Community Spotlight is a weekly story featuring a business or organization in our region.
These features are written by WKTN intern Brianna Gillen
This week’s Community Spotlight is about one that opened in October of 2010; Hardin Community School (better known as Lifeworks) is described by staff as “another opportunity for young adults to finish high school and plan for their futures.” There are many friendly faces the school has to offer such as, Wade Melton, the director of the school for 9 years.
In an interview with Wade, he told me his favorite part of Lifeworks is the “non-traditionalism” of the school. He describes the school’s first day open as a day to “just set up.” Staff was still trying to make sure the school was the best it could be for their students, because the school used to be an office building, the students were still working in the cubicles left behind until classrooms were designed and built.
When asked what he would tell any new student looking to enroll, Wade said, “It’s really up to [the student] to make the most out of the opportunities we offer.”
Lead teacher Anita Shoemaker, who has been working at the school for 7 years, says “My first day on the job had me scared to death not knowing what I would be walking into.” She quickly explained that by lunch time she felt great and comfortable in her new job.
When asked to describe the students in a few words she replied, “They’re all very unique and no two are alike.” With the help of her masters degree in Math and experience subbing in other schools, Mrs. Shoemaker insures the success of each of her students.
Hardin Community School Class of 2020
Cafeteria worker and Administrative Assistant Shasta Spencer, and English and History teacher Micah Smith, were both added to the staff team in mid-August 2019. They describe the school as “helpful” and “different than you’d think.”
I asked Shasta what she thinks needs to improve in Lifeworks, her answer was simple, yet helpful, “None of the food served at lunch is made here, it’s all delivered to us and I reheat it, so I would really like to see a new reheating system in the cafeteria. Or maybe just a renovation to the cafeteria in general, such as adding a sink.”
Like Mrs. Shoemaker, Mr. Smith also has experience subbing in other schools. He told me what inspired him to start working at Lifeworks was “an opportunity for a consistent classroom.” He also contributed his own “personal rebellion” as a life experience that helped prepare him for his new job at Lifeworks.
Workforce and Career Specialist Stacie Francis was placed at Lifeworks this year through Ohio Means Jobs. She told me her favorite part of Lifeworks is the students, “They make each day a new experience.” She also describes the students as follows, “a mixture of bright, inquizitive beings that will clean up into great productive people with positive growth and guidance.” She recalls many funny and great times with her students, such as when a student wore a Jack Skellington onesie to school. Stacie stated she’d like to see more hands on activities with students reformed at the school.
I also met with a 5-year student of Lifeworks and asked her what she would like to see improve about the school; she told me she’d like to see the cleanliness of the building to improve, and to add more colors to the building other than “just white walls.” She told me she feels the best thing about Lifeworks in her opinion is Mrs. Shoemaker.
Probation Officer, Julian Brown has been employed at the school for 7 years. Before Lifeworks, she earned a double major in Criminal Justice and worked at Treatment Alternatives for Safer Communities (TASC) of Northwest Ohio. Because of her previous work experience, she stated that she felt confident going into her first day on the job.
In her opinion, the best thing about Lifeworks are the few hands-on activities offered. For example, OSU 4-H program. Julian told me she would tell any new students that, “because we are so different as a school than ‘regular schools’ you need to be self motivated.”
Khrystal Wagner the Treatment coordinator and supervisor of 13 and a half years says it “takes a special kind of person to work here. You need to be able to switch gears quickly.” When I asked her to further explain her statement, she told me, “it’s just a matter of being able to switch on the seriousness and relaxing parts of yourself in an instant because the students are really so different, they need different treatment at different times.”
Improvements she’d like to see are bigger helping hands from the community and more engaging activities for the students. Khrystal explained that if there were more hands-on activities not only could students bond with each other but with staff, as well.
Nonetheless, staff agree the stigma attached to Lifeworks throughout the community and students alike is wrong. Many people believe the school is just where “bad kids” go. Quoting Mrs. Shoemaker, “The kids that go here really aren’t as bad as the reputation is. The school isn’t a scary place.” Julian would like to see the students stop thinking that just because they go to Lifeworks, they’ve been disregarded and labeled as “bad”, and also to realize the school really is just here to help the students graduate when no other schools have the ability to personalize each students education. To quote Shasta Spencer, “Each student has the potential to do great things, some of them have made bad decisions but it doesn’t make them bad people.”
While it’s no secret that Lifeworks has plenty of room for improvement, the school cares greatly about the state of their student’s mental and physical health and also their success. Hardin Community schools has a 96% graduation rate, which is well above the national average of 75% for high schools. Lifeworks is designed to help those from grade 6 to age 21.
If you are interested in enrolling yourself or know someone else who may be interested in enrollment, business hours are Monday- Friday 7:30am-2:30pm. Please call 419-673-3210 x1007 to reach Wade Melton, for more information.
If you are a business interested in assisting in these students successful futures; Lifeworks is located at 400 Decatur street Kenton, Ohio, 43326. Or call 419-673-3210 x1012 for general information.