Leadership, Achievement and Gratitude

Celebrating Public Education in Warren County

Warren County ESC superintendent Tom Isaacs

Photography by Jon Keeling


Don’t tell Warren County ESC superintendent Tom Isaacs that today’s high school students are lazy, stuck in social media or spend too much time playing video games. He knows better.

“I visit so many schools over the course of a year, and I see so many great things happening,” says Isaacs. “My perception is, we have an incredible group of young people coming up to lead our country.”

Eleven of those incredible young people – students from school districts throughout Warren County who have exhibited superior academic achievement – and the dedicated teachers and coaches who have made a positive impact on their lives, were honored April 13 at the third annual Franklin B. Walter Scholarship Award Program/Warren County Banquet, hosted by the WCESC. The luncheon, sponsored by the Greater Ohio Virtual School, was attended by the scholarship recipients, their parents and mentors, as well as several area educators and local elected officials.

Established by the Ohio Educational Service Center Association (OESCA) in 1989, the Franklin B. Walter Scholarship Program was created to promote and recognize outstanding academic achievement, with one high school senior from each county in Ohio receiving a monetary award to assist them in their post-secondary education endeavors. Isaacs was attending the program in Columbus a few years back when he decided it would be a great program to offer at the local level. “I simply decided to try to take it a step further,” Isaacs recalls.

Each school district in Warren County submits one student for consideration for the scholarships. Students are chosen based on academic achievements, test scores and positive contributions made to their schools and communities. Each student chosen receives a $500 scholarship and a plaque. This year’s award winners also received proclamations from State Senator Steve Wilson and State Representative Scott Lipps. Alyssa Davis, a senior at Carlisle High School, was chosen to represent Warren County at the state banquet, and she will receive an additional $500 scholarship.

As part of the scholarship application process, each student is required to write a letter of thanks to their chosen mentor. During the banquet, scholarship recipients read their letters aloud – their mentors standing with them at the podium – and rarely is there a dry eye in the room. This year’s banquet was no different. “The event itself becomes quite emotional,” says Isaacs. “There have been some real tear jerker moments.”

Students’ public recognition of the adults who have helped them along their academic journeys is an invaluable tenet of the scholarship program, he adds. It’s an awesome, inspiring moment for the students showing their gratitude and the adults receiving it.

Franklin B. Walter, for whom the scholarship program is named, served as Ohio’s state superintendent from 1977-1991. He worked with three governors, is remembered for significantly improving public education in Ohio and earned the respect and admiration of educators across the country. “He was a superintendent’s superintendent,” notes Isaacs. “He was the one we all aspired to be like. He was not a politician, he was an educator who loved children, students and teachers.”

The only bad thing about the Franklin B. Walter Scholarship Awards Program is recognizing only one student from each district, he adds.

“I see hundreds of great kids. They’re volunteering in their communities, and not only are they taking full academic course loads, most of them participate in multiple sport activities and are involved in their local churches. Their accomplishments are so staggering, you think, ‘When do they sleep?’”

Isaacs could not be more pleased with the success of the local awards program, which he describes as an overall opportunity to celebrate Warren County public education.

“I get to see all the good things happening in our schools, and I want other people to see the good things, too. My hope is that these students are recognized in their home communities and inspire other students to do similar things. I hope that by recognizing these positive leaders that other kids will say, ‘Hey, I want to be like that; what does it take to be like that?’”


Warren County Educational Service Center is located at 1879 Deerfield Road, Lebanon, OH 45036. For more information, call 513.695.2900 or visit www.warrencountyesc.com.


District Recipient and Overall Winner, 
Franklin B. Walter All-Scholastic Award


Alyssa Davis

Whether she’s working hard to maintain an above-4.0 GPA throughout her high school career, tutoring kindergarten students in reading and her peers in math, serving as a teacher’s aide, working a part-time job or giving her all on the volleyball court, Alyssa Davis consistently keeps her goals in mind. The Carlisle High School (CHS) senior’s foremost goal is to become more independent and to welcome change with open arms as she heads down her post-high school path, a path that appears to point toward a pre-med track with a focus on psychiatry. She vows to remain fearlessly optimistic as she soars to new heights during the next chapter of her life. The wind beneath Alyssa’s wings? CHS science teacher Richard Grimes.

“I have never met someone who cares so much about others and shows it every single day. I hope you know how much I truly appreciate your positivity and optimistic outlook. You have inspired me every day to be a better person, and to be there for others, even if it is just to listen to them.”


