Working with children, professionally and as a volunteer, has long been a big part of my life. In the summer of 1966, I supervised a church recreational center on Germantown Avenue in Philadelphia, sandwiched between the territories of two street gangs. There were probably as many as twenty kids between 8 and 16 who spent all or part of their days on our playground and in our recreation room, seven days a week, from morning until late in the evening. There were another twenty kids who stopped by, periodically, to spend an hour or two, even if only to hang out. 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 years old at the time, and had completed my sophomore year in college.
The opportunity arose as a result of Reverend Ronald Lutz and his wife Ila’s vision to re-establish an active congregation in this church on the site of the original Church of the Brethren* in the United States. One of the first things Reverend and Mrs. Lutz discovered was a great need to serve the children of the neighborhood. I was fortunate to have been given an opportunity to help serve that mission.
The objective I had been given was to supervise a small recreation room and an outdoor playground where kids could gather. My job was to work (play) with the kids, strive to 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.
I chose to leave at the end of the summer. As a twenty-year-old, I was still struggling to find where I belonged. Since I was no longer enrolled in college I was drafted into the Army, soon thereafter.
Upon completion of my military service in 1968, followed by my junior and senior years of college and marriage to my wife, Chris, 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 placed teams of two to three juvenile probation officers in the neighborhoods where their probationers lived and strove to recreate the same kind of environment of which I had been a part, on Germantown Avenue, eight years earlier.
Our programs, that provided a different approach to working with kids, received national recognition. Our focus on helping kids stay out of trouble produced a low rate of recidivism and endured for around twenty years after my departure, until the philosophy of the court, with respect to children and crime, began to change. The 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, I accepted opportunities to move into executive level leadership roles with that same unified trial court, followed six years later by an opportunity to manage a multi-specialty group medical practice and 24-hour urgent care center. In late 1988, I left the medical group to form my own management consulting practice. Seven years later I accepted a management role with one of my client companies, an inventory management company in the fastener industry. In December of 1999, after helping the company through a merger, I was the victim of corporate restructuring, and began working to revive my consulting business.
As a consultant my focus was on organizational and leadership development, strategic planning, organizational assessments, process development, and problem-solving. As a certified human resources professional (SPHR), I also provided HR services to my clients in small businesses, professional practices, and not-for-profit agencies.
My education included a Bachelor of Arts degree with a double major in Peace Studies with a concentration on interpersonal conflict resolutions, and also Religion and Philosophy from Manchester College in 1970. I received my 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.
Throughout that time, I served on the Board of the Martin Luther King Montessori school for pre-school children; was one of the founding members of the Board of Directors of the Boys and Girls Club of Fort Wayne, where I also volunteered. Over the period of my career, I served as co-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; served eight years on the Board of Managers of Byron Health Center, a county-owned 500-bed long term care facility, serving three-year terms each as Chair of the Finance Committee and then President of the Board. I was also co-founder and President of the South Side Business Group of Fort Wayne and Allen County. From 1990 through 1997, my wife and I owned and operated a Karmelkorn Shoppe franchise, in a local shopping mall, at which most of our employees were teenagers, giving me yet another kind of experience with kids. For five years I coached little league baseball for eight to twelve-year-old kids.
In 2002, when I opted to phase out my consulting practice to devote time to writing, I worked part-time as a substitute teacher in the elementary, middle, and high school classrooms of a diverse urban school district with six high schools and their feeder-schools. There, I had an opportunity to walk in the shoes of public-school teachers, which was a life-changing experience and where I gained enormous respect for the teachers of our children. I subbed until the end of the spring semester of the 2011/2012 school year.
Finally, during that same period, I worked, part-time, as an Interim Test Administrator for the United States Military Entrance Processing Command (USMEPCOM), an arm of the U.S. Department of the Army, administering the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), weekly, to prospective enlistees in the Armed Services, mostly high school seniors and recent graduates. I also administered the Student ASVAB to sophomores, juniors, and seniors on multiple occasions each, in over ninety public, faith-based, and vocational high schools throughout Northern Indiana. I served in that role until May of 2019, at which time my wife and I retired to Cape May, New Jersey
In 2002, based on my experience as administrator of a multi-specialty group medical practice and 24-hour urgent care center, I self-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 an authoritarian 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, in 2013, I self-published the novel, through Amazon.com’s CreateSpace and Kindle platforms. Although the book did not sell, well, I received some wonderful reviews. Who could have envisioned what transpired in 2016?
In 2013, through CreateSpace and Kindle, both Amazon platforms, I also published two non-fiction books. The first, with the title The Difference Is You; Power Through Positive Leadership, which was based on the many Positive Leadership seminars I presented to client companies and through the Continuing Education Program of Indiana-Purdue University of Fort Wayne. IPFW is now Purdue University of For Wayne.
The second was a book on public education, titled, Reinventing Education, Hope, and the American Dream: The Challenge for Twenty-First Century America. In this book I introduced an early version of The Hawkins Model©, an education model designed to transform public education in America. It was based on what I learned during my experience of walking in the shoes of public-school teachers, as a substitute
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 Education, Hope, and the American Dream, a blog with over 300 articles on education and leadership that can be found on my website at www.melhawkinsandassociates.com.
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. In this work I reintroduce an updated and more complete version of The Hawkins Model©, in which I incorporate all I have learned from professional educators over the past ten years.
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.
*The Church of the Brethren was founded by a small group of the faithful, circa 1708 in Germany where religious freedom was not tolerated. Because of the persecution, members began emigrating to America and in 1719, began settling in Germantown, which is now part of the City of Philadelphia. The existing church building where I spent my time was built next to one of, if not the earliest church buildings constructed by The Church of the Brethren, during the 1700s. That structure still stands as a museum of the church’s early history. A cemetery where many of the early members, and many more, were buried, is behind the church with graves dating back to the early 1700s.