Success Stories

Success Stories

Alumni Spotlight

Tom Kneeland, Class of 1970

Tom Kneeland, Class of 1970

When Tom Kneeland graduated high school in 1970, the Eastland Career Center alumnus planned on a career in auto mechanics. He never dreamed he would be sitting in the driver’s seat of one of Ohio’s “Best Hometowns” and “Best Places to Live,” as mayor of the City of Gahanna. More +
Nicole Potts, Class of 2015

Nicole Potts, Class of 2015

Growing up with a Belgian mother, Nicole Potts and her family often travelled abroad, where she was exposed to the beauty of the majestic castles and cathedrals of Europe. It became her inspiration to become an architect. More +
Jordan Burns, Class of 2015

Jordan Burns, Class of 2015

Jordan Burns remembers what first sparked his interest in architecture and construction. He was barely old enough to spell when his curious young mind mustered the words to ask his mom. More +
T.J. Baggett, Class of 1996

T.J. Baggett, Class of 1996

It’s been 20 years since TJ Baggett left the Carpentry program at Fairfield Career Center, but the fond memories of his experience remain close to his heart. More +

Success Stories: In Their Own Words

Tony LaSchiavo, Horticulture, 1970

I was influenced by instructor/mentor Gene Hauser to continue my education and to become a teacher in Horticulture. I taught in the Grove City School District, along with being a partner in a landscaping business. My career change came about as a result of Grove City phasing out their horticulture program.

Fred L. Rice, Chemistry Lab Assisting, 1972
Project Manager, US Filter Operating Services

I have been involved in the water and wastewater treatment field for 23 years. I started as a laboratory technician in a treatment plant in Oxford, Ohio. This job was a direct result of the experience I gained working as a lab tech after graduating from Eastland in 1972. I attribute my great career start directly to the skills developed during my two years at Eastland. My principle instructors, Ron Moore and Pat McGee, always pushed us to work hard and become team players. Both of them made a much deeper impression on me than I realized at the time. Their insistence on, and ability to demonstrate, a strong work ethic has served me well during my entire career. Ron Moore was instrumental in helping me obtain employment at the Battelle Memorial Institute early in my career. His interest in my success and in me as a person was pivotal in giving me the confidence I needed to get off to a great start. Mr. Moore always encouraged me to continue my education beyond Eastland and eventually I graduated in 1996 from the University of Phoenix with a BA in Management (and a 3.9 GPA). I believe that my decision to attend Eastland was one of the best I have ever made. I was able to find good jobs and establish myself much earlier than many of my peers due to the real world job skills I learned at Eastland. I am proud to have been a student and graduate of the program there and would recommend it to any young person who wants to have marketable abilities when they graduate from high school. I have been able to work in Ohio, Arizona, Hawaii, and now Oklahoma, and my life has had more diversity and adventure than I ever dreamed of as a boy. The foundation of these experiences was the start I got at Eastland. Thanks Eastland, I'll never forget my time there.

John Hartsell, Electronics, 1974
Assistant Principal, Christian Collegiate Academy

I was in the Electronics I and II classes. I entered the United States Navy in June 1974 and retired after 28 years as a Lieutenant Commander. I was in the electronics field my first twelve years working on the Poseidon Missile Program with our Submarine Service. I finished my career in the Navy as a Health Care Administrator. I have a BS in Business from the University of the State of New York, a MS in Health Services Management from Florida Institute of Technology and a MS in Church Ministry/Bible from Baptist Bible College. I am currently residing in Gulfport, Mississippi, where I am an Assistant Principal at Christian Collegiate Academy.

Juli Leitnick Roberts, High Skill Steno, 1978
Custom Home Building, Adjunct instructor

I graduated from Eastland in 1978 from the High Skill Steno program, something that would seem quite foreign to today’s students, I’m sure! I was browsing through the website as it was linked to my home school (Pickerington) reunion site.

I am an adjunct instructor at Columbus State and work in building high performance homes for a custom home builder in Powell. Prior to that, I taught high school Language Arts, but without my education at Eastland and the work ethic instilled in me by my instructor, Mrs. Swarthout, I would not be where I am today. My English teacher, Mrs. Buckalew, was an incredible inspiration and allowed us the freedom to experiment with writing and communication in ways I’d never before experienced.

