By Dave Byler
I was recently offered the opportunity to share a bit about my experience coming from Geauga County, and what some of the county’s various youth development programs have done for me as I’ve matured into adult life. I have to express some of the tremendous benefit I’ve received from both the Geauga Growth Partnership and Leadership Geauga County, as well as some of the incredibly influential individuals behind them. I was a typical sophomore in 2010, then Dr. Bob Faehnle from the Leadership Geauga County youth program got a hold of me. I would go on to spend one day a month exploring a different aspect of the county with a group of students representing schools across the county. I was able to meet and be mentored by some of the most influential, but more importantly, most passionate and caring people in the local community.
That youth program helped me to realize that I had potential. It helped me and my peers feel like we had something to offer, even at 17 years old. More importantly, it helped me start to find who I wanted to be. It helped me learn to just GO for it. The following year, in the fall of 2011, I stumbled across an add in the local paper detailing a new program in the county which aimed to offer real internship experience to local high school students; The Geauga Growth Partnership. Through the Growth Partnership, I got to interview with established community members and entrepreneurs. Having employers interested in me as an 18 year old was such a gift, and it has helped me be more comfortable with interviews to this very day. I was matched with my first choice, Darrel Langford from Sunrise Springs Water Company in Newbury. Darrel offered to show me every aspect of what it took to run a small business, and he absolutely followed through. I was exposed to everything from product preparation, delivery routes, in-home and in-business service and repairs, office operations, and even the opportunity to develop a few small promos to advertise the company. Working with Sunrise gave me the benefit of knowing some of what I did and didn’t like before school.
Small details became important to me, and Darrel did an excellent job of teaching me the value of providing excellent customer service. I carried this knowledge forward as I attended Ohio University in the fall of 2012. Now I know many of you may believe we only learn how to party at O.U., but I went in with open doors because of my life in Geauga County, and was able to experience so many new things. I earned my BBA this past May (2016) with a double major in Marketing and Management Information Systems, as well as a minor in Sport Administration. I completed an international consulting project in Barcelona, Spain in the summer of 2014, I rowed for the Ohio University Men’s Crew team for two years, had a job as a supervisor for Intramural and Club Sports on campus, and completed an internship as the Director of Analytics for the Southern Ohio Copperheads baseball team.
Both Leadership Geauga and the Geauga Growth Partnership helped to guide me towards those experiences. I honestly never thought I would be coming home again, at least not now. But I was offered a job I absolutely couldn’t pass up at Sheoga Hardwood Flooring and Paneling as a marketing manager and sales representative for the territory east of the Mississippi River. I couldn’t possibly be more excited. I think it’s every salesperson’s dream to be able to sell some of the finest products made by the finest craftsmen. It’s amazing that I’m able to be back in Geauga County and add value to a company like Sheoga. I have to give thanks to Dr. Bob Faehnle, for being the role model of a lifetime. To the late Mr. Jack Menosky, along with Tim and Kara Yoder, as I was able to honor their sons’ memory with the Yoder Brothers Memorial Scholarship, which helped me to attend O.U.
My parents, for giving me direction and creating a belief that there’s truly no limit to what you can do if you put in the work. And to the Geauga Growth Partnership, Darrel Langford and all of the participants for presenting such an amazing opportunity and developing the next generation of achievers. It took coming back home and being once again surrounded by all of the excellent things in Geauga County, but I’m a product of where I grew up, and I’ll always be thankful for that.