Great Grizzly Grads: Buchanan and Aikens Begin Their Lives Together With a Butler Education
Andover Couple Support the Community That Supported Them
Butler graduates Sophie Buchanan ‘23 and fiancé Skyler Aikens ‘20 are already taking advantage of their Grizzly education in their careers as fifth-grade teacher and Andover firefighter. Buchanan (Andover Central '20) advanced through the Butler & Emporia from Students to Teachers (BEST) program and Aikens (Andover ‘18) completed Butler’s Fire Science program.
The BEST program is a partnership between Butler and Emporia State University designed for students who wish to earn their bachelor's degree in Elementary Education without leaving Butler County. There are many benefits to the partnership, including near-guaranteed job acquisition for graduates and close campus accessibility.
“Being able to work towards my education while staying in Andover helped me maintain a steady job all while obtaining my degree,” Buchanan said. “I was able to be home with family, as well as my fiancé, so long distance wasn’t an issue for us. I was also able to help within my community, as well. Financially, this allowed me to live on my own because I was able to work while gaining education.”
Buchanan graduated with honors from the BEST program in 2023. She completed Butler’s side of the partnership in the fall of 2021 with two associate degrees and began the Emporia side in the spring of 2022. Buchanan accepted a position at Christa McAuliffe Academy and is confident that the program has prepared her well. “This program truly prepares you for the best,” Buchanan said.
“I got to know [Sophie] when she was a teacher’s aide in my daughter's class her senior year at Andover Central,” Butler Academic Advisor Katherine Zarchan said. “She continued to work at Meadowlark Elementary in Andover while she worked on her associate [degree]. She is one of my daughter's favorite people.”
The early classroom exposure and instruction she received helped Buchanan envision her role at Christa McAuliffe. “I want my classroom to really feel like a home away from home,” she said. “I would love to be that teacher [students] love to come back and see and feel like they can talk to me even if they aren’t in my room anymore. I want them to feel loved because they are. I will make sure they know that.”
Her fiancé Aikens received valuable connections and experience from Butler's Fire Science program that helped him secure and now maintain his position at Andover Fire-Rescue, a vital service to the Western Butler County community.
"Skyler represents the high standard we strive for within our program. He graduated from the BCC Fire Science program in 2020 and now works alongside me at Andover Fire Rescue,” Fire Science Lead Instructor Zach Lindsey said. “His dedication is inspiring, and he always goes the extra mile to keep our community safe. I'm proud to call him my brother and it's an honor to work with him."
The program is designed with classroom and field experience to ensure students are ready for the stresses likely to happen in the field. “He was able to gain friendships and many memories from his time [at Butler],” Sophie said of her fiancé. “Butler supported him by allowing him to stay at the fire station and gain hands-on experience in the field, all while working towards his certifications and degree.”
The Buchanan-Aikens wedding is scheduled for September of this year.
By Caleb Sanderson