Travis Kawasaki, Restaurant Services, 1981
Executive Chef, Strada World Cuisine

As a 1981 graduate of Eastland Career Center's Restaurant Services program, I have earned nearly 20 years of success in the restaurant profession. I have led a variety of restaurants not only to profitability, but also repeated "TOP 10 DINING" notoriety and 4 ½ star ratings. I am currently Executive Chef at STRADA World Cuisine in downtown Columbus and am working toward ownership. I was fortunate to know exactly what I wanted to do since the ninth grade, and had the opportunity available to provide me with the direction I needed. I enjoy mentoring apprentices from various schools, programs, and vocations. I consider myself fortunate to have received good guidance, teaching, and opportunity, so I do my best to give something in return. I participate in Career Days in different local school districts, teaching young children and young adults diverse aspects of the restaurant business. Cooking demonstrations for local civic associations have also provided me with an opportunity to work in various communities. In addition, I frequently donate my time and expenses for demonstrations and other various fundraising events for many different charities and non-profit organizations. As I look back, I was often bored and distracted in the regular classroom, and therefore, did not apply myself to the regular curriculum. The hands-on training and experience offered through vocational education seemed like the logical way for me to accelerate into the workforce. I wonder who I would be today if I had not been given the opportunity for vocational schooling. I often meet people who did not excel in school and were not provided with vocational education--these same people, after graduation, found themselves struggling for direction, and many still struggle today to make ends meet. I am very grateful for my high school vocational experience--it gave me the jumpstart I needed to build a successful career. I am equally thankful to the teachers and administrators who had the vision and foresight to carry vocational education from a vision to a reality.
Robert Durkin, Automotive Technology, 1982
Regional Manager, AutoZone

While attending Eastland, I had the honor of serving as VICA Class President and the privilege of studying Automotive Technology under two of the best: Mr. Keck and Mr. Picklesimer. They not only taught me automotive but taught me to insist upon high standards from myself and others. Between Eastland's Automotive Technology class and VICA, I was able to develop a great understanding of the automotive industry and realize my leadership potential. The part of my Eastland experience that I reflect upon most often is the wonderful classmates that I had. I could not have asked for a better group of people to share my high school years with. I often think of them all. After graduating from Eastland, I jumped right into the auto parts business full time while also taking college courses in Business Management. After a year of doing both, I decided to follow my career and take advantage of an entry level "hourly" management position that I had worked hard to earn. To make a long story short and to try and capsulize an ongoing journey, I am currently a Regional Manager for a Fortune 500 company AutoZone. I am responsible for the operation of ninety-one retail stores and sixty-one commercial programs that produce over $135 million dollars in sales annually. While there is no substitute for hard work and determination, every young person needs a place that will appeal to his/her individual interests and ideals. Eastland was that place for me.

Stephen Chapman, Data Processing, 1985
Senior Distributed Computing Engineer, JP Morgan Chase

I was in the first dual Data Processing class at that time. Eastland was instrumental in getting my first Information Technology job, and to this day it remains on my résumé. I am currently employed by the second largest financial institution in the United States, JP Morgan Chase, as a Senior Distributed Computing Engineer. I am in the position to hire and fire others, and I would not hesitate to hire anyone from the Eastland-Fairfield family. My experience at Eastland was the best time of my life, and I received what I considered at the time a top notch education. Without Eastland I would not be where I am today.

Jeffrey Fisher, Law Enforcement, 1986
Community Corrections Director, Morrow County Court of Common Pleas

I graduated from ECC and Whitehall-Yearling HS in 1986. My greatest professional achievement occurred in September 2006 when I was offered and accepted a substitute instructor position with ECC specializing in law enforcement, allowing me the opportunity to work along side Mr. Gardner. I have held the Director's position with three international hospitality leaders in risk management divisions, and have written several procedural manuals still being used by former employers some 15 years later. As far as I know, I was the first graduate from ECC Law Enforcement to hold the rank of Chief of Police (in 1998). Currently I am the Community Corrections Director for the Court of Common Pleas of Morrow County; a position that "old school" professionals would call Chief Probation Officer. I also manage the daily operations of the county's specialized docket for the General Division Judge, supervising the treatment aspects and probation terms of convicted adult felons and adjudicated delinquent juveniles that are placed on community control sanctions (probation). I still reside in South Franklin County and commute to Morrow County about 51 miles away, so it's obvious I'm not in it for the money. My personal achievements are my two sons (now 9 and 13) and seeing them enjoying their childhood. I still use the attitude and some of the jokes that Mr. Gardner shared with us back then; of course I still get the same strange looks we gave him when he told the jokes. Thank you Eastland and to you "Mr. G" wherever you may be.

