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Butler Announces Graduates of Advance Kansas

Advance Kansas Class XII, 2020
Published: Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020

Community action projects presented as Class XII concludes

EL DORADO, Kan. – The 12th Advance Kansas class culminated on Friday, September 18 as 39 area business and community leaders were welcomed by previous graduates to the alumni network known as Advancers. This brings the network of prepared leaders to 471, representing 147 organizations in the greater Wichita area. 

This year’s class proved their resilience and dedication to diversity, meeting over eight months instead of the normal five months, due to COVID-19 restrictions. They formed relationships and developed skills to become better leaders in our increasingly diverse organizations and communities. Between class sessions, they worked in teams to accomplish community-action projects benefiting area not-for-profit organizations. 

The Starkey team worked with staff at Starkey to develop a community access program to expose the individuals that Starkey serves to diverse, engaging, inexpensive, and convenient opportunities within the community. It consists of a call to action for community residents to share their talents and resources with the organization, specific activities to engage in, and a proposal for how the organization can partner with local high schools to the benefit of all in the future. Starkey team members are Lisa CappsEmberHope YouthvilleSilas Dulan, EvergyDonnie Mercer, Butler Community College; Ken Merry, Emprise BankOlivia Newfarmer, Hutton; Tracie Partridge, City of Wichita; and Renee Walker, EmberHope Youthville. 

The Dunbar team partnered with the Historic Dunbar Theatre to create a community fundraising playbook. Wichita’s Dunbar Theatre opened in 1941 and until 1963 served as the only movie theater available to the African American community. Having fallen into decline, there has been a recent effort to revitalize the theater and help make it an economic catalyst for the McAdams neighborhood. The team’s goal was initially to help the Dunbar Theatre create a fundraising plan but has expanded to the creation of a community fundraising resource legacy project. Dunbar team members are Luke Amend, Hutton; Tom Borrego, Butler Community College; Alan Fearey, Ascension Medical Group; Mark Jarvis, Butler Community College; Tiffany Kelsie, T-Mobile; Davian Lawrence, Koch IndustriesEbony Pollard, T-Mobile; Chevis Rebstock, Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce; and Jillian Seitz, Fidelity Bank

The New Leaf team worked with New Leaf Mercantile, a social enterprise of Union Rescue Mission, to create a business strategy. New Leaf Mercantile resales donated books through online channels and uses the proceeds to support the work of the Mission while providing opportunities for men at the Mission to gain job experience through apprenticeships. The Advance Kansas project team worked with the store manager to create a self-sustaining business model that supports ongoing growth, including a robust apprenticeship program. The team offered operational recommendations, facilitated valuable connections with Amazon and DHL, created tools for tracking and onboarding new apprentices, and plans to continue working with management to complete a formal business plan. New Leaf team members are Rakesh Babu, Envision; Deidra Butterfield, JR Custom Metal Products; Norma Estrada, Intrust Bank; Heather Gates, Meritrust Credit Union; Amanda Gish, Credit Union of America; Edward Hinojos, Spirit AeroSystems; and Saras Rogers, Meritrust Credit Union. 

The Dreamkeepers team worked with Wichita Public Schools to find a way to further engage middle school students with STEM careers. The team developed an 8th grade program that will expand on what 7th graders learned from their industry days by attending a career fair with companies that represent each pathway offered at their high school. This won’t be an average career fair as it will feature activities from each industry to give students a taste of what a career at that company would encompass. Industries will be asked to provide career path information and include a variety of possible careers that require different education levels and certifications. This will give students a chance to explore diverse careers by talking with professionals in the fields they are interested in pursuing and leaving with an understanding of how to pursue their dream job. Dreamkeepers team members are Miranda Aarons, AGCO; Don Berner, Foulston; Cheryl Childers, Cox Machine; Lauren Clary, Kansas Gas Service; Terrell Davis, USD 259 Wichita; Brandt Hagel, Evergy; Pete Loecke, Spirit AeroSystems; Alfredo Ortiz-Aleman, Intrust Bank; and Cesario Rodriguez, High Touch Technologies. 

The Raise My Head project’s goal is to help the Raise My Head Foundation create a retail plan for their locally made products. The Raise My Head Foundation provides women who are breaking free from sex trafficking a safe residence to heal and acclimate back to normal society. They have started a cottage industry to provide employment skills, a paycheck for residents, and program sustainability by producing and selling all-natural skincare products such as body creams, lotions, scrubs, and more. With COVID-19 limitations, the team still managed to place a KWCH 12 news story about the program that can be used any time for promotion, brainstormed ways to promote their products, conducted research on getting UPCs placed on their products, and located retailers willing to place their products. Raise My Head team members are Brooke Feikert, Emprise Bank; Shea Griffin, Koch Industries; David Herrmann, KWCH Channel 12; Aliex Kofoed, Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas; Megan Madasz, WSU Tech; Kim Wilhelm, KWCH Channel 12; and Cassie Zeiner, Butler Community College. 

Hosted by Butler Community College with support from Spirit AeroSystems, Evergy, Meritrust Credit Union and Envision, 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.

Advance Kansas Class XII, 2020