Leetonia Schools, Pennex join to celebrate community partnership

On Nov. 28 over 40 Leetonia High School STEM students kicked off the "Together We Are Leetonia" program by visiting the Pennex Aluminum Company in Leetonia. Students had the opportunity to interact with employees and leaders of Pennex Aluminum while touring the facility. Students and employees are shown displaying the unveiling of the banner for the "Together We Are Leetonia" campaign partially sponsored by the Pennex Corporation. (Submitted photo)

LEETONIA — Leetonia Schools recently joined with Pennex Aluminum Company to celebrate a new campaign to celebrate community partnerships.

The district’s STEM program students joined Pennex employees in kicking off the “Together We Are Leetonia” campaign. The campaign “celebrates the positive partnerships between the school, community, village hall and business partners,” according to schools Superintendent Rob Mehno.

“Leetonia is blessed to have an extremely supportive community and kind, generous business partners that truly encompass the phrase “TOGETHER WE ARE LEETONIA,” he said. “[The campaign] is an effort to promote and provide positive opportunities and to foster and build upon the relationships of all involved.”

Mehno explained that the campaign is aimed at bringing attention to the STEM programs and the community partnerships that allow students to be involved in the local manufacturing field. Students visit multiple manufacturing companies in the area as well as downtown businesses. There is also a mentoring program in which individuals in the local manufacturing industry work with sophomore students.

“Many programs have demonstrated this focus of community partnerships such as the mentoring program, student tours of local manufacturers, community food pantry collections, community outreach and service projects, blood drives, Veterans Day assemblies and the Leadership Leetonia speaking series,” Mehno said.

The STEM program has been working with many area businesses including Compco Industries in Columbiana, Humtown Products in Leetonia and Haltec Corporation in Salem in addition to downtown Leetonia businesses and an extensive partnership with Pennex, with whom students will soon be conducting co-op (internship) opportunities that allow them to be part of the business operations.

But the “Together” campaign goes beyond just partnering with community businesses, Mehno noted.

“The campaign will also stress kindness and compassion in school and throughout the community,” he said.

As such, the district held a Rachel’s Challenge assembly and training last week for junior and senior high school students. Approximately 60 students and a dozen members of staff in addition to members of the community who are influential in working students on a daily basis participated in the training.

“This is not only a program, it’s a process to infuse the message of kindness and compassion into every aspect of our school and community,” explained high school Principal Troy Radinsky.

The core of the message stems from an essay that Rachel Scott wrote for her 11th grade English class “My Ethics, My Code of Life.” She lived her life around the principles in the essay before losing her life in the Columbine School shooting.

“The Leetonia School District is committed to providing our students a safe, supportive learning environment that prepares students to be future leaders and supports the district vision,” Radinsky said. “Rachel’s Challenge is a program designed to inspire, equip and empower people to create a positive culture change in their school and community by starting a chain reaction of respect, kindness and compassion.”

Radinsky said the objectives of the program are as follows:

Create a safe and productive learning environment by delivering proactive antidotes to violence and bullying;

Stimulate real culture change by actively involving the entire community in the process;

Change lives by providing culturally relevant social/emotional training;

Improve achievement and ensure results by engaging the participants heart, head and hands.

He said data will be collected throughout the process to indicate the program is having an impact.

In conjunction with the “Together We Are Leetonia” campaign kick off at Pennex, the Rachel’s Challenge training served as a “powerful reminder of the little things we can do everyday to make the world a better a place,” Radinsky added.

“There are many efforts within the school district that encompass community, local businesses and other partnerships that include the aspects of character building, anti-bullying, school safety and academic programs such as robotics and manufacturing,” he said. “The purpose of the campaign is to share the efforts that have been collaborative in nature in making the school and community a safer and better place to live, to make the school a safer environment and having the incentives to teach kindness and compassion, something that 25 years ago was not as much a focus point as it needs to be today.”

Radinsky said the “Together” campaignserves as a reminder to students that they have tremendous opportunities in the school.

“It highlights the efforts and relationships that they have each and every day, provides the opportunity to look outside the box…and be difference maker,” he said. “This is not just an assembly, but a process.

“We’re opening their eyes that there are many people within the community…that are partnerships with the school district, just like Pennex has been instrumental in sponsorship and being very involved in the district’s robotics, manufacturing and STEM programs, providing educational opportunities for our students.”

With plans to build on the past week’s kick off, Radinsky said he is excited about the potential the campaign offers, noting the district administration is committed to implementing national programs from which activities can be created to emphasize the importance of compassion and understanding within the student body.

“Share why it’s so critically important in today’s society and why students and staff need to be vigilant in all they do to identify behaviors that may be threatening,” he said.

Radinsky said the students who participated in the Rachel’s Challenge training will share what they learned with student organizations such as student council, SADD and Fellowship of Christian Students to develop activities to build on the compassion aspect and “create a chain reaction.”

“The message was powerful to start a chain of compassion at the school that leads to a safer, better school and community,” Radinsky said.