Lecture series, resources, events aim to strengthen region’s youth
Longtime Southwest Kansas personality Judge Tommy Webb will kick off the introduction of the SCCC Emerging Leaders Guild at an Oct. 26 appearance on the Seward County Community College campus. The 6 p.m. event at the Showcase Theater offers potent shot of positivity in a negative world.
While the guild is designed the encourage and equip students who show great promise, the lecture series will be open to the community as a whole. Students attend free, thanks to sponsorships; ticket price to the public is $25, with proceeds to benefit SCCC scholarships.
Webb, who served for many years as a district judge in Southwest Kansas, has experienced life from a perspective not shared by many. From his origins as a street orphan in postwar Korea to law school and a career focused on making the world better, Webb has made it his life focus to value and appreciate the qualities of other people.
“We need good people on campus, in our communities, in our high schools,” said SCCC development coordinator Chandler Kirkhart. “The goal for the Emerging Leaders Guild is to provide opportunities to students, at no cost to them, to be inspired and meet others who have a vision.”
Kirkhart credited SCCC men’s and women’s basketball coaches Jason Sautter and Austin Mefford for sparking the concept.
“The coaches are always looking for ways to empower their players and build the programs, and this, frankly, started out as a fund raising idea — bring in great speakers, enhance the community, raise funds for the Saints Athletics scholarships,” Kirkhart said. “Somewhere along the way, we realized what a great opportunity it was to invest back into our community and the region.”
“As a father and coach I am always conscious that I am helping create leaders for not only the generation a particular young person might be part of, but for their families and people coming after them,” Sautter said. “I became a coach because I was inspired by a coach I had growing up. With the Leadership Guild we feel that we can not only inspire our own teams, but we now have an avenue to give back to the region that is supporting us and our goals too at the college.”
Judge Tom Webb brings a positive message for a negative world in the Oct. 26 event at SCCC.
Thanks to a gift from a regional businessman who prefers to remain anonymous, Webb will be flying to Liberal for the kickoff session. The Oct. 26 program is the first of four planned for the academic year. In addition to lectures, SCCC hopes to provide networking, service projects, shadowing opportunities, and more. It’s all designed to refine the “diamonds in the rough” in regional youth and assist them in exploring their own facets and potential.
“Coming from a small town myself, I feel the schools in our region could use this to enrich their students,” said Kirkhart, a native of Turpin, Okla. He noted the endeavor is a way to “pay it forward” in the spirit of the Kansas Leadership Center. Many SCCC employees and community members took part in KLC training through the past year, thanks to a grant awarded to the Liberal Area Coalition for Families.
“The KLC folks love to talk about how anyone, anywhere, can be a leader,” said SCCC Director of Admissions Eric Volden. “That message is pretty powerful, especially for the young people I see when I am out recruiting.”
Kirkhart and Volden see the Emerging Leaders Guild as a tool for youth from many sectors to shine.
“We know there is excellence in the classroom, the community, clubs, church, athletic courts and fields, even the corner — social influence is powerful,” said Kirkhart. “The question is, what do you, as a young person, plan to do with the possibilities your life offers?”
Leadership, SCCC President Dr. Ken Trzaska added, “is not limited to high-status roles or outstanding achievements, though that may sometimes be the case. Leadership happens where people use their personal skills and abilities to take responsibility, improve the world, and chart their own course.”
SCCC asks youth leaders, educators, coaches and mentors to nominate high school youth to participate in the Guild. Limited assistance with transportation is available.