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Leadership Wichita 2014

Posted on August 21, 2015 by under Community, Leadership, Things to Do.    

Last year I completed Leadership Wichita. I had some amazing experiences, made some new friends, and got a really cool plaque for my office. Besides that, I wrote a letter to my future self that’s significantly shaping my choices this year (and years to come).

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First let me tell you about Leadership Wichita. Leadership Wichita is a leadership training program through the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce that is unlike any other leadership training program I’ve ever experienced. There were eight sessions in total and I got to participate in some amazing, enlightening, life-changing activities that I would never have experienced otherwise. I didn’t take a lot of pictures because I didn’t want my classmates to think I was weird but I did take a few that I’d like to share with you.

I got to spend half a day at Wichita West High School and learned that, despite all of its challenges, USD 259 is actually a great school district. They’re this really cool thing at West High where you declare your academic focus (whether it be Business and Culinary Arts, Engineering and Manufacturing, Fine Arts and Communication, or Health Sciences and Human Services) and you get to take classes toward that focus during your high school years. It’s a really great opportunity to learn whether you really have the passion or aptitude for something. For instance, had I known sooner that Engineering wasn’t for me, then I wouldn’t have wasted four years in college pursuing it. The students in the Business and Culinary Arts academy learn skills that they can use to become entrepreneurs right out of high school, if they so choose. It’s really cool.

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But it was the kids that I got to spend time with that really impressed me most. Since there were 30 of us in our Leadership Wichita class, we were divided into four groups. Some of us got to spend time with each of the academies. Our lunch that day was prepared by the Business and Culinary Arts students assisted by some of our Leadership Wichita classmates. They prepared their award-winning school lunch that they were invited to Washington, DC to present at a national competition. The lunch had to meet budget (so that schools could afford to feed it to thousands of kids), nutritional requirements, and also be delicious. They served us buffalo chicken mac and cheese, some kind of red cabbage and corn salad, and a peach crisp topped with granola for dessert. It was a surprisingly delicious meal for about a dollar a person.

I wasn’t part of that group but I was lucky enough to spend time with the Engineering kids who were some of the smartest students I’d ever met. They were taking Engineering classes in high school that I didn’t take until college. They were learning CAD and printing things with their 3D printer. As a parting gift, they gave me one of these puzzles that they designed and made in their classroom. I got to design and make one of the pieces on the computer. It was awesome.

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We also got to spend time at the Wichita/Sedgwick County joint training facility at Lake Afton doing shoot/don’t shoot simulations. The exercise was really nerve-wracking and gave me a greater appreciation for the stress that our law enforcement officers go through. They really don’t get enough credit for the work they do.

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Another session was spent doing mock interview, receiving feedback, learning about working with the media, and we got to watch a live newscast at the KWCH station at the end of that session.

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This is a picture of Ryan Bond, one of my Leadership Wichita classmates. We voted him into to the Leadership Wichita Board of Trustees.

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This is a picture of me with one of my social media idols, Lou Heldman from Wichita State University. We’d met years ago through Twitter but since neither of us haven’t really gone to any tweetups recently our paths hadn’t crossed much. He was one of our presenters for our Leadership Wichita session about media. It was nice to run into him and listen to him speak on a topic that he’s very passionate about.

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This is me with another one of my classmates who I really connected with, Stacy Gear. She is such an amazing person and super funny, too.

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This is me with Michelle Stroot, another classmate who is quiet but also amazing. We were the two shortest people of the group.

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Mom and dad both got to attend my Leadership Wichita graduation banquet.

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My friend Faith came. My boss Ginger was there. Isaac and his wife, and Don and his wife were at the graduation banquet also.

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It was such an amazing experience. All of the sessions were great (well, except for when they fed us jail food – LOL – JK – even that was really good too). During one of the sessions we got to write letters to our future selves, which brings me to the title of this blog entry. I had challenged myself to become more become more involved in the community. I have lived in Wichita for over 20 years now. It’s time that I invested in our community because this is my home. I’d always wanted to be more involved but I just kept putting it off and putting off. Well, after reading my letter to myself, I decided that procrastination time was over.

I made a couple of significant decisions this year. I joined the Andover Rotary Club. I had planned on telling you all about it in this blog post but now that I’ve made it so lengthy I decided I probably best save it for later. I also joined the Kansas DUI Impact Center board of directors. I’m also helping to connect others in my organization who want to get more involved in the community with nonprofits that they’re passionate about so, while I can’t be on ten nonprofit boards, at least I have people I know and trust who will be helping these other nonprofit organizations serve the community.

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I owe my 2015 self in part to my Leadership Wichita experience. I cannot say enough about this program. It was really life-changing for me. Among all the things I learned, I learned that I can do so much more for the community than what I’m already doing. The experience ignited something that was already in me. It just needed a catalyst, which is what Leadership Wichita did for me.

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