by Eric Stearley
On April 24, Wabash County’s top students gathered at the Honeywell Center for a special luncheon with the county’s business leaders. The Wabash County Chamber of Commerce, the North Manchester Chamber of Commerce, and Manchester University sponsored the event. The purpose of the event was “to honor top graduating seniors from the county high schools, and to have an opportunity to encourage local talent to return to their home for employment opportunities during the summers or after graduation from their college experience,” according the a press release from the chamber.
The large number of honors students was matched by a heavy community presence. Many students were able to sit with business professionals working in their areas of interest, as well as fellow students with similar college and career goals.
Serving as a sort of Master of Ceremonies for the luncheon, Manchester University Associate Vice President of Finance and Director of Operations Chris Garber welcomed those in attendance and introduced Wabash County Chamber of Commerce President Kim Pinkerton, who delivered the invocation.
While sharing college plans and networking with local education and business representatives, students enjoyed a light lunch consisting of a ham sandwich, pickle, and potato chips, finished with a cookie. Businesspeople had the opportunity to talk with students about current and future opportunities in the Wabash County business landscape. Students also had an opportunity to share their plans for college and beyond with the group. As usual, these ranged from detailed undergraduate, post-graduate, and career plans to those students who had no idea what the were doing after graduation.
Following lunch, those in attendance enjoyed a keynote speech from Crossroads Bank Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Emily Boardman. A Northfield High School graduate, Boardman (then Emily Pilgrim) received bachelors and masters degrees in accounting from Manchester University. Boardman worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers in Indianapolis for five years before returning to Wabash and joining joined Crossroads Bank.
Boardman talked about growing up in Wabash, wanting to leave town after graduation, and working at the nation’s largest accounting firm. She talked about her personal growth during those years at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and about how ultimately, finding more balance in life and spending more time with her family was most important in the end, and something she is able to do in her current position. She also talked about how the things that we want in life change over the years, and about what things become more important as we age, urging students to thank those people in their life who support them.
In addition to gathering students together for community, networking, and inspiration, the luncheon was held to combat the state-wide problem of “brain drain.” This is where students move out of the county and state after earning a degree. The Chamber of Commerce hopes to encourage bright, educated Wabash-natives to return to Wabash County after college and begin their careers.
It appears these efforts have worked in the past. Data compiled by StateImpact Indiana concerning 2009 graduates shows that Wabash County has one of the highest retention rates in the state, with 71.1 percent of bachelors degree recipients remaining in the state a year after graduation. That number increases to 74.2% for masters and doctorate degree recipients. This compares to respective rates in Huntington County of 50.2 percent and 48.0 percent and rates in Miami County of 59.8 percent and 68.3 percent. Indiana’s retention rate for all types of degrees is around 60 percent.
More than 100 students attended the event, including:
Emmanuel Christian School - Kourtney Trusty;
Manchester High School – Ashton Bolinger, Brodi Carter, Claudel Dickantone, Audriana Fuentes, Phoenix Goad, Adam Hanback, Kaitlyn Hensley, Andrew Hill, Shelby Johnson, Claire McLaughlin, Ross Messer, Morgan Metzger, Bradley Miller, Krisandra Mize, Mariah Mobley, Katie Peden, Brady Pyrah, Andrea Roesner, Kacy Sites, Sydney Snep, Brandon Stayer, Katelyn Stuart;
Northfield High School – Alicia Agness, Megan Corbran, Trey Eads, Kylie Echard, Emily Eckelbarger, Marcus Kroh, Bo Mullett, Blake Peterson, Taylor Peterson, Sidney Reed, Jon Richardson, Natalie Schuler, Katie Stephan, Kendall Tomlinson;
Southwood High School – Amanda Bitzel, Amy Bowman, Caitlynn Charles, Shaylee Correll, Leigh-Ann Gaylourd, Alyson Gouveia, Dayton Haynes, Logan Hensley, Zach Hobson, Alexandra Nose, Eric Olsen, Kyle Porter, Jordan Randolph, Drew Rhamy, Jonah Stouffer, Lakin Wimmer, Brett Wyatt;
Wabash High School – Keaton Burns, Victoria Dolmanet, Tyler Evans, Jordan Floor, Miranda Garbaciak, Christian Gaston, Jalen Grier, Thomas Grier, Devin Hostetler, Lacey Johnson, Michael Landis, Jonathon Landis, Jaclyn Lewis, Chloe Mullett, Shai Parrett, Natasha Rich, Rahee Patel, Jordan Rauh, Jealousy Reza, Kayla Sparling, Lyndsie Thomas, Ryli Van Scoy, Alishya Webb, Ashley Wold;
White’s High School - Hannah Hunsaker.
Sponsoring businesses for the luncheon include: Beacon Credit Union; City of Wabash; Edward Jones Office & Company; Gorman Center for Orthodontics; Indiana American Water Co.; Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana; The Honeywell Foundation, Inc.; Advanced Ag Resources; Allen Insurance Agency; Benson & Son Plumbing-Heating; Besiege LLC; Community Foundation of Wabash County; Countryside Veterinary Hospital; Crossroads Bank; David L. Mann, CLU, CFP, CHFC; Dawes & Pugh CPA’s, LLC; Douglas C. Lehman, P.C.; EDG of Wabash County, Inc.; First Farmers Bank & Trust; First Merchants Bank; Ford Meter Box Company, Inc.; Grandstaff-Hentgen Funeral Service; Indiana University Kokomo; Investment Center at Crossroads Bank; Kalenborn Abresist; Laketon Lions Club; Miller Furniture Co., Inc.; Mutual Bank; Naomi Porter; Northern Indiana Public Service Co.; Pettit Printing, Inc.; Terri Eckert School of Dance; Timbercrest Senior Living Center; Troy Eads Excavating Inc.; Wabash Electric; Wabash Instruments; and Wellbrooke of Wabash.
The Honor Student Luncheon Committee members include: Chelsie Pattison, Mutual Bank; Teresa Galley, The Honeywell Center; Kimberly Pinkerton and Emily Gardner, Wabash County Chamber of Commerce; Laura Rager, North Manchester Chamber of Commerce.