During a routine Tuesday afternoon lesson at the Athens Chinese Culture Center, while some students watched a video on traditional Chinese culture dance, 11 year-old Alison Russ recited sentences and arranged magnetic Mandarin words on a board. Working to arrange the words just right, she translated, “I love my teacher.”
Shu-Qi Sue Chen, a native of Dalian, China founded the center in Southeast Ohio to bring the culture of China to Athens, but there is more to it than just the culture. The center is also about making friends and bringing students together by creating a family-like atmosphere.
“I think we’re trying to blend the discipline of the East with the fun of the West,” Chen’s business assistant, Amber Duff, says of the different teaching styles in the Eastern and Western hemispheres. Duff has two children learning Mandarin at the center.
It’s only fitting for the venture that started out of Chen’s home shortly after she moved to Athens in 1999 to join her husband, a long-time professor at Ohio University.
After many locations, the center is now operating out of Morrison Elementary School in Athens as part of a transition period.
Currently, nine children are regular students, meaning they spend two hours at least two days a week honing their skills and demonstrating their dedication to learning the language.
“It really is a family type of feeling every time you come here,” Duff says. “Lots of hugs and smiles and encouragement. We share food and holidays. Some really good friendships have been made here.”
In the past, as many as 30 students have been enrolled in the program. She and Duff say they hope to work back up to that goal as they settle into their new home.
Chen and her two teachers aim to move toward an immersion-style language school by introducing the language from the moment students walk through the door.
“A bilingual mind has a lot more advantages,” Liang Tao, an associate professor of linguistics at Ohio University, says. One of those advantages, Tao explains, is that students have an added appreciation for different cultures.
Chen says that learning Mandarin, which is one of the fastest growing languages in the world, can be useful, especially in job hunting abroad.
“We need American people going [to China] to teach English,” Chen says. Recently one of her students went to China in search of a teaching job.
The center doesn’t just teach children Mandarin. Chen also works with high-school students and adults by teaching them language, tai chi, calligraphy, cooking, and other aspects of Chinese culture.
“The Chinese culture is beautiful and there was obviously a market for people who wanted to learn the language,” Duff says.
International students at Ohio University have also utilized the center.
“Sometimes it can be very isolating to just be on campus and not know the language, so she wants to invite the students in so they can have a ‘home away from home,’” Duff says. “They get to learn the culture of Athens.”
Chen is passionate about her students both old and new, showing off pictures of past classes, plaques she and her students earned at festivals for participating in dance, and recent projects her students have made.
“I just like the children very much,” she says. “I want to share Chinese culture with many.”
by Kaitlyn Hendershot
What if someone offered you a miracle elixir that makes you live longer, helps you avoid all major illnesses and assures your children will be healthier as well? Does that seem too good to be true? Well Warren Taylor, the owner of Snowville Creamery in Pomeroy, would disagree.
He says the answer is simple: Milk.
“I like to say if you cut me, I bleed white. I just consume dairy products like crazy. I live on dairy products,” Taylor says.
But Taylor’s miracle elixir is not just any milk. Taylor and the other employees at Snowville Creamery strive to produce dairy products that start with grass-fed cows, which are treated humanely and cared for in a way that promotes sustainability. Taylor will be the first to tell you that his milk is not the kind found on your average grocery-store shelf.
“They’re different milks,” Taylor says. “They’re nutritionally very different, because these [cows] are eating grass. You know, garbage in, garbage out. If you lived on Twinkies and Snickers bars, you might grow big…real big, but how healthy would you be?”
James Winch, a five-year employee, started at the creamery as a tanker driver and now works as an HTST (High Temperature Short Time) employee in their testing lab. Winch heats the milk to pasteurize it and rid it of any pathogenic bacteria. He was inspired to work for the creamery after admiring its products as well as its process.
“I wanted to work here because I liked Snowville products,” Winch says. “I really liked the company and what they were doing.”
Taylor and his wife, Victoria, opened the creamery in 2006 and were producing their first milk by December 2007. But Taylor is not new to the dairy world. Like his father and his brother, he earned a Dairy Technician degree from Ohio State University. He later moved to California to run the largest peer-consulting company in the world, designing food processing plants and dairy plants.
Opening up a creamery had always been a dream for Taylor and his friends.
“Whenever we got into the third bottle of Cabernet when we were having a good venison ham, we’d start saying ‘We’ve gotta build our own milk plant and bottle this milk, by golly!’ ” Taylor says.
So when a paradigm shift in production within the dairy industry caused much of Taylor’s business to move to China, he had a decision to make. Taylor and his wife chose to chase his dream. Taylor closed the consulting company and took Victoria and his two kids, “barely out of diapers,” back to Ohio in 1994.
