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Westar, Sherdeill Breathett honored with Diversity Awards

Westar Energy Diversity Award
Published: Thursday, November 12th, 2015

Westar Energy and Sherdeill Breathett were honored Friday, Oct. 30, during the annual Excellence in Diversity Awards Breakfast hosted by Butler Community College.

The event was held at the Abode Venue in downtown Wichita.

Westar Energy was presented the Corporate Diversity Award by Dr. Kimberly Krull, Butler Community College president. The Corporate Diversity Award is given to a business which demonstrates exceptional leadership by embracing diversity and inclusion in the workplace and contributing significantly to transforming the community into an inclusive environment. Krull highlighted Westar’s emphasis on talent recruitment and retention, and applauded their investment in education.

“At Westar, building trust and confidence means taking to heart the needs of those they serve,” said Krull. “Westar places a high value on talent acquisition and retention and is committed to maintaining a diverse and inclusive workforce that reflects the community. Growing the next generation of workers is important to Westar and we especially applaud Westar’s investment in education and in preparing the next generation for the future.”

Krull highlighted Westar’s Electrify Your Future program which exposes high school students to the wide variety of STEM professions at Westar through job shadow opportunities, mentorships, internships, summer partnerships and scholarships.

“Westar understands that the community relations, strategic partnerships, diversity and talent management initiatives they cultivate today will shape the workforce and leadership team of tomorrow,” Krull said.

Don Sherman, vice president of community relations & strategic partnerships for Westar Energy, accepted the award. “We are trying every day to move Kansas forward,” Sherman told the crowd. “We are indeed honored and humbled to receive the 2016 Corporate Diversity Award.”

The Diversity Leadership Award was presented to Sherdeill Breathett, Sr., by Mary Moon, Butler Community College executive director for Community Advancement. Breathett is the economic developer and trade zone administrator for Sedgwick County. The Diversity Leadership Award honors an individual who has made a difference in their organization and in the community by contributing significantly and over a sustained period of time to advancing diversity, inclusion and respect.

Sherdeill, also an associate pastor of Saint Mark’s United Methodist Church, was recognized for making a difference in the community, particularly as a positive role model and mentor for young people.  

Sherdeill is the president of Real Men, Real Heroes, a non-profit youth mentoring organization that strives to improve life outcomes for primarily at-risk or fatherless African-American boys.  After being qualified as an exemplary role model, Sherdeill was one of the original 32 men invited to join the project as heroes when the organization was established in 2008.  Some of his other community involvement includes Big Brothers Big Sisters; “Marriage for Keeps”; and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. In addition, Breathett helped strengthen Advance Kansas through his service following his participation in 2011. He was also instrumental in helping to ensure the success of Advance Kansas teen camps in 2014 and 2015.

Breathett moved the audience with an inspirational talk and personal testimony to his upbringing.

“I didn’t think I’d live to be 20.”
Sherdeill 2015 Excellence in Diversity

Breathett used his personal life and highlighted his own mentor, Mr. Gibson, as an example of how people can make life-changing differences in the lives of others. Gibson, a white man, stepped out of his comfort zone to engage with Breathett, who was trying to find his way as a young African-American male.

“He didn’t have to do that,” Breathett said, adding he wouldn’t be where he is today had Gibson not reached out. “If you can help a person see their potential inside, that’s the difference. The greatest investment you can make is in the life of an individual.”

Before concluding Brian Black, senior manager, Global Diversity and Corporate Administration for Spirit AeroSystems, Inc., also shared a few words. Black challenged ever

industry represented in the room to think about how they are can attract and retain quality talent to the Wichita community. “We must connect them to the community.” He added, “. . .it’s always fascinating to find the things we have in common.”

More about Advance Kansas and the Excellence in Diversity Awards Breakfast
The Excellence in Diversity Awards Breakfast is designed to recognize excellence in diversity and inclusion; increase awareness of the value of supporting efforts to address diversity challenges and opportunities in workplaces and in the community; and to raise awareness of Advance Kansas. Advance Kansas is a prestigious and innovative diversity program for business and community leaders that provides a framework for examining and pursuing solutions to challenges and opportunities most pressing in the community.

Thank you to our 2015 Diversity Awards Breakfast Sponsors:
Presenting Sponsor: Spirit AeroSystems, Inc.
Gold Sponsors, TECT Aerospace, Westar Energy
Premier Table Sponsors: Cox Communications, Diversity Leadership in Action, INTRUST Bank
Table Sponsors: Wichita SHRM; Koch Industries; Sedgwick County; Real Men, Real Heroes; Mennonite Housing Rehabilitation Services, Inc.