Terra State holds sixth annual women’s leadership forum

Committee members and panelists
Women's Leadership Forum committee members and panelists. Pictured (back r-l): Teresa Sutters, Sarah Poore, Ann Sergent, Terrie Hopkins. (Middle r-l): Melissa Ramirez, Emily Riehle, Amy Drongowski, Michelle White. (Front r-l): Jessica Anguiano, Barb Sears, Haley Crabtree.

Courage, mentorship, leadership and education were just of few of the prevailing themes at the Terra State Community College 2020 Women’s Leadership Forum held Wednesday, March 4. Over 150 women from area high schools, colleges and businesses attended the sixth annual event.

Kay Reiter, Sandusky County Commissioner and Terra State Board of Trustees Chairperson, kicked off the event. Her opening remarks encouraged the women in the room to “get involved young, stay true to yourself and make a difference.”

Ann Sergent, Terra State’s Dean of the Liberal Arts and Business Division, served as the Master of Ceremonies. She said this year is the 100-year anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment, providing women the right to vote. She gave advice to share experiences, speak what’s on your mind, listen, be confident, inspire and encourage others and acknowledge your weaknesses. To finish her remarks, she said, “As you move forward in your journeys, remember to be courageous.” Following Sergent’s opening remarks, attendees had the opportunity to talk and discuss leadership with business leaders seated at their table during lunch.

The highlight of the forum was the panel discussion that featured three women who have demonstrated what leadership is in their chosen fields. The panelists were Barbara Sears, Partner in Strategic Health Care; Jessica Anguiano, Project Controller at SSOE Group; and Haley Crabtree, Associate Professor in Computer Systems at Terra State.

Sears was expected by her family to become a teacher. After obtaining a degree in education, she decided that was not the career path for her and went on to attain a paralegal degree. After working in the field, she, again, felt she needed to do something different. While in a temporary position at a health insurance agency she fell in love and went on to pursue an insurance career.

Anguiano was also expected by her family to become a teacher, but after earning her degree and working for three years as an infant/toddler teacher, she knew she wanted something different. That’s when she came back to school and was advised by one of her mentors to major in Architectural/Construction Management. She graduated, transferred her credits and earned a bachelor’s degree in Construction Management. Thanks to her internships while in college, she was able to begin her career in construction, which led her to where she is now.

Crabtree, on the contrary, was encouraged by her parents to find a nontraditional career. She began her journey as a Tech Prep student in high school and went on to graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems. After working as a programmer, she decided to attain a master’s degree. She eventually began teaching adjunct classes and this is how she found her passion in teaching.

Each panelist took the opportunity to talk about their path to their current positions in the workforce, what roles mentors played in their success, where education fit into their journey and advice they wish they had when they began their careers. Anguiano said, “The hands on experience is how you learn what you like and what you want to do.” Crabtree added, “Being involved, networking with other people and taking advantage of co-ops and internships is a great way to give you an advantage.” Sears said, “Put your right foot in front of your left foot and ask for the opportunity. Use your voice.”

After the panelists gave their advice, Lakota High School Guidance Counselor Nancy Slotterbeck spoke about the new women’s group she started at Lakota called the Women’s Leadership Council. After attending last year’s Women’s Leadership Forum, she felt inspired to create this group for students and mentors to encourage one other and make a difference at their high school. She described some of the projects the group accomplished over the year, including spreading positive messages through announcements and a “stall talk” newsletter and providing courtesy baskets with feminine hygiene products in the women’s restrooms.

The students who attended the forum enjoyed the experience. Mia Kuzma, a junior from Danbury High School, said her primary take away was, “Don’t tell people what you can and can’t do.” Erika Gonzalez, a junior from St. Joseph Central Catholic High School, said the forum “encourages women to better themselves and help other people in their community.”

The seventh annual Women’s Leadership Forum is scheduled for March 3, 2021.