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Butler Announces 40 New Graduates of Advance Kansas

Advance Kansas Class VIII
Published: Friday, May 20th, 2016

Community action projects presented as Class VIII concludes

The eighth Advance Kansas class culminated on Friday, May 13. Forty area business and community leaders graduated from the program after presenting their community action projects.

Advance Kansas consists of four full-day workshops spread over a four-month period. Between workshops, participants meet in teams to develop a community action project. This year’s 40 participants were divided into five teams, each of which then tackled a community issue important to them.

Team 1 is creating Diversity Jam. Diversity Jam is a free community concert that will bring together diverse musical acts to expose attendees to multiple musical styles. The concert is scheduled for Thursday, July 14 at 7:30 p.m. in the plaza just north of the Museum of World Treasures. The concert will showcase local talent. The team believes the concert will be a good way to recognize and celebrate diversity in its many forms and hopes the concert will become a Wichita tradition. Team 1 members are Kristi Arno, Bombardier Learjet; Laura Bernstorf, Airbus Americas Engineering; Lai-L Daugherty, Butler Community College; Amy Gose, T-Mobile; Mike Mathia, Insights Career Consulting, LLC; Samantha Meeds, Spirit AeroSystems, Inc.; Portia Portugal, Dress for Success Wichita; and Lon Smith, Wichita Independent Business Association.

Team 2 is partnering with the Boys and Girls Club of South Central Kansas, Plaza North, and the Northeast Senior Center to create a book buddies club. The club’s purpose is to provide the opportunity for engagement and interaction with the club members and senior citizens. This program is designed to include a younger club member (K – 5), a middle schooler or teen from the club, and a senior buddy from the facilities located nearby. The interaction will create the opportunity to enhance literacy, understand differences, and promote a collaborative focus on building relationships between the youth and the seniors in the community. The youth will also benefit by creating an opportunity for them to better retain the knowledge they learned during the school year. The book buddies will be able to enjoy additional activities together at the Senior Center including classes, line dancing, bingo, and a variety of other activities. The buddies will meet twice a week during the summer months and weekly during the school year. Team 2 members are Matt Calhoun, Spirit AeroSystems, Inc.; Jeff Elliott, T-Mobile; Amy Hamilton, Meritrust Credit Union; Janelle Jones, Small Business Administration; Victoria L’Ecuyer, Fidelity Bank; Mark McCormick, Kansas African American Museum; Michelle Ruder, Butler Community College; and Monica White, JR Custom Metal Products.

Team 3 created The Mixer Challenge – 2016. The competition was designed to bring together students from different backgrounds to work together. The team identified two schools with programs related to food preparation to work together to blend their experiences and expertise in a fun way. For what the team hopes will be the first year of an ongoing event, they invited students from Andover and Wichita Southeast to compete on May 6 alongside someone they didn’t previously know. Each competing team was made up of a student from each school, and they were given a dessert and appetizer recipe to prepare that represent the typical learning experience from each school’s program. Although each team had to come up with its own game plan to win, it was possible that each student would have the opportunity to take the lead in preparing the recipe that more closely represented what they were taught at their school. Three local chefs were on hand to pick the winning entries for each category and present prizes for the winners, but the bigger goal was to allow young people to share an experience with someone new, have some fun, and hopefully make new friendships that can continue into the future. Team 3 members are Traci Addington, Junior League of Wichita; Amanda Duncan, Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas; Meg Foreman, Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce; Kathy Manivanh, Meritrust Credit Union; Colin McKenney, Starkey, Inc.; Amber Neises, Scholfield Corporation; DeAnn Shimp, Butler Community College; Patrick Woods, Westar Energy; and Rachael Woods, Spirit AeroSystems, Inc.

Team 4 is working with Exploration Place and Heartspring on “Sensory Sensitive Experience at Exploration Place.” These are special openings at Exploration Place for sensory sensitive children and their families. The goal is to provide an educational and fun experience for children with autism in a controlled and safe environment. Modifications such as turning off specific lights and modifying exhibits that would over-stimulate a child with autism will be done for the 1-1/2 hour events that will be held while Exploration Place is closed to the public. Heartspring is also offering noise-canceling headphones for the youth. Team 4 also reached out to Rainbows United and The Arc of Sedgwick County to help reach as many families as possible. The dates for the 1-1/2 hour Sensory Sensitive Experience at Exploration Place this summer are: Saturday, June 25; Thursday, July 21; and Thursday, August 25. Exploration Place and Heartspring will evaluate the three initial special openings, and decide on the feasibility of scheduling recurring sensory sensitive events moving forward. Team 4 members are Michael Aumack, Small Business Administration; Traci Fox, INTRUST Bank; Troy Jellison, City of El Dorado; Sally Rose, Westar Energy; Chris Steward, Sedgwick County Health Department; Samuel Thompson, T-Mobile; Shannon Wedge, Goddard Education Foundation; and Amy Winter, Fidelity Bank.

Team 5 is partnering with Passageways to assist the homeless veteran population in Wichita. Passageways helps veterans achieve their individual goals and provides essential tools and resources for housing stability, independence, and self-sustainability. Team 5 created a Civilian Survival Guide with basic information veterans can take with them after graduating from Passageways and finding a place of their own. Resources in the guide include local transportation options, simple recipes and grocery lists, a budget template, contact information for various community resources, and other information. The team is also developing a mentorship program to provide current residents a link to someone they can relate to while allowing graduates a way to stay connected and give back to the program. Identifying prospective board members and board development resources and creating a short video for the website are other items the team is helping with. Team 5 members are Amy Ball, JR Custom Metal Products; Suzy Chapman, Fidelity Bank; Mildred Edwards, Westar Energy; Sara Hadaway, Nonprofit Solutions, Inc.; Amber Hendrix, Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland; Tiffani Price, Butler Community College; and Bill Ramsey, The Bill Guy.
Hosted by Butler Community College with support from Spirit AeroSystems, Westar Energy, Meritrust Credit Union, and Cox Communications, Advance Kansas is designed to bring together leaders from all demographic groups and across all sectors of society – business, nonprofit, education, religion, government – and to educate them in effective ways to engage pressing diversity issues in their communities. Advance Kansas is facilitated by Juan Johnson, president of Diversity Leadership in Action, of Atlanta.
This eighth Advance Kansas class will bring the number of Advance Kansas graduates to 309, representing 114 organizations in the Wichita metro area.