It is no secret that some pretty remarkable people call this region of Ohio home. Get to know some local ladies who have gone above and beyond in all that they do.
“I graduated in a class of 51 students and was the small town girl with the big city dreams,” says Rebecca Schaming, a Toronto, Ohio native and current student at the University of Akron. She originally attended the school due to her interest in speech pathology, but has since become a communications major with specialty in public relations.
Her journey as a PR student took her all the way to our nation’s capital in late 2016, an adventure which has only further inspired her big city dreams.
She served as the first communication intern for Family Promise of Summit County in summer of 2016, and her passion earned her an internship extension through the fall semester. The mission of the agency is to help homeless families with children stay together and achieve sustainable independence.
Dr. David Ritchey, The University of Akron’s Director of the School of Communication were impressed by Schaming’s passion for her work and nominated her for the PR People Intern on the Year Award. She was recognized and honored at the national luncheon, and as she told me about the experience her excitement was contagious.
“I went into the National Press building alone, took a deep breathe and knew my life was about to change. As I found a seat alone, I began to notice people starting to fill the seats beside me. I was just acting like myself and making jokes with the woman named Rebecca beside me, I never knew that she was the Vice President of a strategy company in Washington D.C. until she gave me her business card at the end of the luncheon. One thing I have learned is to be yourself, that will make the lasting impression.”
Schaming aspires to open her own nonprofit one day to assist children in foster care. She explains that her dreams have always included helping others, and she looks forward to a future where she can continue to make a difference.
“I once had a teacher tell me I would never amount to anything. I would like to tell all the young children who were told that they would never succeed to never stop believing in themselves. You are smart, you are amazing, and never let others make you believe you will never amount to anything. Prove them wrong, let it be your motivation to succeed.”
“My name is Julie Cajigas, I was born in Euclid, Ohio, and I’ve lived on the East, West and South sides of town. I graduated from Marion L. Steele High School in Amherst, Ohio and earned both my Bachelors and Masters degrees at Cleveland State University. I’m an Assistant Professor of Practice in The School of Communication at The University of Akron.”
For six years, Cajigas has been making a difference to students with her passionate guidance in communication studies. Her education began with a violin scholarship that initially led her to pursue a degree in music education. However, her intro to communication class inspired her, and she ended up completing a degree in both music education and communication.
As fate would have it, Cajigas pursued a career in public relations that ultimately led her back into education.
“After working in corporate and non-profit public relations, I started my own freelance business. For five years I wrote regular monthly sections and articles for several trade publications. I decided to attend graduate school at Cleveland State University in order to add quantitative market research to my service offering. There, I had the opportunity to teach, and it brought back many fond memories of my earlier work in music education.”
Once completing her Masters, serendipity helped her land a full-time career at the University of Akron, and she was able to combine her passions of education and communication once again. Her passion for music has her singing with The Cleveland Orchestra in The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus. She is “a Soprano who switches between the Soprano and Alto sections pretty regularly,” and her involvement with the Chorus has led her to touring remarkable places, including London and Switzerland. One of her proudest accomplishments as a musician was when she performed in the Star Wars Live Tour.
“The real accomplishments that I would call my proudest are the moments when former students reach out to me to tell me that I had an impact on their career or their life. Whether it was helping them through the process of finding their job, or something specific they learned in one of my classes that helped them in their career, when I receive a note or call from a student that lets me know I made a difference in their life – those are my proudest accomplishments.
“My proudest accomplishments as a mom are breastfeeding even when it was very difficult, making my own baby food, and keeping my children alive and healthy. My children are Hazel, who just turned 3 in December and Jameson (Jamie) who is 9 months old as of January.”
Life is so good!
That’s the bottom line, says Lena Knight, a lifelong Brunswick resident. When she moved to the community as a 5 year old, she could not imagine how it would grow and change in the coming years. Midpoint Campus Center was not yet constructed at its current scenic overlook, so she could not imagine how much time she would devote to the college.
“I have been with Lorain County Community College for 21 years—first as a part-time Academic Advisor and now as Coordinator at Midpoint.”
The coordinator position requires Knight to do a different thing every day, which makes it the perfect career for her. She is an adventurous individual and enjoys exploring new activities and situations.
“I kinda live for my students,” she admits. The confession is reflected in her nature, as she is passionate, thoughtful, and patient, making her the perfect companion for college students in need of assistance. “My favorite thing about my job is seeing success—it may be a student getting registered for classes when they did not know where to start, or finding success in a class or a business growing. I love the feeling when a person finds it, whatever it may be.”
Knight recalls one occasion where a single mother stopped into Midpoint to ask questions, convinced that she could never finish a degree. She offered lists of reasons why she “could not” do it, and Knight and her colleagues quickly countered her reasons with reasons why she could. She eventually finished the degree and found a job in her field.
“I think what I most want to do is make a positive impact on people, to help others achieve. We have the potential to accomplish so much. It is so fulfilling to see others blossom.”