Today’s Academic Achievers Are Tomorrow’s Community Leaders

Photo by Jon Keeling


Workforce development is the hot topic for all school districts right now, says Tom Isaacs, Warren County Educational Service Center (WCESC) superintendent, and every school district across the state is working hard to align graduates with future jobs.

Warren County schools, however, are taking this important assignment a step further, Isaacs notes.

“Not only are we trying to align future graduates with future jobs, but we’re trying to create communities and jobs that are desirable for graduates to come back to,” he says. “So, the young people we recognize each year at the Franklin B. Walter Scholarship Award Program are leaders in their school communities in academic preparation, in work ethic, in leadership skills,  and they are exactly the type of leaders we want to live in our communities, work for our employers and provide leadership to make our county an even better place.”

Ten students from school districts throughout Warren County who have exhibited superior academic achievement and – as is tradition – the influential mentors the students have chosen, were honored at the fourth annual Franklin B. Walter Scholarship Award Program and Warren County Banquet held April 5 at the WCESC. The program is hosted by WCESC and the luncheon is sponsored by the Greater Ohio Virtual School. Scholarship recipients, their parents and mentors, as well as area educators and local elected officials attended the event.

Franklin B. Walter, for whom the scholarship program is named, served as Ohio’s state superintendent from 1977 to 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. Isaacs describes Walter as “a superintendent’s superintendent,” and an educator who loved children, students and teachers.

The scholarship program was established by the Ohio Educational Service Center Association in 1989 to promote and recognize outstanding academic achievement, with one high school senior from each county in Ohio chosen to receive a monetary award to assist them with their post-secondary education. While attending the program in Columbus a handful of years ago, Isaacs decided it would be a great event to offer at the county level, too.

Each Warren County school district submits the name of one student to be considered for the scholarships. Recipients are selected based on academic achievement, test scores and positive contributions to their schools and communities. Each chosen student receives a $500 scholarship and a plaque. One of the recipients is also chosen to represent Warren County at the state banquet and receives an additional $500 scholarship. Evan Phillippi, a senior at Springboro High School, was selected to represent Warren County at the state banquet held April 11 in Columbus.

“People typically have this idea that a student who is performing so well in school, earning so many college credits while they’re in high school and achieving such high test scores, must have their nose in their books 24 hours a day,” Isaacs says. “But when you hear what these kids have accomplished – they’re the most well-rounded people I’ve ever been around. They’re so active in service organizations and athletic organizations, both in school and out of school. I was amazed how many of these kids are active in their church communities. I was impressed that school superintendents describe these students as role models for good character for other students. So, the idea of these students as ‘bookworms’ doing nothing but studying simply is not true.

“These kids are service leaders, character leaders – they’re such a positive force in their home schools – they are exactly the kind of people we want to lead our communities after they’ve graduated from college,” Isaacs adds. “We hope that we are able to, with events like this, make our communities so positive that these kids want to come back and live here, work here, play here, and raise their families here.”

As part of the Franklin B. Walter Scholarship application process, each student is required to write a letter of thanks to their chosen mentor. During the banquet, scholarship recipients, flanked by their parents and mentor at the podium, read their letters aloud.

“I think that gratefulness is an important character trait that good leaders exhibit,” Isaacs says. “One of the things this event does so well is provide opportunities for these students to recognize that they didn’t do this on their own. They were supported by family members, by parents, by school leaders, by teachers, by coaches – all of these people together have an important role in developing future leaders. So, we are not only celebrating the fantastic achievements of this group of kids, but also giving credit to the mentors whose work was so vital in forming their positive character and excellent leadership abilities that we hope come back to our county.


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


District Recipient & Overall Winner

Franklin B. Walter All-Scholastic Award 

Evan Phillippi - Springboro High School

After exploring career options, Evan Phillippi found himself increasingly drawn to the medical field, a profession offering him the unique opportunity to combine his passion for problem solving with his interest and academic strength in the sciences. He plans to become a neurologist and focus his efforts on improving treatments and diagnoses for disorders of the nervous system. While in high school, Evan worked nearly 100 hours as a junior volunteer in various departments throughout Atrium Medical Center, and he also worked with Springboro K-12 students to increase their math proficiency and fluency. He was a member of the Track and Field/Indoor Track and the Cross Country teams, varsity captain of the Academic Team, and he worked on numerous community projects as a member of the National Honor Society. Evan served as one of two members of the Class of 2019 on the Springboro Advisory Council, volunteered as a freshman orientation mentor, and served as treasurer and senior class representative. Evan will begin his journey to becoming a neurologist this fall at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where he will major in biochemistry. Evan chose Rory Korzan, Springboro High School physics instructor, as his mentor.


“Mr. Korzan, your presence every day for all this time has made a significant impact on me and many others. I would like to thank you for the time, dedication and energy that has made such a difference in my life…Your unwavering positivity is a driving force that keeps your students eager to learn.”



