. Diana was also able to become certified thru the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), and completed job readiness training.

After completing the out-of-school program, Diana was able to obtain unsubsidized employment at a local Subway, using the resources and knowledge she acquired while participating in the program.

Diana is planning to attend college with her father's military benefits. She is interested in genetic science, and her long-term goal is to complete a degree in that field. Diana is currently completing her FAFSA and preparing for college with the assistance of her case manager. With Diana's strong work ethic, coupled with her determination for success, there is no doubt that she will attain her personal and professional employment goals.

James Baron - Nominated by Tony Stephens

In 2009, James Baron was laid off from American Steel Foundry after 12 years of hard work and dedication. American Steel Foundry (ASF) workers were victims of a major shift in work production that ultimately moved to Mexico. The US Department of Labor determined that the ASF workers qualified for Trade Status. This opened up several new opportunities for the ASF workers. Having skills in carpentry and quality control, James initially decided to use his marketable skills to obtain employment. He aggressively pursued job opportunity after job opportunity which didn't lead to employment. James attended career development workshops that covered topics about job search, resume writing, interviewing and following up, all to improve his job seeking techniques.

After nearly 6 months of job search without success, James realized that his current skills were not enough to obtain gainful employment. He discussed career preferences with his WIA career specialist and started researching education and training options to determine the best career field for his family. The Environmental Resources Training Center (ERTC) - Water Quality Control Operations program at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville interested him. James believed that protecting a basic natural resource and the need to have safe, clean drinking water impacts everyone. James's WIA career specialist encouraged him to meet with the ERTC program coordinator to discuss the training program before making his decision. James met with the ERTC program coordinator, completed a tour, and decided to use his training option for the Water Quality Control Operation Program.

James started the training program in August 2010 and completed training July 2011. James maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout the entire training program. As a result of academic excellence, he received recognition and was awarded the Mississippi - Kaskaskia Valley Water Pollution Control Operators Association Scholarship. James obtained state certifications for drinking water and waste water treatment in both Illinois and Missouri.

Armed with new skills and training, James restarted his aggressive job search and applied for several positions within his new field. James was offered several interviews during his job search, but no offers of employment. James's WIA career specialist encouraged him to continue to push forward in his efforts. In August 2012, James was offered a full-time position as a Water Quality Operator with St. Peters, Missouri Water Quality Department. James continues to work as an operator for St. Peters, Missouri and loves the work that he does.

Charlena Battles - Nominated by Debbie Angleton

Charlena BattlesTo find a person that exemplifies good customer service, look no further than Charlena Battles. Charlena sets the example for assisting customers in the resource area of the East Alton Southwestern Illinois WorkNet Center. She always has a smile and is ready to help unemployed workers with their job search. Charlena is a participant in the paid work experience program through the Madison County Employment & Training Department (ETD). It has taken her several years to reach this point in her life.

Charlena came to our office in 2009 as a dislocated worker after being laid off as a waitress. At the same time, her husband was laid off from U.S. Steel & recovering from brain cancer. With the down economy, she decided to go to school through Madison County ETD. She graduated in May 2010 from Lewis & Clark Community College (LCCC) with an Office Clerk Certificate of Completion. She finished with a 4.0 GPA and was on the President's List for each semester. This was quite an accomplishment because this was her first time attending college.

Charlena completed an internship at LCCC Corporate Education Department & was considered for a position; however, the department suffered cutbacks in their funding. When her husband returned to work, Charlena wanted to work as well. So, she worked midnights at the Argosy Casino as a waitress, but was laid off again in February 2012. She diligently worked with her Career Specialist in refining her resume & looking for work in her field of study, when an opening in the East Alton WorkNet Center as a part time Resource Area Assistant became available.

As a result of working at the East Alton office, Charlena has refreshed her office skills and learned of other employment opportunities. She says "I am well rounded now, and I'm on a better career path". This job encouraged her to return to LCCC and to obtain an Associate Degree as a Legal Assistant. Charlena continues to help others in their job search as she works toward her own goal of a permanent fulfilling career.

