The grounds at Seward County Community College will get some upgrades this summer, thanks to a $54,000 grant from the Liberal Area Coalition for Families and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas. In all, three separate projects will contribute to SCCC’s efforts to foster a safe and healthy campus.
It’s a strategic goal that aligns perfectly with the LACF “Pathways to a Healthy Kansas” initiative, said the non-profit’s director, Sarah Mersdorf Foreman.
“Some of it is directly health-focused, and other aspects of the three projects are designed to create an environment that encourages individuals to make those healthy choices,” she said. “The college will improve the trails, offer more healthy food and beverage options on campus, and create a smoke-free area in the main courtyard.”
The first project involves the Connections Trail System, which is now in its third phase of development. SCCC President, Dr. Ken Trzaska, sees the expanding pedestrian and bicycle network as a positive for the college and the community it serves.
“Our vision is to bring value to Liberal, and develop something like an oasis for families, for people who want to exercise outdoors, and create an environment that draws you in,” he said. “The trails literally connect campus to shopping and public resources in Liberal, and it’s an ongoing project to improve them.
“We’re preparing for the college’s 50th year, and part of this project will involve planting 50 more trees on the trail system.”
Other improvements include benches, trash cans, solar lighting and “things that will make it more appealing for community use, regardless of time of day or ability,” said Foreman.
At the heart of campus, the grant will fund a mobile coffee and healthy foods kiosk that aligns with Kansas nutrition standards.
“We want to offer more options to students and college employees,” said Foreman.
LACF board member and registered dietician Susan Lukwago added that often, it is regular exposure to healthy options that enables people to change their habits.
“Sometimes we hear people say, ‘healthy snacks are not tasty,’ and I would respond by asking, ‘What healthy snacks have you tried recently?’” said Lukwago. “Several years ago, yes, healthy options tasted like cardboard, but today, there are alternatives that really do taste good.”
Lukwago mentioned KIND bars, which, “I happen to know your college president really, really likes,” she said. “So whether it is fruit, or these high protein, tasty bars, or freshly baked muffins, I hope people will give the kiosk and the healthy foods it offers a try again.”
The third project on the list involves a smoke-free zone at the campus entrance.
“For a safe and healthy environment, this is something to address,” said Foreman. “We know that’s a big step, but at least making the area where there is the most traffic, visitors and people who walk through campus, a smoke-free area — that’s a good initial step.”
To accommodate smokers, the college will create a designated area with landscaping and seating.
“This is not about imposing on people’s views, but to create an environment that is pleasant for those who choose not to smoke, and don’t want to be exposed to second-hand smoke,” said Lukwago. “Truly, it’s intended to accommodate both points of view.”
Trzaska said he is excited about the possibilities presented by the funding.
“When we look at the big picture of campus expansion, construction, deferred maintenance, things like landscaping can seem incidental or less critical than, for instance, a roof that was damaged, or the need for IT resources,” he said. “The partnership with LACF helps us address the everyday environment where our team and students work, and create a resource for the community as well.