ReMA Northern Ohio Chapter Sponsors JASON Learning School

Jun 13, 2024, 16:06 PM
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Arnulfo Moreno
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The ReMA-JASON Learning partnership promotes career opportunities in the recycled materials industry and expands knowledge and awareness of recycled materials’ impact and outputs.

Mary Hlepas, VP of Purchasing for Imperial Group/Aluminum-Minerva, former ReMA Northern Ohio Chapter president, and current scholarship chair, has led the chapter to collectively sponsor a school with JASON Learning — Springfield Local Schools. ReMA News had the opportunity to talk with Mary and learn how that process played out.

How did you get into the recycled materials industry?

I started in 2001. I was hired as an executive assistant by a shredding facility. The company grew and bought two melting facilities. As the company grew, I saw opportunities for me to get more involved in helping the buyers, and this is how I started to learn the grades of aluminum and eventually became a buyer.

The company went bankrupt in 2009, and that’s when Imperial Zinc — part of Imperial Group — purchased the melting side of the company. They hired me as a buyer, and I have not looked back since.

How did you get involved with ReMA?

After my first year working for Imperial Group, I wanted a better understanding of our industry other than just the consumer side. I felt I would be a stronger buyer with better insight into the big picture. I also realized that becoming involved would allow more networking opportunities. If I had a better understanding of what the suppliers needed to do to prepare their material to sell to us, it would help me with my objectives. So, I asked my superiors if I could become involved with ReMA (now ReMA) locally.

I joined the Northern Ohio Chapter in 2010. Once I joined the board, it got in my blood. I just finished my last term as past president for the chapter and now serve on the board of directors as non-ferrous secretary. I have met so many amazing people and learned so many things I never would have if I had not become involved. It is unbelievable how much is open and available to us when we put forth the effort.

How did getting involved with ReMA lead to JASON Learning?

As previously stated, I got involved on a local level.

I learned about JASON Learning by attending the national board meetings. I was on one or two of the judging panels for the recycling contest that they have yearly for the kids using the JASON Learning program. I was extremely impressed by what these kids learned and did at a young age and their understanding of recycling.

Last month, during training for the board of directors, the ReMA executive board brought up the JASON Learning programs available and how our chapters/regions could help locally. Eric Phillips, Northern Ohio Chapter president, and I looked at each other and said we must make this happen. The schools are facing funding cuts. We must get more involved on a local level.

I am so proud of our industry, but I do not feel that people understand what we do. We can begin educating kindergarten students through high school about proper recycling and shout on the highest mountain all the opportunities our industry offers. In that case, it will help our industry find people to work in it. There is just so much outreach and lessons that we need to teach, and Eric and I just thought that JASON Learning would be a great start.

What was the process like sponsoring Springfield Local Schools?

I went to the chapter board and presented the information we received at the board of directors meeting about JASON Learning. We already run a scholarship program, but I thought we could build and enhance it into a learning program. They liked the idea and approved it.

Once the board’s approval was received, I called JASON Learning. I spoke with Matt, and he explained the process to me. Then he got a phone call within the next day or two and emailed me that Springfield had this program, but their budget was frozen four years ago. JASON Learning was one of the few programs they would have to cut because they could not fund it anymore. I heard that and immediately thought, here is the school utilizing the program; the kids love it, and they will take it away. That is an easy decision. That is how we chose the school. We met with them, and it was one of the most rewarding Zoom calls I have ever experienced. They were so appreciative, so excited, that we were able to help them for one more year.

Northern Ohio Scholarship Committee plans to add a school funding program with its scholarship fund. Our events will also include raising funds to continue with JASON Learning. We are also exploring other fundraising opportunities to continue supporting our schools in our Northern Ohio area.

How would you encourage other members of chapters to get involved with JASON Learning?

I would encourage them to call JASON Learning, take a half-hour, and learn about the various programs available. They have four or five different programs depending on the type of financial commitment. These programs can work through the regions/chapters, but if it is not feasible, they can bring this information to their members. Members are also able to do internships with JASON Learning.

I would also encourage them to get involved on a local level…local schools, career days, community fairs, and even local governments. Networking in our communities to educate them on our industry and all the tools we have IS the best way to continue growing our fantastic industry.

For more information about JASON Learning’s school sponsorship program, contact Natalie Betts, or Abigail Shaw,

The ReMA-JASON Learning partnership promotes career opportunities in the recycled materials industry and expands knowledge...
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