Dean Adam Diaz

A fascination with technology and the language computers use to communicate with each other led Dean Adam Diaz, a senior attending the Warren County Career Center’s IT program, to focus on earning his A+ Certification and getting an internship. He plans to attend Sinclair
Community College for two years, and then transfer those credits to either University of Cincinnati or Miami University for another two years to earn a bachelor’s degree. His life’s vision is to be able to provide for a family and find a comfortable career in computer programming. Dean admits he knew very little about IT as a career path before entering it, and he had doubts about his decision after delving into his classes. At one point, he considered switching programs. But thanks to Ryan Burgess, the IT instructor who encouraged Dean to not give up but to keep working hard, he had an unexpected change of heart.

“To my surprise, all of those thoughts of leaving quickly evaporated when I met Mr. Burgess. The way he talked about his career and the enthusiasm he brought to the class just made me even more inspired to succeed.”


Jessica Gill

Somewhere between her commitments to Astronomy Club, Student Council, National Honor Society, and the soccer, track and field, and cross country teams, Jessica Gill fell in love with science and math. The Waynesville High School (WHS) senior plans to major in chemical engineering at either University of Dayton or Purdue University. Jessica is interested in using stem cell research to help those struggling with an illness or disorder. The idea of manipulating cells to create new, different, healthy cells that may save someone’s life captivates her. It’s something she has wanted to be a part of ever since she was old enough to understand what that means. She credits and thanks Lauren Clark, WHS chemistry instructor, for guiding that understanding.

“You are the reason I decided to pursue a career in chemical engineering…your passion for the science behind chemistry has inspired me to believe that I can use it to help others in the world, just as you have helped me…thank you, Mrs. Clark, for not only helping me, but for teaching me how to help others.”

Samantha Jones

Samantha Jones ranks first in her senior class at Franklin High School (FHS), making her mark as a member of pep band, marching band,
Spanish Club, Spanish National Honor Society, Art Club and National Honor Society. 

She would love to double major and earn a bachelor’s degree in astronomy and astrophysics, eventually getting a Ph.D. in chemistry. Her ultimate goal? To work for NASA as a chemist, exploring space and discovering new information about the universe. Overall, Samantha wants to make a difference, not just money, through her work. It’s Joshua Long, FHS band director, whom she credits with inspiring her to be the best leader she can be in whatever she pursues.

“You have dedicated so much of your time over the years to the band program and to your students, and though we may not show it, we are all very grateful for all you do…I am a better musician and leader today than I was four years ago and that is because of you…I’ve learned a lot more than just playing the clarinet and I’ll take those lessons with me in whatever direction my life may go.”


Chelsea Kroener

From the time Middletown High School (MHS) senior Chelsea Kroener was a young child, she knew she wanted to help others. As she looks ahead to college and beyond, she is even more determined to make her childhood dreams come true. After graduating with honors, she’ll head to Miami University, where she plans to pursue a Bachelor of Arts degree in clinical psychology. She hopes to one day work as a child care worker, rehabilitation specialist or mental health technician while earning a Master of Arts degree. While at MHS, Chelsea has been involved in bowling, Key Club, Philosophy Club, Book Club and Spanish Club. Her community service includes Light Up Middletown, Trick or Treat for UNICEF, Kiwanis Annual Pancake Day and serving the homeless through Alternate Lodging of Middletown. She also works as a merchandise associate/supervisor at Kings Island Amusement Park. Chelsea credits English instructor Michelle Amrien with fostering her unwavering determination to do and be her very best.

“Your teaching and guidance have taught me to trust myself, because if I believe I can do it, I can; and if I can do it, I will. I appreciate you more than I can ever begin to tell. So, thank you. For everything.”


Omar Larios

He is constantly focused on preparing for the next phase of his life. So, as Omar Larios graduates from Lebanon High School (LHS), he is already steps ahead, having earned enough credits through College Credit Plus to begin finance classes at either Miami University or The Ohio State University with a full year of work already completed. He is the state president of the Ohio Future Business Leaders of America, the team captain for Relay for Life at LHS, a bank teller for Lebanon Citizens National Bank, and he is gaining further leadership experience as a senior supervisor at Kings Island Amusement Park. His goal is to own a personal finance business, helping people invest their money wisely in organizations that make the world a better place. Frank Back, LHS business instructor, has been Omar’s role model and greatest influence throughout his high school journey.

“You have taught me so much about my faith, my finances, and about how to live life…I am forever grateful for the impact you have made on me, which will last far beyond graduation.”


