MOUNT VERNON — Teachers, students, family and friends gathered Thursday for the Knox County Career Center’s Senior Awards night. It was an evening of hope and celebration, of reflecting on the past and looking confidently towards the future.
“Blessings on this new season that holds so much potential,” said superintendent Kathy Greenich in her address to the class of 2019. “Set your expectations high for yourself in your performance each day — in your relationships, in your faith and all of your dreams. Write them down, hold yourself responsible and you won’t regret it.”
Students came dressed in graduation gowns from their respective home high schools to receive awards recognizing employability skills, attendance and citizenship.
Mya Gonsalves, a culinary student from the East Knox school district, was granted the Student of the Year award. She was one of 18 candidates nominated by KCCC faculty.
“It’s crazy. I’m speechless,” said Gonsalves, who will continue her culinary education in the fall at Columbus State Community College.
“I’ve always wanted to be a chef. Since I was a little kid, I’ve always loved being in the kitchen,” she said. “Since I got (to KCCC), I’ve loved it even more.”
Gonsalves said a highlight of her time at the career center was competing at the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America National Culinary Competition, where she and her team placed third in the nation.
In addition to graduating as KCCC’s Student of the Year, Gonsalves also earned math, science, social studies and English honors cords from East Knox High School. During her high school years, she participated in 4-H, was a member of the National Honor Society and National Technical Honor Society, and played varsity volleyball and softball. She earned honors diplomas from both East Knox and KCCC.
Other student of the year candidates were Dalton Phillis, Heidi Sieving, Jonathon Sparks, Ashley Everhart, Anthony Gilmore, Matthew Arnold, Mackenzie Davis, Zynnia Peterson, Kaylie Umfleet, Maddie Rine, Savannah Carmen, Ronnie Payne, Collin Sager, Trenton Davis Lee, Jaden Poole, Devin Campbell and Taylor Henson.
Nikki Sherbahn returned to Knox County to receive the Sam Hankinson Distinguished Alumnus Award. Sherbahn is a 2011 graduate of Danville High School and the Knox County Career Center. Sherbahn built on her experience in the business finance academy (now CollegeU-Business), going on to earn a bachelor’s in management at Otterbein University. She now travels throughout Europe, Central America and the continental United States for her role in the human resources department of DHL.
Sherbahn told the audience that her time at KCCC was a turning point for her.
“I walked into the Knox County Career Center 10 years ago. … I was angry, I was frustrated, confused and alone,” said Sherbahn. “Little did I know that the next two years of my life would teach me so much more about myself. … Here I learned how to work hard. I learned how to apply my energy for good causes and I learned how to ask the right questions.”
Sherbahn, who now resides in Columbus, called being honored as a distinguished alumna “a super gratifying, very humbling experience.” Her advice for this year’s batch of graduates can be summed up in one word: Persevere.
“Get through the tough times in school, get through the tough times of job searching, get through the tough times of having a hard boss,” she said. “Keep going. There’s light at the end of the tunnel.”