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Oh WOW! hosts annual gala

YOUNGSTOWN — Mahoning County Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti vividly recalled when talk of opening a massive education center aimed at young people in the heart of the city was merely an idea that had the potential to reshape the look of the city’s downtown corridor.

“The importance of education, particularly in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) cannot be overstated. The demand for STEM professionals has never been greater. These specialties are what’s helping many in Mahoning County … obtain good paying, fulfilling jobs,” she said.

A major player in moving the county forward on that front has been OH WOW! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology, which Rimedio-Righetti praised for not just supporting children, but also veterans, older people and those with special needs.

The commissioner made her remarks during the second annual Inscite gala Friday evening at the DeYor Performing Arts Center on West Federal Street, downtown. In addition, she was handed an award for her contributions to the facility over the years, as well as to the community.

Also awarded was First National Bank for helping sponsor some of OH WOW’s outreach programs, Marvin L. Logan Jr., executive director, said.

Several hundred community leaders, elected officials, OH WOW! employees and others attended the gathering to celebrate the center’s pivotal role in educating children and adults since it opened May 15, 2011, on West Federal Street. The celebratory occasion also was to remember OH WOW’s past and provide a glimpse into what the public can expect from it this year, Logan noted.

The festivities included showing renderings of an innovation wing on the center’s second floor that’s set to open this spring. In it will be a mixed-reality classroom, a new microelectronics and robotics lab, a 3-D printing and manufacturing micro-learning lab, Logan said, adding that a sustainable park will be one part of the two-tiered roof.

Also discussed were an app-development challenge area for high school students, as well as STEM, space and annual summer manufacturing camps, he continued.

Since its debut nearly 13 years ago, OH WOW! has provided services to more than 1 million learners and serves an estimated 75,000 people per year, with about 2,800 of them in various outreach programs, Logan explained.

“STEM education is more important now than ever,” Ellie Platt, board chairwoman, said, noting that many good paying jobs today lie in the high-tech industry.

Another value of OH WOW! is that it offers STEM education to many young people who might otherwise lack access to it, Platt continued.

After receiving her award, Rimedio-Righetti expressed modesty regarding her role in the center, saying that its success is a collaborative effort of which she’s happy to be a part.

“Together we build a future where every individual has the opportunity to unlock their full potential,” she said. “I thank esteemed organizations like OH WOW! for providing opportunities in Mahoning County and helping to make this area a better place to work, live and raise a family.”

Rimedio-Righetti also praised Suzanne Barbati, OH WOW’s former executive director, for the work she did.

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