Sarah Preisler

Sarah Preisler, a senior at Little Miami High School, aspires to become an astrophysicist. Keenly aware there is not a substantial job market in that field, however, she is ready with her Plan B – chemical engineering. Sarah will attend the University of Cincinnati, tackling a double major in chemical engineering and astrophysics. Active in organizations from National Honor Society and Unified for Uganda to Principal’s Council, French Club and Art Club, Sarah was named a National Merit Semi-Finalist in 2017, an AP Scholar with Distinction that same year, and she also received the President’s Volunteer Service Award, to name but a few of her awards. Sarah is also intent on volunteering, helping others in any way she can. She thanks her French teacher, Jennifer Dafoe, for being an amazing role model who shows kindness toward others while instilling a love and appreciation for French culture.

“Thank you, Mrs. Dafoe, for your compassion and dedication to your students. In the years that I have had you as my French teacher, I’ve never seen you be anything but kind toward all of your students.”


Faith Shields

Digital media arts have been Faith Shields’ true passion for as long as the Kings High School (KHS) senior can remember. She loves creating art that brings enjoyment to people, improves communities and influences social change. Her award-rich high school years have been busy with music, swimming, tennis, National Honor Society, student government, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and many other activities. She hopes to be admitted to Ohio University’s Honors Tutorial College and to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Communication in Media Arts and
Studies, with the goal of working for a game design company or agency that specializes in animation. Faith’s parents, Jason and Kelly Shields, are both teachers at KHS. Kelly is Faith’s digital arts instructor. Faith cites her mother’s love for art and skill as a talented artist as the inspiration for her college major and future career plans.

“Not only have you given me constant love, but you give generously to all your students…I, along with hundreds of your students, past and present, cherish you. I love you, mom.”


Hannah Stumpfl

Hannah Stumpfl, a senior at Springboro High School (SHS), has a passion for math and science and wants to incorporate all kinds of music into her future while making the world a better place through biomedical engineering. She also looks forward to continuing her hobbies of drawing, painting, sculpting and sewing. Hannah has been involved in track, cross country, indoor track, National Honor Society, Student Council and Interact Club, and she served as a Painting With A Twist instructor and assistant. She was named a National Merit Semifinalist and an AP Scholar her junior year. William Fox, SHS biology instructor, is Hannah’s favorite teacher, and his enthusiasm for physiology and AP Biology fueled her interest in pursuing a science-based career.

“Throughout my school years, you encouraged me to challenge myself with harder science courses. Thank you so much for everything you have done for me here. Through your lessons and care, you’ve helped set me on course for the life and career I hope to have, and I am truly grateful to you for that.”


Elizabeth “Rue” Whitmore

When Elizabeth “Rue” Whitmore closes her eyes and imagines her future, she sees herself taking care of people, bringing comfort to those in need. The Mason High School senior plans to pursue a career in nursing and will attend Ohio Northern
University in the fall. She plans to be involved in the Northern Nursing Without Borders program and to join the National
Student Nurses Association. Rue’s long-term goal is to become a pediatric nurse practitioner, a desire sparked by her volunteer work at Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center. She also plans to continue her award-winning high school track and field/cross country career at the collegiate level. Rue is a dedicated member of the Spanish National Honor Society, Students Involving and Befriending Students, and she has logged many a volunteer hour as a Sunday school teacher and a Faith Alive Program assistant at St. Susanna Church in Mason. Of all the fabulous teachers who have encouraged and supported her, it’s Darren Little, her history teacher, she thanks for cementing her foundation as an active learner who believes in herself when facing challenges in school and in life.

“For this I truly thank you, for the impact you have had on me and my education.”


Ryan Wieters

Ryan Wieters purchased his first laptop when he was 9 years old. Curiosity led him to breaking the computer to learn more about it. By the time he reached high school, he mastered replacing components and troubleshooting software. While a student at Greater Ohio Virtual School (GOVS), Ryan enrolled at the
Warren County Career Center, enabling him to further his technical knowledge. He now builds personal computers on his own. After earning his CompTIA A+ Certification and graduating from the career center, he plans to enroll in the Sinclair Community College Computer Information Systems program. Ryan maintained 4.0 and 3.9777 GPAs at the Warren County Career Center and GOVS, respectively. He built homes while on a mission trip to Arizona and packed meals for those in need through A Child’s Hope International. Tutor Erin Edgren motivated Ryan to keep his grades up during a couple of challenging times at GOVS.

“It will be interesting to see where God leads me after high school. Certainly, you have been a part of preparing me for that journey. Thanks for helping me keep my schoolwork in line so that I have the option for college. I wouldn’t have made it without you.”