BBB Honors Five Graduates at 2020 Torch Awards

BOARDMAN, Ohio – Five high school graduates from Mahoning and Trumbull counties each received a $1,000 scholarship Tuesday during the Better Business Bureau of the Mahoning Valley’s annual Torch Awards event.

Usually held at The Lake Club, the coronavirus pandemic forced the BBB to move this year’s event to Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC for a small award presentation. Recipients included Albin Dering from Poland Seminary High School, Mathew Miller from Lakeview High School, Dana Spagnoletta from Niles McKinley High School, and Joshua Comport and Ashley Thompson from Canfield High School. 

Carol Potter, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of the Mahoning Valley, worked with sponsors Sweeney and Farmers Trust Co., to put together the presentation. 

“We’re able to give them their scholarships offsite here, but at a beautiful new dealership,” Potter said. “And for these kids, it really means more than you would think because they really haven’t had any of this attention.”

All five students agreed that the scholarships were a positive way to end their high school academic careers. Miller said the presentation meant a lot since he lost out on key moments like his prom, senior trip and graduation.

“Winning this kind of helps a lot and the plaque makes me feel even better because I actually have something to show my parents,” Miller said.


Albin Dearing, Poland Seminary, accepts his award with Alexa Sweeney Blackann and Mark Wenick.


Ashley Thompson, Canfield High School


Dana Spagnoletta, Niles McKinley High School


Joshua Comport, Canfield High School


The BBB's Carol Potter with Mathew Miller, Lakeview High School

dearing thompson spagnoletta comport miller

In the fall, Miller plans to study chemical engineering at Youngstown State University. He wants to roll is love for math and science into a career that will keep him in northeastern Ohio.

Spagnoletta also has an interest in math and will attend Ohio University to study actuarial science. She plans to become an actuary.

“I’m just honored,” Spagnoletta said. “The price for college is just astronomical, but just to be a part of this really means a lot to me.”

Dearing, nephew of Dearing Compressor owner Becky Wall, doesn’t plan to go into the family business. He will attend Kent State University Trumbull before transferring to the main campus to study business and minor in hospitality.

Dearing went to the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center to study networking and cyber security and has been working for the company while in high school. Dearing said he wants to travel and could return to the family business in the future.

“I don’t like to stay at one place for a very long time, and I thought going out and getting to see different hotels would be a great chance for me to get out and move,” Dearing said.

The two Canfield graduates, Comport and Thompson, both plan to major in neuroscience.

Comport will attend Kent State, and began a bachelor’s degree program in neuroscience there in fall 2019. He hopes to continue his education in medical school. His interest in medicine stems from his father, who works as a perfusionist at University Hospitals.

“I always thought it would be great to go into medicine and help people,” Comport said.

While Comport is fixing patients physically, Thompson could help people mentally. She will attend Ohio State and plans to pursue a career in therapy, either physical therapy or psychology.

Thompson originally wanted to become a dietitian when she was a sophomore. But psychology quickly became here favorite class and changed her career path.

“I wanted to figure out a way to combine those and neuroscience is actually a perfect combination with chemistry, biology and psychology as the major component that drew me to it,” Thompson said.

After a photo with their award, the students talked to Alexa Sweeney Blackann, vice president of Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC, and Mark Wenick, chief wealth management officer for Farmers National Bank.

The students had to write an essay regarding their perception of ethics and integrity. Wenick was pleased that students took the time to write the essay and were rewarded for their effort.

“When you meet them, you realize, ‘Yeah, I understand why they were a part of the scholarships,’ ” Wenick said.

Blackann said she was excited to help the students as they prepare for their college educations.

“This is the smartest group I think I’ve ever had,” Blackann said. “But it gives me a lot of hope for the Valley that these kids will stick around in the future or that we’ll give them a good sendoff.”

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.