I read recently in the Washington County News that school need not be closed for the summer. Kids can learn all year around, just in different forms in different seasons. Some planned and unique learning has been taking place with youth in Hanover, Linn and Washington this summer with green thumbs being encouraged, talents in the arts explored, and civic concepts raised. Another place where youth are being engaged and challenged is in the Solomon Valley.
Last December the Kansas Department of Education invited school districts and friends to Topeka for a forum featuring Pine Bush, New York, and their approach to career engagement and re-attraction of young persons. Jeff Travis of USD 273, Eric Burks of NCK Tech, Heather Hartman of Mitchell County Community Development and yours truly attended and then pondered the what-ifs upon traveling home. Strategies were developed in subsequent months discussing a pilot summertime career exploration and youth leadership program.
The result was a Career Exploration and Leadership Program available to incoming 7-9th grade students for nine days over the course of three weeks in June. Students learned how communities work, play and survive in rural Kansas. They explored applied agriculture, wildlife biology, food creativity, health care, business technology, graphic design, worldwide advertising, civic leadership, robotics, as well as entrepreneurship. Their heads were not in books or computers, but examining life via microscopes and safety glasses while their hands were all over tools of the various trades they encountered.
This was not a passive program. NCRPC supported this with a small gift from its modest tax credit initiative. Other support came through the school district, technical college and donations such as the local Rotary Club. A big round of applause is well deserved for student guides Cris Adams and Stephanie Litton of USD 273.
Heather Hartman, Mitchell County Community Development Director, says it was a great first year. “I know my measure of success was hearing from several students ‘Wow, I didn’t know I could do this job here,’ and ‘I just figured out what I want to do when I grow up,’ ” Hartman says.
Students are eager to explore and develop their loyalties to place. Costs need not be elaborate. NCRPC is ready and able to help you pilot a similar project in 2018. Let’s engage and try to retain bright young minds and their innovative interests.