Pathfinder Awards winners honored

STEUBENVILLE – Four men with ties to Steubenville were honored Friday at Steubenville High School for their impact on the community.

Honored at the school’s 20th annual Pathfinders Awards program were 1983 Steubenville graduates John Blangor Jr. and Bryan Bunch and Steubenville residents Duane Jennings and Kent Lewis Sr..

Each year the awards are given to alumni or residents who have enhanced or improved the community through accomplishments in such areas as citizenship, government, education, the arts, including music, drama and sports; business and humanitarian efforts.

Blangor was a member of Steubenville High School wrestling team that won the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference championship in the 138-weight class and in his senior year, received the Crosier Memorial Award as the school’s most valuable wrestler.

He went on to wrestle as a student at West Liberty State College and placed fifth in the nation at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Tournament as well as receiving the Christian Athlete of the Year award in 1987.

Blangor went on to serve as a senior officer specialist, intelligence officer and deputy captain and emergency preparedness officer at the Federal Bureau of Prisons for the U.S. Department of Justice.

As a member of a special operations response team of the Federal Bureau of Investigations joint task force, he was involved in gathering intelligence following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Blangor also has served on the FBI’s cold case crime unit and gang task force and currently works closely with emergency departments in New York City. His support of charities includes both the Brighway Center locally and National Research Association for Cerebral Palsy.

Blangor said since he was a young child, he has wanted to make his family proud, and he knew he needed to associate with people with the same positive goals and he did, spending much of his school and college days with Bunch and Clifton Spinner, a past Pathfinder Award recipient.

He advised Steubenville High School students, “Have dreams, have goals. Never give up. Seek higher education because knowledge is power.”

Bunch was a four-year member of the Big Red football team, assisting the 1982 team to an undefeated season; a four-year member of the school’s wrestling team and champion of the Herald-Star Invitational, and member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

With classmate and teammate Blangor he also went on to West Liberty State College, where as a wrestler, he was recognized as a three-time All-American collegiate level athlete and holds school records for the most career wins, the most wins as a freshman and most individual team sports.

Bunch also was selected for an American exchange team competing in Europe in 1985.

After serving as a federal corrections officer for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, he moved to Kansas, where he has provided armed security and protection for federal buildings in the Kansas City metropolitan area as a security officer for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Bunch said the guidance of his parents and company of friends with positive goals helped him to achieve success. He told the students “to work hard in school and college, stay positive and out of trouble. I worked 24 years in a federal prison and believe me, it’s no place to be.”

A 1958 graduate of the former Mingo Junction High School, Lewis served the U.S. Air Force for 22 years, including the Vietnam War, and was involved in the Civil Rights Movement

He has been involved with the Neighborhood Community Development Center, where he has served as HIV/AIDS prevention worker for Jefferson County and was named Outstanding HIV/AIDS Prevention Worker for Ohio.

For nearly 20 years he has volunteered his time to various Steubenville City Schools programs, including the Back to School Committee, Math Excellence program and tutoring and reading programs; and served on the Jefferson County Community Action Council’s policy council and male involvement committee; Urban Mission Ministries, Million Man March Committee, Jefferson Behavioral Health System committees and other groups.

As he accepted the Pathfinder Award plaque, he said if it were a certificate, he would tear it up into about 100 pieces to share it at least 100 others who deserve to share in his recognition for work they have accomplished with him for various causes.

Lewis recalled being among volunteers distributing school supplies to area youth at the Back to School Rally when a boy approached him to hug and thank him.

“If you make just one person happy, you will be happy, too,” he advised.

A 1970 graduate of Weir High School, Jennings attended West Virginia State College on a football scholarship and Jefferson Community College. He later earned several certifications from the U.S. Department of Labor as an electrician/wireman and served as a team leader and supervisor in the electrical field at Weirton Steel.

He has been involved in many civic organizations, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, First Minute of a New Day, the Martin Luther King Jr. Association and Steubenville recreational board.

Like each of the other recipients, Jennings credited God and his family for his achievements and praised the Pathfinder Awards program, which also includes an essay contest, special edition of The Beacon, the school newspaper, and other activities aimed at promoting awareness of Black History Month.

Jennings encouraged the students to learn the value of forgiving.

Also recognized were the winners of the Pathfinders essay contest: Janaya Wallace of Pugliese Elementary East, Hayden Heilman of Wells Academy, Sydney Matyas of Pugliese Elementary West, Makayla Crownover of Harding Middle School, and Faith Bauman of Steubenville High School.

Crownover read her essay, in which she described how the efforts of Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and others have affected her.

“In my heart of hearts, I feel that my sister and I have reached the place where I can honestly say we love all of our friends and we’re happy we can hang out together. Before the Civil Rights Movement, children wouldn’t be be able to have these types of friendships,” she said.

Crownover continued, “It is so nice to be able to ride the bus home after school and sit wherever I want unlike Rosa Parks, who was the first African-American who refused to sit in the back of the bus. I’m thankful to this woman and many others that have built the foundation to a new America, where all people can just get along.”

In her essay, Bauman shared various aspects of Africa she has learned, concluding, “It’s a remarkable continent known for its fascinating culture, beautiful clothing and art; a variety of people, animals,climates and its stunning land.”