COLUMBIANA, Ohio – As Mark Lamoncha starts his second term as a governor-appointee to the Ohio State Board of Education, he continues to look at ways to invest in children and young adults by bringing business and manufacturing to classrooms.
According to Lamoncha, one of the new committees the board plans to have this year is all about career workforce development.
He sees programs like the creative entrepreneurship class at his alma mater, Columbiana High School, as something all schools should have.
“If they had had that class when I went to Columbiana, it would have been much more engaging,” Lamoncha says. “Nobody ever engaged with us like that. … A few years ago, when we went in there, I was amazed at what Mrs. [Tricia] Missos was doing with those young adults.”
Nick Gallo, one of the seniors taking the creative entrepreneurship class, says the class took a tour of Humtown Products a year ago as Lamoncha wanted to share some of the ideas they could incorporate into their concession stand project. Gallo says from experiences like that, he learned he might not be interested in working in a factory, but he enjoys brainstorming and creating things.
Through the class, Gallo also has realized that city leaders and business leaders like Lamoncha want to share their knowledge and are interested in what he has to say.
“It’s great hearing from older, more mature people,” Gallo says, “and that they want to hear from younger folks.”
Lamoncha says after learning about the creative entrepreneurship program, he suggested instead of working with outside vendors to build communities, more schools and communities should be listening to the young people who will live there in the future.
To him, for too long people have thought that students must wait until they are adults to participate in their communities and to get exposure to potential careers. He believes this needs to start before high school, even when children are in elementary and middle schools.
“Instead of just wanting their hands when they’re 18,” Lamoncha says, “when we’re interested in their hearts and their heads before they’re 18 and find value in them at a younger age, then we are developing the community that they want to stay in rather than one that somebody built for them.”
Lamoncha, CEO of Humtown Products in Leetonia, says he was just as guilty as other businesses at overlooking the youth in the community. But now he has worked for several years with Crestview Local Schools and Columbiana Schools. And so he fully believes industry needs to be more actively involved in getting the next generation interested in career pathways and exposing them to the businesses here and across Ohio.
Through an initiative at Crestview Schools, for instance, Lamoncha and Humtown were involved in connecting to teachers at the school and their STEM classrooms. Students learn about real concerns businesses have and then get to think about ways to solve them.
Children and young adults have a different way of looking at the world. Lamoncha calls it three-dimensional thinking and says these programs are illuminating their three-dimensional ideas.
“Intercepting them at an earlier age gives them occupational exposure,” he says. “And it gives them engagement in a community that, instead of leaving, they want to stay and be a part of it. It’s very exciting.”
The dividends can pay off even before the students become adults. Lamoncha says some of their parents have come to work for him after finding out the company is interested in their children.
“We need to do differently than we have done them if we’re going to find enough people who are going to work in the Ultiums and the Lordstown Motors and all the new plants that are coming,” Lamoncha says.