Macy Burchfield - Waynesville High School


It is through helping others master academics throughout her Waynesville High School career that Macy Burchfield discovered her passion for teaching. Becoming a teacher has always been one of her greatest aspirations, and the Waynesville High School senior believes that building upon her future accomplishments in college will propel her to achieve that professional goal. Macy was a member of the Waynesville High School Sideline Cheerleading and Competition Cheerleading Squad, helped with Pee Wee Football cheerleading, volunteered as an elementary and middle school math tutor, and was a member of the National Honor Society, Student Council and Prom Committee. She plans to attend the University of Tennessee in Knoxville where she will major in mathematics, secondary education. Macy credits her math instructor, Jennifer Montgomery, with inspiring her as she heads off to college.

“There are moments for all students when they need help, and moments when they need to be challenged. The art of teaching is knowing when to do which. Throughout my three years in your classroom, you have definitely helped me when I needed it, but you have also provided me with many challenges that have helped me grow as a student…As I pursue a career as a teacher, I will take with me this balanced approach that you have modeled for me and will strive to incorporate into my own art of teaching.”


Juliana Danko - Kings High School


It was the last day of one of Juliana Danko’s six mission trips to Monterey, Mexico, with the non-profit Back2Back Ministries. She was holding five-year-old Marisol in her arms, when the little girl whimpered, “No quiero que te vayas” – “I don’t want you to leave.” Juliana didn’t want to leave either; she thought about how Marisol grew up in an orphanage with her two siblings, watching caregivers come and go, always saying goodbye to mission teams that were leaving after a week. Juliana was determined to be a regular presence in Marisol’s life. The countless hours Juliana spent as a consistent mentor in Marisol’s life spurred the Kings High School senior to combine her two passions – missions and engineering – and she plans to attend Ohio State University this fall where she will major in industrial and systems engineering. She thanks her math teacher, Jason Shields, for showing her she can face challenges head on and solve problems.

“I appreciate the sacrifices that you make for your students. You help lead Fellowship of Christian Students so that many students at Kings can share their faith. By going above and beyond a typical teacher’s responsibilities, you have made an impact in so many students’ lives, including mine.”



Zoe Hill - Warren County Career Center


“What do you want to be when you grow up?” If you had asked Zoe Hill that question in elementary school, she would have said she wanted to be a teacher or a volcano scientist in Hawaii. In junior high? A writer. In high school – at first – she considered becoming a graphics designer. As the Warren County Career Center graduate prepares to begin her college career, she says, she knows in her heart that she wants and needs to become a writer. She plans to study journalism at the University of Dayton, and after earning a Bachelor of Arts degree, she says, she is considering earning a master’s in English. Her ultimate goal? To become a New York Times bestselling author. She thanks her English instructor, Kelly McGhee, for playing many important roles in her life since the start of her senior year, particularly as an amazing instructor and friend who has been an incredible influence as Zoe embarks upon meeting her professional goals.

“Because of Ms. McGhee, I feel more prepared and excited than ever and I know that I have the tools I need to succeed. When I publish my first novel, expect to see me back in class, handing you a signed copy. Thank you for all that you have taught me, from writing conventions to self-confidence. I am ready to face what’s ahead for me, but I will never forget to look back at the people in my life who got me where I am today.”



Lexi McGregor - Franklin High School


After discovering her love for chemistry her sophomore year at Franklin High School, Lexi McGregor spent countless and often difficult hours in and out of the classroom studying and learning all she could about the subject. With her teacher’s help, she thrived. And that’s when she realized she wants to continue learning more about chemistry. She plans to attend Heidelberg University where she will pursue a chemistry Bachelor of Science degree, go to medical school, and eventually pursue a career as an OB-GYN. Meanwhile, she volunteers at Miami Valley Hospital, and plans to job shadow on the maternity ward and in surgery. Lexi’s extracurricular and community activities included serving as president of the National Honor Society her senior year, participating as a member of the Middletown Community Foundation, the Cincinnati High School Boxing Team, Franklin High School Track and Field team, Spanish Club and student government. She also volunteered at Ronald McDonald House and vacation Bible school. She thanks her math teacher, Kelly Dubusky, for her willingness to always help others.

“You were one of the first teachers to arrive at school and one of the last teachers to leave. As a student, I felt like I was a priority and that you wouldn’t stop until I understood whatever I struggled with…This ambition you have to help others has impacted me to do the same in school and life.”



