While seniors were away on college visits Oct. 11, students remaining at Wellington High School made their way around the building for an array of college and career panels.
Seventeen WHS alumni from 1966 to 2012 took part in the event, among them mayor Hans Schneider, village manager Steve Dupee, assistant fire chief Bill Brown, and Main Street Wellington director Jenny Arntz.
They spoke with students about seeking out careers and society’s continually-changing definition of success.
Schneider, who also works as a nurse for Davita Dialysis, said most of his high school classmates wouldn’t have considered him to be the most likely to become mayor.
“I probably wasn’t in their top 100 of who might become mayor of Wellington,” he told a group of sophomores. “But I had the chance to grow. I had the chance to evolve. I might not have been the greatest at math but I always loved history and politics.”
After graduating from WHS in 1986, Schneider enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, where he studied Morse code. He returned to Wellington and worked at Forest City Technologies before being elected to village council in 2001. He said the experience of an unsuccessful mayoral bid in 2011 helped temper him for a winning run four years later.
“I won my first council election by 18 votes and I firmly believe that was through hard work and knocking on people’s doors,” he said. “I also got beat pretty good in that first race for mayor. That failure, though, was a huge motivator for success. I worked even harder in 2015, knocked on those same doors two and three times, and won by 40 votes.”
“Take a failure and build it into something,” he said. “My life has had ups and downs just like you, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Speaking alongside Schneider was 1986 classmate Tom Guyer, who now works as an Ohio parole officer. He received training at the U.S. Army Military Police School in Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks in Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
“I supervise anywhere from 80 to 100 offenders at a time,” he said. “We will do home visits and make sure people are complying with their terms and rules for supervision. We will search for people who’ve absconded. It’s a very different job day to day. I’ve pulled people out of closets and almost been pushed out of windows.”
Down the hallway, Matt Davison, a 1999 WHS grad now working in credit authorization for Bank of America, answered students’ questions about avoiding debt and the merits of community college versus attending larger schools.
“Grades are very important right now for you guys,” he said. “If I had applied myself a bit more in high school, I might not have been sitting with over $60,000 in debt and might have been eligible for more scholarships. Me getting into more extracurricular activities could’ve helped, too, since many scholarships heavily value those.”
“The only disadvantage of going to a community college is the chance that some of your credits might not transfer out,” said Davison. “But from an education standpoint, I never saw the difference between community college and four-year schools. The biggest difference is $30 per credit hour or a few thousand per credit hour. My dad went back to (Lorain County Community College) after 30 years to finish up some trade school stuff.”
Speaking to a group of freshmen, Walt Opperman of MD Tool & Die went over the need to be constantly moving forward in today’s global economy and the growing abundance of trade career options.
“If you’re standing still, someone is going to run you over,” he said. “There’s many things you can do after high school. I was in the military and it taught me a lot. You can go to college for a variety of reasons. But right now, North America needs trained, skilled trade workers. It’s tough to find skilled people who are dedicated to going to work.”
“As a 3-D printing technician, you can make about $38 an hour,” he said. “Ten years ago, that was unheard of. They also work all the overtime they want. That’s a really good living that also comes with job satisfaction. Just always be looking for new skills to learn. The more skills you have the more you’ll be in demand.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.