Del Gaddie, Electronics, 1989
Systems Access Analyst, Alliance Data Systems

No one can accuse me of being the best and brightest of the class of 1989; but (and I hate to say this) when you are in the real world, you learn that your grades don't necessarily rate your aptitude. Even though I wasn't the type that applied myself as much as I should (I wasn't a complete slacker), I still learned more from my two-year stay at Eastland. At the time, I “knew” I wanted to be an electrical engineer; as I went through the program, I realized that it really wasn't what I wanted to do. But I learned something more important than how to fix a television set; I took with me the skills of effective problem solving. Now I am the leading web technology guru at my place of work. I owe this all to the skills I learned from the Electronics program at Eastland. My grades weren't stellar in class, but the skills I picked up were a perfect fit for any technical career. Sure, the classes and the lessons are important; but not as important as the techniques that they are really teaching.

SSG Christopher Phelps, Law Enforcement, 1989
Platoon Sergeant, US Army Military Intelligence

I finished my Law Enforcement course in 1989 and joined the Army one month later. I learned a great deal from my instructors, most especially from Dan Gardner, whom I admire very much. I have done quite well for myself and my family. We have traveled all over the world, I am a combat vet from Desert Storm, and we have lived in Georgia, New York, Korea, Germany, Hawaii and Texas. My wife, Tonnia, is also an Eastland Law Enforcement graduate. We often remember the good times we had there. It's a good program and I would like to see more kids take it.

Rob Morgan, Data Processing, 1990
Sr. Software Engineer (Contractor), PG&E

My final year at Eastland Career Center (1989-1990) was one of clarity. As Senior Class President, BPA President, and President of the Parliamentary Procedure Team, I quickly realized that anything and everything was possible. By applying myself, being disciplined, and staying focused, the goals I set in life would be limited by time, not by me.

Eastland was the perfect environment to help launch my career and guide me down the path to achieve those goals. It gave me the confidence needed to step out into the world of Technology, spawned aspirations of Leadership, even gave me the necessary skills to succeed as an Entrepreneur. My success in business was built upon the foundation that was established at Eastland.

My Career Advisors (also known as Teachers) were essential in my professional growth as well. Without Mrs. Calvin, Mrs. Jones, and even the tough Mrs. Wadsworth, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today. They instilled in me the importance of teamwork, dedication, and integrity. They are my mentors, my heroes, and the reason why I submitted my “Success Story”. I owe them a great deal.

If there was any advice that I could pass on to the next generation of CEO’s, CIO’s, and CFO’s, let it be this: Business is tough. Start with a competitive edge. Eastland was my edge and business has been great ever since.

May you all be successful in Life and Business.


Jeremy Crawford, Law Enforcement, 1991
Military Police Traffic Investigation Chief, United States Marine Corps

I am a 1991 graduate of EFCTS and Hamilton Township HS. Since graduating I have served the last 14 years in the Marine Corps with two major job fields—helicopter mechanic and military police. I left my home school to complete the law enforcement program because I was extremely impressed by the focus towards career preparation, high tech training, and the chance to learn about a very rewarding career field. Mr. Gardner and Mr. Kessler motivated me and created such a sense of respect in me that I chose to model some of my career after what I saw in them. A law enforcement career isn't always easy, politically correct, encouraging, or high paying, but I have done it for 10 years because I value those rare moments when I have made the difference in someone's life. For those who are considering the program at EFCTS, you will not regret the direction this education takes you or the opportunities the training provides. For me, that direction is towards the completion of my B.S. in Criminal Justice, a Master's in Intelligence, and the closing of twenty hard earned years serving this country in the Marine Corps. From there I plan to make my next home teaching in the same environment I found rewarding. To future students—Good Luck. To my fellow Marines-Semper Fidelis!

Patrick A Clark, Law Enforcement, 1992
Dispatcher, Charleston County

I graduated from Eastland in 1992, from there I went into the United States Navy. I became a full time law enforcement officer as of December 15, 1995. Until I graduated from the Military police school, I was a reserve officer for three different bases in three different states; Alaska, California, Washington. I am now out of the service and attending college in South Carolina. I have applied for a dispatch position in the Charleston County area until I complete my work in an Associate of Arts degree. Once I have finished, I am transferring to the College of Charleston to complete a B.S., with a Major in Sociology and a Minor in Criminal Justice. I have been qualified on everything in dispatching, armorer, standardized field sobriety tests, independent patrolman, and so on. The only reason I was able to get started in military law enforcement was that a supervisor was from Ohio and recognized Eastland Career Center on my qualifications during an interview. From then on, I was able to get going ahead of others.

Joe Sutphin, Commercial Art, 1995
Design/Engineering , Accel Inc.

