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The Van Wert County Courthouse

Friday, Aug. 18, 2017

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

There’s an old saying that people who want to know their true worth should hear it from the mouths of others.

2017 R.K. Thompson Self-Reliance Award finalists include (bottom row, from the left) Ethan Culp, Marcus Tarlton, Jacob Durden, Joel Germann, and Brayden Farmer; (top row) Bailey Stegaman, Cora Millay, Brooke Ripley, Madison Buecker, and Maggie Cripe. photos by Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

2017 R.K. Thompson Self-Reliance Award finalists include (bottom row, from the left) Ethan Culp, Marcus Tarlton, Jacob Durden, Joel Germann, and Brayden Farmer; (top row) Bailey Stegaman, Cora Millay, Brooke Ripley, Madison Buecker, and Maggie Cripe. photos by Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent

The 10 boy and girl finalists for the R.K. Thompson Self-Reliance Award had the opportunity Wednesday to learn what teachers, employers, and others thought of them, and it was inspiring to hear.

In the end, Vantage Career Center welding program classmates Marcus Tarlton and Bailey Stegaman were selected as first-place winners of the award. However, all 10 finalists were winners in the area of self-reliance: doing the best with what one has been given.

This year was the 47th edition of the annual awards program, first started by Roger K. Thompson Jr. in recognition of his father, R.K. Thompson Sr., who spent much of his time helping young people. The program is administered by the Van Wert Service Club and culminates in Wednesday’s event.

The banquet is an invitation-only event, with those attending, other than finalists and their families, community business and organizational leaders.

Dave Thompson, son of Roger Thompson Jr., announced the first-place winners, while Roger Thompson’s wife, Eunice, presented each an additional check for $500. Each finalist initially receives a plaque and a $500 check.

R.K. Thompson speaker Sarah Evans Tackett provides tips for a successful life.

R.K. Thompson speaker Sarah Evans Tackett provides tips for a successful life.

Tarlton, the son of Erica Comment, said of the trait of self-reliance: “To me, being self-reliant means taking care of yourself no matter what, and never giving up because it’s too hard or you’re alone.”

Tarlton, who currently works for Woodland Cemetery and also does jobs for a local couple, said he plans to move to Michigan to seek work as a welder after graduation.

Tarlton noted that he had basically “tried to survive, not thrive” most of his life, but that changed when he began attending Vantage. “Vantage was my golden ticket to a good life, so I did my best… .”

One of his references also talked about his ability to be responsible and to persevere.

“He does not give up on his goals and makes sure that he achieves every goal he has,” the person said. “I see him as one of the most responsible people I have met.”

Like Tarlton, Stegaman, the daughter of Rich Strunkenburg and Stacie Stegaman, has had to struggle to survive, working jobs after school at Fricker’s and The Tavern in Convoy to help her family get by.

“I make choices every day on what will help as much as possible,” Stegaman said of how she helps her family.

Stegaman, a Student Ambassador who plans to attend college in Jacksonville, Florida, to earn both pipe and underwater welding certifications after graduation from Vantage, said her welding skills will help her financially down the road.

“The skills I’ve learned mean I won’t have to keep struggling my entire life,” she wrote in her application. “I want my future family to have an easier life than what I had.”

“She is one of the rare types of kids that is determined to succeed, and when she puts her mind to do something, she gives it her all,” said a reference.

The other boy finalists this year included Brayden Farmer, son of Scott and Samantha Farmer; Joel Germann, son of Doug and Marcia Germann; Jacob Durden, who didn’t list family; and Ethan Culp, son of Randy and Dawn Culp.

Girl finalists also included Madison Buecker, daughter of Mark Buecker and Kristy Grindell; Maggie Cripe, daughter of Doug and Sarah Cripe; Cora Millay, daughter of Jeff and Cynthia Millay; and Brooke Ripley, daughter of Van and Kelly Ripley.

Guest speaker Sarah Evans Tackett, a former Miss Ohio and Miss America talent winner who has spent the past 30 years in college admissions, marketing, and healthcare management, gave the finalists five tips for a successful life.

  • Live by the Golden Rule: treat others how you want to be treated.
  • Be true to yourself.
  • Never stop dreaming big dreams.
  • Do the right thing.
  • Care for yourself, in order to care for others.

Tackett, who also sings in a Christian contemporary group with her husband, Jeff, noted that a person’s greatest testimony is the life they live, while also leaving the finalists with advice she was given by her father: “No matter what happens, the sun’s going to come up.”

POSTED: 04/20/17 at 8:04 am. FILED UNDER: News