PERRYSVILLE — After many years serving the academic needs of Ohio’s youth, the contributions and legacy of Robert E.. Wehr, Jr., a Mount Gilead native, will soon be memorialized through the new Wehr Learning Center on the campus of Mohican Youth Academy.
The center will be open to serve students for the 2017-2018 school year.
The surprise announcement of the center and its name was made at Wehr’s retirement celebration, Friday, June 30. Mohican Youth Academy staff, family and friends gathered for a barbecue and reception to congratulate Wehr and recognize him for his years of service to youth and his contribution in meeting Mohican Youth Academy’s mission of making a difference, one life at a time.
Wehr earned his teaching degree from Bowling Green State University in 1974, also earning his Highly-Qualified Teacher designation in social studies and language arts. He taught in the affluent district of Worthington City, as well as the economically-disadvantaged South High School, part of Columbus City Schools. Teaching youth who were at-risk or needed extra help succeeding academically seemed to be Wehr’s early passion.
At one point he left the teaching profession in order to provide help to a family business in Columbus. While Wehr admits to making “good money,” he missed the rewards of teaching.
In 2006 he sought out Tri-State Youth Academy’s executive director, Dr. Rocky Hall, inquiring about helping the program for at-risk boys, which began that same year in Chesterville.
“I was actually interviewing for Juvenile Treatment Officers,” Hall said. “Mr. Wehr didn’t have any child care experience, but asked me what my plans were for the education program. I told him I had no idea and I decided to hire him anyway.”
Wehr served in many roles beyond that of classroom instructor. As the program grew, he became TSYA’s Educational Director. Wehr looked to find ways to serve boys with poor self-esteem, attention issues, and other challenges, never losing sight of the goal to help each boy find academic success.
When the academy moved to its current location in the Mohican State Forest and changed its name to Mohican Youth Academy, Wehr oversaw the transition to the current school which operates as a digital academy extension of the Loudonville-Perrysville Local School District. Today, eight teachers and the school’s program manager, have worked alongside Wehr, in providing MYA youth academic instruction and guidance.
“Since Mr. Wehr came aboard, I’ve never had to worry about our education program,” Hall told reception attendees. “There is no doubt we, and especially the boys, will really miss his leadership.”
Hall presented a plaque and gift to Wehr to commemorate his service and congratulate him. He commented that before the new education center opens its doors, Wehr will be asked to return for its dedication.
Wehr gave a short farewell speech which he addressed primarily to MYA’s youth, thanking them for what they meant to him.
“I heard a song recently,” Wehr told the boys. “It said something about living your life in chains and never knowing you had the key. You guys have been through a lot, but you have the keys to break free and learn what you need to really make it in life, and this is the best place to find them. I’ve just been a gatekeeper here; you are the ones with the keys. Don’t forget that.”
The reception concluded with a special video – a compilation of testimonials from about two dozen boys who recorded and submitted their congratulations. Each one thanked Wehr, many sharing stories and the impact he made in their lives while at MYA.