Student leaders honored


On Wednesday, April 17, Central Ohio Technical College (COTC) and The Ohio State University at Newark honored student leaders and organizations at the annual Scholarship and Student Leadership Dinner. The dinner grants campus supporters the opportunity to interact first-hand with students impacted by their gifts while celebrating Newark campus students’ leadership and community impact.

Portrait of Melanie Gibson in Montgomery Hall at COTC's Coshocton campus.

Melanie Gibson earned the Kelly Saffle Leadership Award, awarded to a COTC student who exemplifies strong and consistent leadership in one or more student organizations. Gibson is a nursing student at COTC’s Coshocton campus where she works as a student assistant in the Gateway. “Being a student leader is one of the characteristics about myself that I take pride in,” Gibson says. “You experience working with a team and learn more about yourself than you ever thought you would. Great things never come from working within your comfort zone.” 

Aaron Sakwa holds a plaque for receiving the RESPECT Award and  stands next to staff member Vorley Taylor who nominated him for the award.

Ohio State Newark student Aaron Sakwa received the RESPECT Award for demonstrating responsibility, equity, self-awareness, purpose, enthusiasm, compassion and teamwork. Sakwa is the president of the African Student Association (ASA), a student organization that has the goal to promote, maintain and raise awareness of African culture. “I am humbled and proud of everything that I have accomplished so far on the Newark campus,” says Sakwa. His nomination came from Vorley Taylor, multicultural affairs program manager, who says Sakwa has “shown great leadership skills through time management and communication,” and is “very disciplined in meeting his needs and the needs of others.”

Chelsea Shipley holds a plaque recognizing her receipt of the William A. Kilpatrick Leadership Award.

Chelsea Shipley was awarded the William A. Kilpatrick Leadership Award, which recognizes a second-year Ohio State Newark student involved in one or more organizations that demonstrates strong and consistent leadership. The social work major is heavily involved on campus working as a student ambassador, peer mentor and Buckeye guide; as a volunteer for Diversity Through Artistry (DTA); and as a member of the 2023 Homecoming Court. Shipley is also the president of Active Minds, a student organization dedicated to discussing the way mental health is talking about, cared for and valued on campus. Shipley was nominated by both Amanda Waser, administrative assistant, and Charles DePriest, lead mental health counselor, for her passion, guidance, leadership and drive. 

Sarah Ghiassi holds a plaque recognizing her as the Up and Coming Leadership Award recipient.

This year’s recipient of the Up and Coming Leadership Award was Sarah Ghiassi. This award is given to a first- or second-year COTC or Ohio State Newark student who, since their arrival to campus, has demonstrated active involvement in campus programs and student organizations. Ghiassi is a social work student at Ohio State Newark and is the founder and president of the Crochet Club. She was nominated by John Davenport, the Dean of students and director of student life. “It is rare to witness a student establish such a strong presence in their first year, the fact that Sarah has done so speaks to her hard work, dedication, and willingness to push outside of her comfort zone to try new things,” says Davenport.

Mitchell Mazzone holds a plaque in recognition of receiving the Community Service Leader of the Year Award.

The Community Service Leader of the Year Award was given to Mitchell Mazzone. This award recognizes a COTC or Ohio State Newark student for outstanding service to the campus and/or the Newark community. Mazzone is the president of Circle K, a group that fosters personal development into responsible citizens and leaders with a lifetime commitment to service. He was nominated by Lisa Alexander, PhD, laboratory research operations analyst, for his leadership qualities.

Members of the Hope Cub hold a plaque recognizing their organization as the Outstanding Student Organization.

The Outstanding Student Organization Award, which recognizes a campus organization whose members have proven their dedication to improving the Newark campus community, was awarded to members of the Help Our Planet Earth (HOPE) Club, including president Acacia Rhodes and advisor Coryn Gonzales. The HOPE Club, open to both Ohio State Newark and COTC students, aims to integrate the two communities while offering leadership and service opportunities. “We are very grateful to be recognized for this award,” says Rhodes. “We hope that with this recognition, we can continue to spread environmental awareness around campus, in the community and in our individual lives.”

The recipient of this year’s Above and Beyond Faculty/Staff Award was Evan Daverio, an academic advisor for Ohio State Newark. This award recognizes a faculty or staff member of COTC or Ohio State Newark for outstanding service to the campus community. He was nominated by student Omer Faruk Atahan. Atahan said Daverio “made the ‘impossible’ possible” and went above and beyond to help him formulate a graduation plan

Samatar Ali shakes hands with COTC President John Berry while holding his certificate for the J. Gilbert Reese Next Generation Community Leadership Award .

The J. Gilbert Reese Next Generation Community Leadership Award is presented annually to one COTC student and one Ohio State Newark student in November to honor and recognize Reese’s legacy of visionary leadership and community support, and to inspire the next generation of community support. Recipients were acknowledged at the dinner with other student leaders. The COTC recipient was Samatar Ali, and the Ohio State Newark recipient was Omer Faruk Atahan.

Lastly, the Outstanding Student Organization Program Award was awarded to members of the ASA, including president Aaron Sakwa and advisor Vorley Taylor. This award recognizes an outstanding student organization program, activity or event. The basis for the award is the overall impact of the program. “This award means a lot to me, our ASA advisor Vorley Taylor, my amazing and wonderful executive board members, and all the members of ASA,” enthuses Sakwa. “We wanted to create as much diversity as possible and teach not only Ohio State Newark students and staff about African culture and diaspora, but the city of Newark as well. We are truly appreciative and honored to win this award.”

COTC is a fully accredited, public college dedicated to providing high-quality, accessible programs of technical education in response to current and emerging employment needs. COTC has four campus locations: Newark, Coshocton, Knox and Pataskala.