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Talene Sarkissian, the Next Cyber Security Sleuth

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Talene with her parents at our 2018 Awards Celebration


Talene Sarkissian is a graduate of our Workforce Prep program at Warren Mott High School and current undergrad at Tiffin University where she is studying for a degree in cyber security with a minor in homeland security and terrorism. With help from her College Success Mentoring (CSM) coach, Beth Wagner, Talene overcame COVID-related challenges and is on track to graduate an entire semester early.

“The CSM program to me is the pinnacle of what Winning Futures stands for and is meant to do.”

While in high school, Talene was mentored by Carol Visconti, retired vice president of Member Services at Extra Credit Union. Carol helped Talene explore careers and plan for her future. In 2018, she received our Cupp-Hamilton Scholarship in recognition of her outstanding work in the program.

Watch this video featuring Talene Sarkissian.

Talene isn’t a thrill seeker, but she is an intensely curious person who enjoys learning and exploration.  She was originally interested in criminal justice and becoming a police officer, but ultimately chose a different path.

“As an only child it didn’t seem right to make my parents worry so much,” said Talene. “I’m still going to fight bad guys, just in a different way.”

Our CSM program has been in the making for more than three years and launched in 2020. The idea is to provide ongoing support to our former high school students who enroll in continuing education (trade school, certificate program, or college). The goal is for them to stay in school and earn a degree. Through their mentor, participants get help with issues college students often experience, from adjusting to the college culture to time and stress management and everything in between.

“We saw an immediate need in our alumni community for continued support,” said Bryan Howard, director of programs. “It just made sense to extend our assistance into their college life as they experience moments of transition and difficulty. And with COVID this past year, the need was even greater.”

Our Development Coordinator, Beth Wagner, selected Talene as her mentee. To say it was a perfect match, would likely be an understatement to the connection they share.

When they first met, Talene was struggling. As a third-year undergrad on the threshold of entering the “real world” while navigating COVID-related challenges, she was concerned about her future. Her final semesters were not going as planned.

“I felt like I had lost my direction,” said Talene. “And for a focus-driven person, that feeling is very disarming.”

Fortunately, Beth is a recent college graduate from Baldwin Wallace University and easily recalls the challenges of college. She quickly connected with Talene and her struggles. They began weekly discussions that focused on developing new routines, networking with peers, and reaching out to her professors for help.

“Mental health and self-care were a big part of our discussions. It’s important to remember to be kind to yourself.” said Beth. “We actively planned and discussed strategies for taking better care of ourselves, then both reported what we did that week for our well-being. It lightened the conversation but kept us accountable.”

“The CSM program to me is the pinnacle of what Winning Futures stands for and is meant to do,” remarked Talene. “It cultivates and ushers self-reliable, productive adults into the work force.”

Talene is currently enjoying an internship at Mennel Milling Company working in their IT group.  Her responsibility is network infrastructure and security, which is broadening her knowledge in cybersecurity.  As she looks toward her future, she can see the continuing need for mentoring after she graduates and is transitioning from student to professional life.

“Having someone to help me with that transition and what is expected in the workplace will be invaluable.”

“I’ve been a student for 16 years; it’s going to be a culture shock! Having someone to help me with that transition and what is expected in the workplace will be invaluable.”

College Success Mentoring follows the fundamentals of reaching goals by setting milestones for measurement. It is designed to be adaptable to the individual needs of the student and keep them on a path for success.

Learn more about our mentoring programs!

Learn more about becoming a mentor!