I was a student at Eastland Career Center from 1993 to 1995, studying Commercial Art under Miss Varn and then Michelle Darling. I was never an ‘A’ student before I arrived at Eastland, but I graduated with a 3.85 GPA. Because of my studies at Eastland, I received a $26,000 scholarship to Columbus College of Art & Design and went on to attend CCAD and am now a Designer for Accel Inc., where I do design work for clients like Bath and Body Works, Limited, Hickory Farms, and Avon. In 2000, I was awarded the Accel "Best Team Player" award, and in 2004 I was awarded the Accel inc. “President's Award”. I have recently finished writing a fictional novel and am beginning illustrations for it. I will pursue publishers upon completion. I have had my artwork used in CD covers, websites, book covers, t-shirts, and more. I have a heart for mission work as well and took a trip to El Salvador in 2001, where I worked with construction teams to rebuild churches that had fallen in the great earthquakes that year. My wife and I plan on returning to El Salvador again to do further mission work.

Tony (Anthony) Dickson, Computer Support Technology, 2001
Network Technician 3, State of Ohio- ODJFS

I attended Fairfield Career Center for two years. Most of that time I was involved in a school-to-work program. I completed the Computer Support Technology program with honors. I took night classes at DeVry while attending the career center. I graduated from high school in 2001 and I am still attending DeVry. I work full time and attend school, with a cumulative GPA of 3.85. Fairfield Career Center helped me obtain the skills I needed to get my career off the ground.

Michael Barrett, Electronics, 2003
Shipping, Limited Headquarters

Upon entering high school, I was a struggling student. I was one who got into the bad habits of basically not truly caring about school. I was one who just brushed by, but always managed to pass onto the next grade. During my sophomore year, I realized that I was in danger of not completing high school and I had better do something quick. I heard about Eastland Career Center from a good friend of mine that year. He told me what it was about and the things involved. I talked to my counselor about attending the school to see for myself. After I visited the school, I quickly became interested. I realized this is what I needed to do. At the end of 10th grade, I only had 5.5 credits; truly I needed to get in gear. When I attended Eastland, I found real motivation through both myself and a newfound love I met later that year. I was more responsible, I enjoyed what I was doing, and I learned new things I wanted to learn. That first year, I earned a whopping 9 credits and it made my counselor's jaw drop. Both she and I were truly impressed and I was proud of my accomplishment. I recently graduated Eastland June of 2003, and am now attending Bradford Technical College. I am currently taking classes towards an associate's degree in computer applications and programming. I have a new job that pays more, and I am far more organized; my résumé looks better then ever. My life changed in many ways in the past two years, and while some things could be different, I couldn't be happier with the choice I made to attend the Career Center.

Curtis D. Ellcessor, Electronics, 2001
United States Air Force

I went to work for an electrical company for a couple months, then decided that it wasn't for me. I wanted to pursue a better job and decided to join the Air Force. Since I had an electrical background, the service wanted me to stay in that area for them. I work on many types of equipment in the military. I work on broadcast studios, radio stations, and also do alarm maintenance. With the schooling from Eastland and the Air Force, I have broken records in our timed training maintenance for isolating problems in broadcast studios. I am currently working on becoming an officer. After I reach that, I will become a pilot for the Air Force. I have done many things and traveled to many places in just a few years of being in the Air Force. I believe I owe it to Eastland for the schooling and the experience that they taught me.

Kristen M. Turner, Computer Support Technology, 2001
DC Technical Analyst, Value City

I started high school at Pickerington High School in 1998. I attended for 2 years and had a very hard time applying myself. When I heard about the Career Centers, I thought I would check it out. I had my doubts, but it turned out to be one of the best choices I ever made. I graduated in 2001 and about 3 months after that I was hired on at Ryder Integrated Logistics, Inc. in Groveport, Ohio. After working there for 2 years, I started a new position at Value City Distribution Center in Columbus, Ohio. I am currently taking online courses as well. Also, if it wasn't for Fairfield Career Center, I would have never met my fiancé Jason Nusser! We are getting married October of 2004. Not only was that great, but so were the people and the friends that I made.

Edwin Jones, Banking & Finance, 2004
Retail Inventory Accountant, Bath & Body Works

My name is Edwin Jones. I am a 2004 graduate of Banking and Finance (now known as Financial Services) at Eastland Career Center. My time at the career center was a great experience and provided alot of preparation for college. I went to and graduated from The Max M. Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University, specializing in Finance. The course work that was done at Eastland helped to give me an advantage amongst my peers in numerous classes such as Accounting (3 separate classes) and Business Management (Excel Use). Now that I have graduated from college I am have a full time job as a Retail Inventory Accountant with Bath and Body Works. I still use some of the Accounting teaching and Excel knowledge that I gained from high school in my everyday job as part of a team that works to manage over 10 million units of inventory. I am truly thankful of the opportunities that Eastland provided and would highly encourage anyone looking for a way to make an outstanding resume or just looking for a different high school experience to visit and apply.
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