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Mike Kelvington: Having Courage and Building Character

When Mike Kelvington, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army and Department Head and Professor of Military Science at The Ohio State University, was the keynote speaker at the SkillsUSA Ohio Fall Leadership Conference, his words struck a chord deep within the students. He spoke about leadership and taking advantage of every opportunity, earning a standing ovation from nearly 900 students. His vast array of experiences combined with his carefully chosen words made him an incredibly valuable speaker that no one had trouble listening to. Every student, teacher, sponsor, and supporter of the event was captivated by his speech and was left wanting more.

We talked with Mike over the phone and asked him some questions about his military journey and what he had learned along the way. Talking with Mike was easy and inspiring. With so much knowledge and advice to offer, it is almost impossible to walk away from a conversation with him without feeling motivated and encouraged.

Mike was born in Akron, Ohio, and began his military career shortly after receiving a West Point brochure during his junior year of high school. Always having the desire to serve when he was younger, he jumped at the chance to pursue this dream and embark on a journey in the U.S. Military. What he did not expect were all the amazing opportunities that would come his way and how much he would learn about life and character by making this choice.

Mike Kelvington, Our Questions Answered

What exactly is Military Science?

ARMY ROTC has a 4-year developmental program for future army officers. The curriculum is from tactics to ethics, counseling, leadership, anything with the human dynamic really. Critical thinking, problem-solving, etc. All of this is encompassed in leadership skills, to develop Jr officers. This program immerses curriculums that you would learn in the Army, West Point, Reserve Training—all into one undergraduate program. On the Army side, it is meant to develop future leaders, academically it is for a minor for a degree.

Can you briefly take us through your journey with the U.S. Army? What skills did you learn?

I always felt a desire to serve when I was younger. I did well in school, and I’ve met so many incredibly smart people in the army. There is a stereotype that one can be too smart for the Army, but that is not true—the Army harbors so much intelligence and so many innovative, clever, and advanced people. As the son of a third-generation auto mechanic, the military opened doors to so many opportunities that I otherwise would not have had. It gave me the opportunity to serve and get a higher education. The Army revolves around its people. It taught me to be a good leader while serving and what it takes to be a good leader in organizations as well. It taught me to understand human dynamics and take care of people. If you take care of people, you take care of the mission.

I learned so many skills that I could translate into other fields as well as life skills. A military background provided me with leadership skills and what it means to be part of a team. It helped me understand the value of making good decisions and focused on the development of the whole person; physical, mental, spiritual wellness, the whole person.

When did you first learn about SkillsUSA Ohio and what about it interested you?

I learned about SkillsUSA Ohio last fall, and the program immediately interested me. ARMY ROTC has been involved with the program for quite a while and when I was asked to speak, I was delighted. My interactions with the students that night were amazing. Hundreds of younger folks were hungry and motivated to be part of something that was bigger than themselves. I was so impressed with their drive and motivation.

In your mind, how does SkillsUSA Ohio prepare students for a career in the U.S. Army and other skilled trades?

This program helps bridge the understanding of what and who the military really is and all the advantages. Most people have two ideas about the military; you are either Captain America or damaged goods. Most people are somewhere in between. The Army needs people of all backgrounds and knowledge basis and SkillsUSA Ohio prepares for that. They teach about character, integrity, leadership, and having a good work ethic—it can make you a marketable person in any endeavor.

Can you highlight some key points from your Speech last fall to the SkillsUSA Ohio students?

I started and ended my talk addressing character. Having integrity and being a trustworthy person. Building community and connectedness is extremely important but also finding your confidence and courage. Personal courage, physical courage, and mental courage. Always trying to do the right thing while being reliable will help to network, build connections, and be technically proficient. These are all characteristics that are encouraged and taught within the program and are fundamentally essential to success.

What advice would you give a student in the SkillsUSA Program?

Run towards it. I had a leader once who talked about how wisdom is a simple math equation of knowledge plus experience. You can learn a lot from school, but gaining experience is essential. It helps you to understand what you are going to like and enjoy. Finding that gives you such a feeling of purpose. I know that our Generation Z and Millennial population are special. They aren’t driven by income, but by impact. I’d say, test-drive ideas and pathways—sometimes it is more about figuring out what you don’t want to do.

Talking with Mike was enlightening and incredibly informative. Here at SkillsUSA Ohio, we are grateful to have the opportunity to work alongside the ARMY ROTC and we are incredibly thankful to Mike and all the other military personnel for their service. To learn more about this incredible program at the Ohio State University, you can contact them here. If you are interested in learning more about SkillsUSA Ohio and our mission, contact us to learn more.


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