Emma Miller - Lebanon High School


Emma Miller’s affinity for nature has inspired her to pursue environmental science as she embarks upon her professional career path. As the world changes, she says, environmental shifts pose opportunities for new solutions in order to maximize environmental conversation alongside human development. At the forefront is the preservation of Earth’s natural resources and ecosystems, she notes, and she describes herself as “extremely ambitious” about preserving the natural world. Emma plans to attend college and graduate school, pursuing a double major in Spanish, and earning a master’s in environmental science. Her academic activities include Future Business Leaders of America, LHS Tennis Team, Spanish Club, Academic Quiz Team, YMCA youth tennis coach, National Honor Society and Destination Imagination. She was a National Merit semi-finalist, an AP Scholar with Distinction, and named an LHS Student of the Quarter her junior year. She thanks Tom Hoeffel, AP chemistry instructor, for being her mentor and motivator.

“Last year is when I really started to believe that with my determination, responsibility and eagerness to learn that I could truly accomplish meaningful and significant things if I decided to; your conversation with me after class last spring was that outside confirmation that I still think about. I cannot adequately express what it has meant, still means, and will mean for me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”



Owen Reynolds - Greater Ohio Virtual School


Owen Reynolds looks forward to attending Cincinnati State Technical and Community College this fall, where he will major in electrical engineering technology – biomedical equipment. This program includes a co-op option that will allow Owen to work at a local hospital maintaining biomedical equipment while attending classes. Owen says he has always enjoyed helping his dad and stepdad with projects, fixing things around the house, and he has a knack for programming and computer networks. He also built his own computer. He plans to eventually attend Bowling Green State University and earn a Bachelor of Science in mechatronics engineering technology. His ultimate goal is to work at a large hospital where he will be responsible for managing and maintaining biomedical equipment. Tammy Burchfield, GOVS language arts instructor, is Owen’s chosen mentor.

“Thank you for being my teacher this year…Out of all the teachers I have had, I will remember you the most because of what you have done for me.”



Ryland Scott - Carlisle High School


This Carlisle High School senior aspires to utilize his college education and knowledge of the world around him to give back to society. Ryland plans to attend a four-year university where he will earn a biology degree with a pre-med focus, eventually becoming either a field biologist, a cardiologist or a neurologist. Volunteerism will continue to play an important role in his life, he notes. High school activities included varsity soccer, Buckeye Boys State attendee, junior class president, Quiz Team, Science Olympiad and School Safety Summit spokesperson. Ryland volunteered at a local free store and at fishing lakes, and was involved on a variety of local conservation efforts throughout high school. He was also involved in National Honor Society, received the Spanish Excellence Award his junior year, and he was named class valedictorian. His chosen mentor is Rachel Castro, CHS Spanish instructor.

“Your passion for certain societal issues is evident and has opened my mind to others’ opinions…during our weekly Spanish debates you always allowed unrestricted and unbiased discussion about laws, ethics and the world as a whole…I will always value your willingness to allow a level of education much deeper than vocabulary or grammar rules in your classroom.”



Molly Wilson - Little Miami High School


Discovering a love for calculus in high school led Molly to an interest in engineering. Breaking the gender imbalance that is prevalent across STEM fields is also a challenge that excites her. So, as she pursues a major in mechanical engineering, she strives to be a pioneer and a role model for young girls who desire careers in these male-dominated fields so they can confidently and boldly capture their professional dreams. Her high school activities included National Honor Society (president), Teen Alliance Council activities coordinator; Student Ambassador, Helping Other People Everywhere Club, student government, varsity Lacrosse Team (captain) and varsity Cross Country Team (captain).  Molly, class salutatorian, foresees that no matter where her career takes her, she will always find time to help children reach their highest potential. Her passion for service and showing kindness to others, she says, will always be a part of who she is. Stephanie Corradini, LMHS biology instructor at Little Miami High School, is Molly’s chosen mentor.

“You are the embodiment of the kind of woman I hope to be someday. You are incredibly hard-working, compassionate, generous, humble, selfless, and most importantly, you get just as geeked out about biology as I do…I have never had a teacher that goes as above and beyond as you do…Thank you for inspiring me to be the best woman I can be both in my work and as a community member.”



Alexander Wells - Mason High School


All of Xander’s goals – both short and long-term – can be summed up in two words: help others. He strives to positively impact those around him in as many ways as possible. He plans to pursue a career that allows him to interact with people from a plethora of cultures and backgrounds, further developing into someone who is caring, understanding and passionate, while emphasizing self-care. He is leaning toward studying business/psychology and is currently weighing his options. His activities during his four years at Mason High School included National Honor Society (president), Mason High School Ignite Your Vision Leadership Team, Students Involving and Befriending Students, Down Syndrome Society of Greater Cincinnati Holiday Party Helper, Greater Miami Conference Leadership Summit (attendee),  MHS Lacrosse Team; and Believe in Ohio STEM Program (attendee). He credits two instructors – Carol Lehman, Honors Anatomy, and Barb Shuba, Chemistry – for his positive high school experience.

“They have helped me through difficult times both within the walls of MHS and in my daily life as I go through the trials and tribulations of growing up. I will never be able to thank these two enough for all they have done to help me find what I’m passionate about: helping others and having fun.”