Meghan Brunton - Nominated by Leonard Dollins

Meghan BruntonMeghan is a bright, goal oriented young lady with dreams of the college experience and a good career. However, she has had more than her fair share of troubles. At just 16 years old, she became pregnant, and at 17, gave birth to her son. Meghan continued to have issues that would interfere with her dream of college. She was hanging around with the wrong crowd and doing things that could have been very destructive, including dropping out of school. For the average youth, this would have derailed any hope of college and a good career. However, through Meghan's determination and with the help of her parents and family, she was able to seek help and remove herself from a bad situation. Meghan did not want to return to school because she was worried she would fall back into the same crowd that got her into so much trouble. The dream of college was quickly fading.

In the spring of 2012 Meghan's counselor referred her to Madison County's E-learning program. It turned out that Meghan only needed one credit to graduate. Meghan was able to complete the program over the next couple months and was even able to walk in her high school graduation ceremony. She immediately signed up for fall classes at SIUE, and she is now in her second semester of college. Although Meghan has realized that college is not going to be easy, she is still working hard and is active in the college community.

Chelise Carter - Nominated by Leonard Dollins

Chelise CarterChelise is an intelligent young lady with a lot of motivation and good support from her family. She had always planned on graduating high school and going on to college. However, Chelise was not always so motivated and had a rough time early on in high school. She just didn't take school seriously and ended up failing several classes over the years. She never thought about how it would affect her later. At graduation time, when her counselor told her she was 2 credits short, she thought her dream of going to college was lost. Chelise thought she would have to go back and take another year of high school. She did not want to be the older kid that came back to school as a "super senior".

Fortunately, in late spring of 2011, Chelise was referred to the Madison County E-Learning program by her counselor from Madison High school. With this program she could still complete her diploma without being a "super senior". Once she was enrolled in the online classes she needed, she went to work right away. Chelise was able to complete all of her classes with high marks and graduate by early November of the same year.

Within two weeks of graduation, Chelise was hired at Wal-Mart in Granite City. But once again, her plans of going to college had to be postponed; as she found out she was going to have a baby. Fortunately, Chelise was able to maintain the job at Wal-Mart throughout her pregnancy and is still working close to full time. Chelise still plans on going to college when her son Collin turns one, and she's working with her counselor to sign up for financial aid. Although Chelise has had a few setbacks, she has been able to stay focused and will surely accomplish whatever she sets out to do.

Catherine Guckian - Nominated by Kaye O'Dell

Catherine GuckianCathy Guckian was recruited into the Bond County WIA-MERS Goodwill Youth Program last spring. Cathy and her brother live with their grandfather, who provides them both with room and board.

Prior to entering the program, Cathy was a Bond County 4-H member for 10 years. She came to the program with very little employment history. She had a minimal amount of income that she made from showing cows at fairs. Her past work experience consisted only of milking cows at a family member's dairy farm.

Once enrolled in the youth program, Cathy worked hard and obtained her Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) certification, completed job readiness training, and was placed in subsidized employment at Marcoot Jersey Creamery. Cathy also graduated from Kaskaskia College on December 27, 2012, with her Associate of Applied Science Degree, majoring in the Agriculture-Dairy Option. She was featured on the Dean's List due to her outstanding G.P.A.

In her free time, Cathy is a co-leader with the Dudleyville 4-H Club in Bond County. The 4-H members listen to and admire her for her many achievements and her years of experience in 4-H. She serves as a role model for the members in her club. Cathy also serves as a member of the Kaskaskia Dairy Club, the American Milking Shorthorn Association, the U.S. Jersey Association, and was a member of the F.F.A. during her high school years at Greenville High School.

Cathy is currently researching colleges. She plans to continue her education and obtain full time employment in the dairy industry. Cathy is a successful and determined goal setter who is certainly not afraid of hard or challenging work.

