Working with children, professionally and as a volunteer, became a big part of my life in the summer of 1966, when I supervised a church recreational center on Germantown Avenue in Philadelphia. The church and its grounds were sandwiched between the territories of two street gangs. There were probably as many as forty kids between 8 and 16, both male and female, who spent all or part of their summer on our playground and in our recreation room, seven days a week, from nine in the morning until nine at night. It was a rare hour of the day when there were less than ten kids hanging out, usually up-close and personal with me.
I was twenty, at the time, and had completed my sophomore year in college. The objective I had been given by the pastor of the Germantown Church of the Brethren, was to give the kids a safe place to come, keep gang recruiters off the property, and teach the kids what I could. I was successful in meeting the first two expectations, but with respect to the third, the kids taught me far more than I could have ever taught them.
After two years in the Army, followed by my junior and senior years of college, my first job was as a juvenile probation officer working with kids and families under the supervision of the Juvenile Court. In that role I was successful, with the help of a highly committed boss and eight supportive judges, in developing a plan to reorganize the probation department into five regional offices strategically placed throughout the community. The program was known as the Field Services Division and it placed probation officers in the neighborhoods where their probationers lived and strove to recreate the same kind of environment I had known on Germantown Avenue, eight years earlier. I managed that operation from 1974 through the first quarter of 1979.
Our programs received national recognition. Our focus on helping kids stay out of trouble produced a low rate of recidivism and endured for twenty years, or so, until the politics of the court changed. Our annual reports about our program won four awards from the National Council of Juvenile Court Judges, the first in 1974.
After nine years in probation, in April of 1979, I accepted an opportunity to move into an executive level leadership role as Court Executive of the Allen Superior Court, which by then was an eight-judge trial court, with five magistrates, a juvenile probation department and a juvenile detention center. I was hired to consolidate the operations of what had formerly been five separate courts and to oversee the establishment of a small claims court.
I left the court in April of 1985 to become the manager of a multi-specialty group medical practice and 24-hour urgent care center.
The medical group engaged me to help transition the medical group which had been formed provider component of a local “group model” HMO and to develop a fee-for-service practice and 24-hour urgent care center. During this period I oversaw the establishment of three primary care offices. I also oversaw the merger of the HMO’s clinic operations with our medical group following the closing of the HMO.
In November of 1988, I left the medical group to form my own management consulting practice, Mel Hawkins and Associates. My consulting practice focused on providing leadership development, strategic planning, organization development, organization and process assessments, and human resources services to small businesses, professional practices, and not-for-profit organizations. On multiple occasions, I led a client through the redesign of production or service delivery processes that were producing disappointing outcomes. At the time I was a certified as a Senior Professional of Human Resources (SPHR). I also presented a seminar I developed called “The Power of Positive Leadership” to a number of client organizations and through the Continuing Education Program of Indiana-Purdue University of Fort Wayne.
In August of 1995, I accepted a leadership role for one of my clients, an inventory management company in the fastener industry, eventually serving as Chief Operating Officer. Following a merger, I left that position and returned to my consulting practice at the end of 1999.
Also, from 1990 through 1997, my wife and I owned and operated a Karmelkorn Shoppe franchise, in a local shopping mall.
In 2002 I published my first book, Radical Surgery: Reconstructing the American Health Care System, based on my experience with the medical group and other medical facilities.
During 2002, to devote more time to writing, I began phasing out my consulting business, which endured until mid-year in 2004. During that time, I began working as a substitute teacher for a diverse urban school district where I had an opportunity to walk in the shoes of public school teachers.
Along the way, in addition to my Bachelor’s degree in Peace Studies from Manchester College in 1970, I earned a first Master’s degree in Psychology, in 1974, from the University of Saint Francis; and a second Masters in Public Affairs from Indiana University, in 1984.
At various point throughout my career, I served on the Board of the Martin Luther King Montessori school for pre-school children; was a founding member of the Board of Directors of the Boys and Girls Club of Fort Wayne, where I also volunteered. I served as Chairman of the Legislative Committee of the Indiana Correctional Association; attended Leadership Fort Wayne where I served on the board of the LFW Alumni Organization; was appointed by the county and served eight years on the Board of Managers of Byron Health Center, a county-owned 500-bed long-term care facility, serving terms of three years each as Chair of the Finance Committee and then President of the Board of Managers. I was also co-founder and President of the South Side Business Group of Fort Wayne and Allen County. For five years I coached little league baseball for eight to twelve-year-old kids.
In 2005, feeling pressure to generate more income, I accepted a part-time position as a test administrator for the Military Entrance Processing Command which functioned under the authority of the Department of the Army. In this role, I was responsible for administering the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) to high school students and recent graduates who were prospective enlistees in any of our nation’s military services, and also, to high school students as part of the Department of Defense’s Career Exploration Program. R, I served in that role until May of 2019, during which I administered the ASVAB to students from approximately 90 high schools throughout northern Indiana, multiple times. In the summer of 2019, my wife and I relocated from Fort Wayne, Indiana to Cape May, New Jersey, as sort of a retirement.
In 2002, based on my experience as administrator of a multi-specialty group medical practice and 24-hour urgent care center, I published a book, Radical Surgery: Reconstructing the American Health Care System, through FirstBooks Library, in which I proposed a new healthcare delivery system to replace the health insurance industry without reliance on socialized medicine.
In 2007 I was successful in retaining the services of a literary agent to represent me in seeking publication of my novel, Light and Transient Causes, a story about what could happen if the American people became so frustrated with their government they elected outsider to the Office of President of the U.S., based on his promise to restore peace and prosperity, at any cost. We were not successful in finding a publisher, and six years later I self-published the novel, through Amazon.com’s CreateSpace and Kindle platforms. Who could have envisioned what transpired in 2016.
In 2013, through CreateSpace and Kindle, I also published two non-fiction books. The first, with the title The Difference Is You; Power Through Positive Leadership, was based on the many Positive Leadership seminars I had developed and presented.
The second was a book on public education, titled, Reinventing Education, Hope, and the American Dream: The Challenge for Twenty-First Century America. This book, in which I introduced the first version of an education model designed to transform public education in America, was based on my experience of walking in the shoes of public school teachers, as a substitute and thirty years of organizational leadership and development experience as both an executive and a consultant. Projects often involved assessments and modifications to production, assembly, and service delivery processes, which, I believe, prepared me for the development of my education model.
All four books are available for sale at Amazon.com in paperback, and the last three are also available in Kindle format. I am also author of the blog, Education, Hope, and the American Dream with over 300 articles on education and leadership that can be found on my website at www.melhawkinsandassociates.com.
Finally, I am nearing completion of my second book on public education, with a working title, The Hawkins Model©: Education Reimagined, One Success at a Time, and will soon be seeking a literary agent.
I have also written a memoir about the summer of 1952, during which a number of interesting things happened, and that work remains unpublished,’
Finally, a few years ago, I rewrote three stories I had made up for my younger sister and brother, many years earlier, that were meant to be picture books for small children. After collaboration with a neighbor with aspirations to be an illustrator, in the late fall of 2021, we produced a fully illustrated story with title, Bugs of Marvin Mouse. It is a story about Marvin and his friends who were all part of small community of free animals who lived in, under, and around a woodpile and barn in a farmer’s barnyard. We are currently in search of a literary agent to help us publish this and companion stories.