By Janet Wetzel
Mark Ponder was so eager to get out of school and explore life, he opted not to follow the family tradition and seek a teaching career. But fate caught up with him. Today, Ponder, an expert in rocketry, spends much of his time teaching kids to build and fly rockets.
Ponder, 42, a control designer at Comet Automation Systems, Dayton, has been a 4-H adviser for seven years and spends many hours weekly throughout most of the year helping his club prepare projects for the Butler County Fair. But his volunteer work extends way beyond his own 4-H club.
The Hamilton resident gives lectures on rockets at other 4-H clubs and does rocket fun matchesHe's a Junior Fair Board adviser, and judged rocketry this year at the Ohio State Fair.
Ponder's also a merit badge counselor for aerospace for Boy Scout Troop 979 in Seven Mile, and recently finished a stint as cub master for one troop.
He's a dedicated volunteer at Trenton Christian Church, where he's a youth deacon and teaches junior church, and he takes a week's vacation each year to help at the Butler Spring Christian Camp. Ponder and his wife, Jackie, whom he said is also heavily involved in 4-H and church work, host a bonfire at their home for kids after every Edgewood High School football game.
Ponder, who shares his love of 4-H with their children, Savannah, 16, and Robert, 12, said he especially enjoys spreading the word that the 4-H is far more than just agricultural projects these days. "I love working with kids," he said. "But if I try to teach a kid about physics, they're going to look at me like I have two heads. If I teach them how to build and launch rockets, they're happy. Then I can work in a little about Newton's laws or at least get some of the physics lesson to them as we're launching. I've said if I had it to do over, I would have been a teacher. Now I guess I am teaching. Just not in a classroom."
Do you know a Hometown Hero - someone in your community dedicated to making it a better place to live and helping others? E-mail Janet Wetzel at email@example.com, or fax to 513-755-4150.
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Sunday's local news report