Laura Swift - Nominated by Michele March

Laura SwiftIn the spring of 1993, Laura Swift graduated from SIUE with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration. Over the next fifteen years, Laura worked in a professional business environment as a supervisor in business planning with United Steel Corporation. Due to the economic downturn in 2008, Laura was laid off from her job in the steel industry.

After leaving her former position, Laura began working part time at her son's elementary school. She substituted as a teacher's aide in the classroom and also participated in many other school sponsored activities. Laura found teaching to be rewarding, challenging and very satisfying. She had a true passion for educating and enhancing the learning experience of many young children. Laura realized that through education, she had the opportunity to shape the lives of children. To fully embark in a new career, Laura needed a teaching degree. In the state of Illinois, teaching is a declining industry with the exception of Special Education. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment for special education teachers will increase at a faster rate than the average of all occupations over the next decade.

In early 2010, Laura attended a Rapid Response workshop with the Madison County Employment and Training Department. She met with a Career Specialist to discuss her training options under the Trade Globalization Adjustment Assistance Act. This opportunity created promise and hope for Laura as a displaced steelworker.

After researching and interviewing with several universities, Laura found she was able to pursue a Masters Degree in special education from McKendree University if accepted into the program. Laura applied and was accepted into the Masters program which she began in May of 2010. In February of 2012, Laura was selected as McKendree University's Outstanding Student in the School of Education. She completed her program in April of 2012 and was offered employment by several school districts in Madison County prior to graduation. Today with Masters Degree in hand, Laura is a Special Education teacher in the Collinsville School District-Unit 10. Laura is living her dream.

Kimberly Merchant-Walker - Nominated by Michele March

In 2010, Robinson Steel succumbed to the financial downturn of the steel industry which left many Madison County residents without jobs. Kimberly Merchant-Walker was one of those residents. Kim worked for eighteen years as a Human Resource Representative at the steel company in Granite City, Illinois until they were forced to close their doors.

After applying for numerous local positions without success, Kim remembered she had attended a Rapid Response workshop after the company's closing where she learned of the many benefits she was eligible for under the Trade Adjustment Assistance Act.

After consulting with her family, Kim knew she was going to have to go back to school to get a degree. She realized that it would be extremely difficult to find a role in Human Resources without one. This decision was going to cause many hardships and sacrifices for Kim and her family. It had been many years since Kim attended school. She recognized that it would be difficult to adjust to becoming a full-time student, especially with children at home. But Payton, Steven and Katie are not Kim's children; they are her grandchildren! Kim and her husband are the primary caregivers of their grandchildren due to their daughter's abusive relationship with her boyfriend. Steven is eleven and has ADHD along with Asperger Syndrome, Katie is nine, and Payton is two. Payton has a rare medical disorder that has resulted in many trips to doctors and to Children’s Hospital.

Two years after taking advantage of the resources afforded to her through the programs at Madison County Employment and Training, Kim completed her Associates Degree in Business Management from Southwestern Illinois College on July 26, 2012. Shortly after her graduation, on August 13th 2012, Kim once again searched locally for her dream job and was hired as the Human Resource Coordinator at a Non-Profit Organization that helps disabled adults develop skills and find employment. Kim had a vision, and with persistence and hard work, she reached her goal!

Lacy Wallace - Nominated by Rebecca Marshall

Lacy Wallace became a WIA client in October 2012. He had recently been laid off from a job he had worked for the last six years, and was not sure what to do next. He had no formal training, but was a hard worker who had climbed the ladder up to District Manager at his former place of employment. He had good work experience and great references, but he was unable to secure another lucrative position. He was interested in getting retrained in a new field with more career opportunities.

Lacy's first choice for schooling was nursing, but he was worried about the time it would take to complete such a program. Many medical programs require prerequisites which would cost more money and take more time than what he had available, now that he was out of work. He also had some personal barriers that could make employment in that field difficult.

