It Can Be Done: The Positive Power of Community Partnerships

Written by United Way

May 12, 2018

As our school bus pulled up to the headquarters of Owens-Illinois in Perrysburg, I reluctantly closed my sketchbook. Mom calls the sketchbook my “book of dreams”. I have lots of dreams. Some dreams no one really knows about, but one thing people do know about me is that I love to draw.

Tucking my sketchbook tightly under my arm, I exited the bus. Today was Career Day for Reynolds School and our seventh grade class was visiting the headquarters of the world’s leading maker of glass containers.

Honestly, I wasn’t really interested in the field trip. I’d wished they’d picked somewhere like an architecture company. My sketchbook was filled with drawings of futuristic buildings. Wouldn’t it be cool if I could design things like that when I was older?

As we walked into O-I’s big glass building, a man named Adam, wearing a button-down shirt with the company’s logo on it, greeted us at the door. Slowly, he led us into a room that looked more like a cafe than one of the boring meeting rooms I pictured we’d visit. It had a TV and high tables, and a bar with shelves behind it, filled with all kinds of glass bottles. A lot of them I actually recognized from the drink aisle at the grocery store — glass containers for PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and Nestle.

This place was a lot different than I had expected.

Adam told us that O-I has over 26,000 employees from around the world and nearly 50,000 customers. “It takes a lot of talented people to meet our customers’ needs,” he said to the group.

“Work hard in school, and after you graduate, I hope a few of you will apply for a job with us.”

I always thought about what I liked to do when I grew up. But I never really thought about where I’d like to work? There was something really cool about walking through a workplace and seeing how their job was so interconnected to the world around us.

Eventually, we moved into another part of the building and Adam introduced us to Lisa. She told us that customers have ideas for how they’d like their containers to look and it’s her job to see if it’s possible.

“Before we can create the container that the customer wants,” she explained as we walked through O-I’s Innovation Center, “We have to know if the properties of our glass can handle it.”

Opening my sketchbook, I looked at the latest building idea I drew on the bus ride over. It was in the shape of a conch shell—an idea I’d gotten when we read Lord of the Flies in literature class. I thought it’d be a cool design for an aquarium. But now, I wondered if it might be possible to make a water bottle in the shape of the shell…

“Follow me to the design studio,” Lisa said, instantly snapping me out of my daydream.

In the studio, Lisa passed around O-I’s design book that contained over 100 glass designs to inspire companies and show off their capabilities. “Michael Owens, our company’s founder, once said: It can be done. How would you all like to try your hand at designing a new glass container?” asked Lisa.

Slowly she began to pass around paper and pencils. My mind began to envision how my shell idea would take shape. When she got to me with the drawing supplies, I quickly smiled and said, “No thanks. I brought my own.”

~

On the bus ride back to my school, I looked at the page in my sketchbook that had recently been torn out and smiled. Lisa asked me if she could keep my drawing. “This is a very creative design,” she said. “I’d love to hang it on our wall. Maybe it will provide some inspiration for our design team.”

As I walked down the hall, back to my classroom, I started a new drawing on the next page. This time, not another building, but a new kind of glass jar. When I finish it, I thought to myself, I’ll send it to O-I and make sure to attach a note saying: “It can be done.”

~

*This blog post is fiction but based on a real student experience during the United Way / TPS / O-I Career Day. Some story details have been added in order to provide a more personal interpretation of the individual’s experience as a student participant.

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