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Meet the 2021 5-Star Award Winners

Wanda Williams, Susquehanna Workforce Network

Nominator:  Judith Potter-Brown, Harford County DSSE

Justification:  Wanda is SWN’s Work-Based Training Program Coordinator. In this role she provides high-quality, professional customer service to her internal and external customers, helping them to find gainful, self-sustaining employment. She quickly responds to requests, making sure she knows and understands her customers wants and needs, allowing her to support their path to success. Wanda has assisted customers in professional presentation in job seeking, and recently referred a customer to services to get several years of taxes completed and filed for the customer to get cash to pay bills. She is adept at developing long-term relationships with her customers, and provides help and encouragement even after they have left the program.

Dr. Austin Hill, Harford Community College

Nominator:  Kelly Koermer, Dean, Harford Community College

Justification:  Dr. Hill serves as Director for Strategic Partnerships for HCC. Austin was instrumental in launching HCC’s Leading Edge Training Center. This effort, supported by the Ratcliffe Foundation and the Rural Maryland Council, will be located at the Edgewood Boys and Girls Club with a mission to break down barriers and provide greater education access to historically underserved residents. Austin worked with Derick Dewitt at the B&GC to design and implement a community-based workforce development model to make HCC’s in-demand-workforce development training accessible to residents of Edgewood and surrounding communities. This empowers residents with knowledge, skills, and abilities in careers earning head-of-household wages. It will supply the necessary human capital to support regional manufacturing, construction, and entrepreneurship, and will launch new businesses and accelerate existing businesses in the manufacturing and construction industries. Dr. Hill’s passion to make education accessible, expertise in building strong partnerships, and commitment to this project were key in its successful launch and operation.

Derek Dewitt, Edgewood Boys and Girls Club

Nominator:  Kelly Koermer, Dean, Harford Community College

Justification:  Derek is with the Edgewood Boys and Girls Club. He partnered with Harford Community College to launch HCC’s Leading Edge Training Center. This effort, supported by the Ratcliffe Foundation and the Rural Maryland Council, will be located at the Edgewood Boys and Girls Club with a mission to break down barriers and provide greater education access to historically underserved residents. Derek worked with Dr. Austin Hill at HCC to develop a community-based workforce development model to make HCC’s in-demand-workforce development training accessible to residents of Edgewood and surrounding communities. This empowers residents with knowledge, skills, and abilities in careers earning head-of-household wages. It will supply the necessary human capital to support regional manufacturing, construction, and entrepreneurship, and will launch new businesses and accelerate existing businesses in the manufacturing and construction industries. Derek’s vision of what can be possible, his innovativeness, and understanding of the importance of education and workforce development in the community, as well as his commitment to this project, were key in its successful launch and operation.

Carolyn Fletcher, Director of Adult Education, Cecil College

Nominator:  DSS WISH Staff (Kim Chiominto, Lesley Palfi, et al.)

Justification:  Carolyn, Director of Adult Education at Cecil College, oversees programs crafted to be the first step to gainful employment for many Cecil County residents. She plays a vital role in the educational needs of community members, which in turn provides a larger and more diverse pool of potential employees for local businesses and employers. Carolyn’s knowledge of the population she serves, combined with her understanding of local businesses and their employment needs demonstrate the value she places on all aspects of her position. She chooses staff who share her values, and empowers them to serve not only as educators, but also as confidence builders, life coaches, and reliable resources. Her work on the DSS WISH Program serves many community members with gaps in their education, allowing them to reach goals that keep them moving forward toward self-sufficiency through meaningful employment.

Kelly Koermer, Dean, Harford Community College

Nominator:  Robert Limpert, Harford County Public Schools

Justification:  Dean Koermer has worked collaboratively with SWN and the WIOA partners to extend HCC resources to the Harford County Public Schools’ Magnet and Career and Technical Education programs. She has embraced and supported many projects that target training and educational opportunities, with the goal of creating a seamless service model to address the workforce needs for all of Harford County. Dean Keormer’s active involvement has helped to create training opportunities in information technology, construction, welding, and manufacturing. Her creativity and ingenuity help to develop new ways to train individuals and create access beyond traditional methods to meet the needs of today’s workforce.

Patti McArdell, Susquehanna Workforce Network

Nominator:  Greg Adams, Maryland Department of Labor

Justification:  Patti is the gateway to services for anyone entering the Susquehanna Workforce Center – Elkton. In this role, she adeptly assesses the needs of clients seeking advice. She is gifted at drawing out clients’ underlying needs so that other center staff can truly assist. Patti has a combination of listening skills and compassion that helps clients feel immediately supported, and does this while managing multiple tasks at once. Patti has also cultivated important personal relationships with business clients and community organizations that enable her to link clients to the resources and services they need. Additionally, Patti plays a key role in the daily operations of the American Job Center, improving customer flow and administrative effectiveness. She fluidly engages with and serves all the partner organizations in the center. Patti is the one making a good first impression for anyone seeking services.

Clara Henry, Susquehanna Workforce Network

Nominator:  Matthew Stark, Susquehanna Workforce Network

Justification:  Clara plays a pivotal role for SWN, managing a diverse team at 3 different locations. She is responsible for managing a caseload, training the new hires, managing Swan Creek and the Elkton Office. A well-respected supervisor, she truly listens to others and seeks out their good ideas.  She is always positive and uplifting, and is always there to support her team no matter what they need. Clara’s role in Elkton allowed her team to stay on task and be more efficient with customers. She is great with both customers and employees. Clara is an all-around star of the workforce initiative.

Kimberly Justus, Susquehanna Workforce Network

Nominator:  Joseph Ricci, Susquehanna Workforce Network

Justification:  In Kim’s position as WIOA Operations Manager, she demonstrated excellence in being a part of SWN and its associated partnership. While many saw the pandemic as a reason for curtailing activities and not being able to accomplish milestones, Kim seized every opportunity possible to accomplish and further the mission. Even though Kim was just getting settled in her new position, she was able to coordinate and consolidate efforts in all our centers to be primed to continue operations during all the challenges posed to us during the pandemic. Kim tackled every hurdle in front of us and enabled SWN to shine as a jewel during this past year. She rises to challenges and helps set a standard for other organizations to emulate and achieve. Instead of seeing insurmountable roadblocks, she asks “How do we make this happen?” Her tireless efforts truly paid dividends over the past year and enabled the Susquehanna Workforce Network to be able to reopen its workforce centers to the public.

Brit Ayers, Harford Community Action Agency

Nominator:  Pamela Craig, Harford Community Action Agency

Justification:  Brit is the Director of Community Case Management for Harford Community Action Agency, where she works to improve client well-being by providing and coordinating agency services to individuals with multiple and complex needs. This role requires rapid triage and development of service planning for HCAA clients, assessment, short-term counseling, and referrals to other services. Brit has an excellent understanding of client-lived experience and handles client interactions in a compassionate manner. She is a tireless advocate for her department, her staff and her clients and will work hard to see that everything is well coordinated and that clients get access to as many resources as possible. Brit’s work with the Harford County Detention Center’s re-entry work is one of her most five-star efforts, where she gives former offenders opportunities to support themselves through legitimate and productive work.

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