Instead of becoming discouraged about his options, as so many out of work individuals do, he left the WIA office determined to do some of his own research and design a new plan to get him back on track. And that is exactly what he did. After talking to different trucking agencies, CDL schools, and people he knew in both the trucking industry and the healthcare industry, he returned to take the TABE test (which he aced) and announced that CDL training would be the best option for him. He reasoned that it was the quickest way to get him back on his feet. And he was right.

Today Lacy is gainfully employed for an over-the-road trucking company. Before he even completed his CDL licensing, he was talking to various companies that were interested in hiring him. Lacy is a great example, not only because he worked hard and found employment, but because he did not let his circumstances discourage him from moving forward. He talked to many people about the best course of action. He did what he had to do to secure a career that would enable him to be self-sufficient. And, he did it all in less than three month's time.

Kionna Winn - Nominated by Tony Stephens

Kionna came to the Southwestern Illinois Worknet Office in East Alton to attend an education opportunity workshop for WIA in December 2011. She left that workshop with renewed hope that her desired career path could be achieved. She worked part time and met eligibility for WIA as a low income adult client. Kionna had worked over 6 years as a CNA in local nursing homes. She loved to help people with basic medical care needs. While working as a CNA, she began to realize how important the LPNs and RNs were in the medical chain of service. Kionna wanted to become a part of the medical chain of service too.

Kionna wanted to continue her career in the medical field as a nurse. She decided to start at the LPN level and then one day complete an RN program. Kionna didn't waste any time in gathering and preparing the required documents for the WIA program. She tested well on the Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE). She researched and decided to attend the LPN Program at Beck Area Career Center.

After getting approved for training assistance through the WIA program, she was able to start school in January 2012 and completed the LPN program in November 2012. She only missed one day of school during the 10 month program. With the LPN training, she was able to successfully pass the national board examination and obtain her Illinois License as a Licensed Practical Nurse.

Kionna didn't have to wait long for employment. She was offered a position as a full time LPN at Bethalto Care Center. She is currently working and is happy about the career decision she made. Kionna still has the desire to become a registered nurse. Her future plans include completing an RN bridge program and becoming a key component in the medical chain of service.

 

Award Business Leadership Award Winners . . .

. . . recognizing a private sector company that has
demonstrated leadership and made significant contributions
to workforce/economic development activities.

Carlisle SynTec - Nominated by Matt Jones
Jan Woker, Human Resources Manager
Bill Knuf, Plant Manager

Carlisle SynTecCarlisle SynTec's founding company, Carlisle Tire, originally started in Carlisle, Pennsylvania in 1917, and manufactured the first commercial molded inner tubes in 1927. Through the 1940's and 1950's, the company introduced synthetic rubber technology and created the first large elastomeric membrane sheets. This all led to Carlisle's introduction of single-ply roofing in the 1960's. Over 50 years later, Carlisle SynTec is considered the leader in product innovation, customer enthusiasm and system integrity.

In 1980, a second roofing plant was constructed in Greenville, Illinois. As the construction materials division eventually grew to 21 manufacturing locations, 80 offices and 8 regional sales offices nationwide, the Greenville location grew as well. Currently, the Greenville facility has 270 full-time employees. As one of the largest employers in Bond County, Carlisle SynTec is also a committed community partner. Since 2003, Carlisle SynTec has been working with the Madison-Bond Employment and Training Office in Greenville on employee testing. To date, over 300 employees have been tested in reading and math skills, as part of the new employee hiring process.

Also, since 2009, Jan Woker, Human Resource Manager, has been a member of the Madison-Bond Workforce Investment Board. Jan has always been very active in the board's activities and has strongly represented Carlisle's commitment to strengthening the local workforce. Jan has also been a vital part of numerous workforce grant applications and is a critical link between Bond County and the board.

Congratulations to Carlisle SynTec on its much deserved Business Leadership Award.