Today, the 6,000-square-foot plant sits on a 350-acre farm in Pomeroy with 225 cows. As well as their own cows, the creamery uses a dozen other farms’ cows in order to produce dairy products for all of the major urban areas of Ohio. The cows are all non-GMO (genetically modified organism) fed and as healthy as possible for milk production.
Snowville’s commitment to the health of its cows, its customers and the environment makes it a leader in sustainable food in Southeast Ohio and beyond.
But Taylor is most focused on the future, particularly on the health of the next generation.
“People say, “Why did [you] do this?’” Taylor says. “I say, ‘Because I was so mad, I was so angry at the lousy milk we give our children in this country.’ ”
by Hallie Rawlinson
A couple years ago, miles of railroad were overgrown with trees springing up in between the tracks—almost symbolizing the loss of its original purpose and foreshadowing the derailing of a major player in Monroe’s economy.
Originally built by Pennsylvania Railroad to service Ormet—an aluminum smelting plant—more than a decade ago, the short rail was neglected by the company. However, Mike Filoni, vice president of sales and marketing for Carload Express Inc. (a short line railroad and transportation company), says the rail was kept in tact in case the plant decided to ever use it.
After searching for a railroad that could access gas producers within the Utica and Marcellus Shale Fields, Carload Express finally found the line it was looking for—the dormant short rail. The company decided to rehabilitate the short rail in December 2012. After an estimated $1.8 million investment, the short rail, renamed the Ohio Terminal Railway, commenced operations in April 2013.
Some believe the short rail’s reactivation will stimulate the local economic growth and development. Already more businesses are moving into Hannibal Industrial Park, which has access to the rail. “Those are businesses that heavily depend on railroad [transportation],” Filoni says. “From my standpoint, there’s only so much material that can be moved on the highway. [The companies] probably would not have come to the industrial park if it weren’t for the railroad.”
But Monroe’s recovery derailed after Ormet, which was the largest employer in the county, closed its doors in October 2013. Ormet’s closing sent tremors through Monroe. Some felt the aftershock more than others, says Megan Ensinger, Hannibal native and an Ohio University 2013 alumna. “Many of my friends either worked for or had family who worked for Ormet and were out of work when the plant finally closed down,” Ensinger says. “Many people had to relocate to find work. It was a huge blow to the community as a whole, as it was the loss of an industry that most of the town’s value centered around.”
Monroe has about 14,500 residents and a civil labor force of around 5,300, according to Ohio’s Bureau of Labor Statistics as of Sept. 2014. While Ohio’s unemployment is at 5.7 percent state-wide, the unemployment rate in the county is at 10.1 percent, highest in the state. According to the Columbus Dispatch, the closing cost 700 people their jobs.
Because the county funds were dried up, three elementary schools in the area (Sardis, Hannibal and Powhatan) now feed into the same high school, Hannibal’s River High School. The restructuring was intended to streamline teaching and provide additional arts and specialized lessons. “It was the first time a levy had passed since before I was born,” Ensinger says. “But the funds quickly ran out and cuts were made to many programs like music, art and foreign language. The money just isn’t there, partly due to the loss of Ormet.”
Many remain hopeful about the economic growth of the county, with outside investors looking to break into the natural gas industry. Monroe has become a recent hotbed for gas and oil production. “In the past year, there has been a major influx of companies in the oil and gas industry hoping to tap into the pockets of natural gas under Monroe County, which may be quite extensive,” Ensinger says.
One of those outside companies, Houston-based Appalachia Resins, leased 50 acres of land in Salem Township to build a cracker plant expected to begin operation in 2019, according to bizjournals.com. This plant would have the ability to take natural gas, like ethane, and make it usable for the plastic industry. Along with that, there is potential that the plant would produce added value for the Appalachian gas industry, and that’s where the Ohio Terminal Railway would come into the picture. “The proposed ethane cracker/polyethylene plant would also use rail for outbound shipments of polyethylene,” says Jason Hamman of the Monroe County Port Authority. Hamman adds that the plant has the potential to add an additional 150-200 jobs and spark a $1 billion capital investment.
Already, the natural gas and shale industry is considered a lifeline to the county’s economic future. Some residents in Monroe seek to reap the benefits of having an abundant source of natural gases. “Many gas wells have been installed,” Ensinger says. “One is only about a half mile from my parents’ house and some residents are receiving considerable sums in royalties from their mineral rights.”
Despite the economic difficulties the county experienced after Ormet’s closing, Ensinger believes that it’s full speed ahead for Monroe. “I think everyone is hoping that oil and gas will get the county back on its feet,” she says.