SAINTS PERSPECTIVE, SCCC President Brad Bennett
The Seward County Community College campus was closed Monday in recognition of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. In fact, the Saints got an early start observing the legacy of Dr. King on Friday morning, when the local MLK Scholarship organization hosted a breakfast and fundraiser on campus.
Even though the MLK Scholarship has been a local tradition for many years, this was the first time SCCC was involved with a celebration. It was a beautiful way to start the day, literally, as the group chose a Valentine’s/Love theme for the carefully decorated tables. I was also glad to see a cross-section of community members attending. Folks from the City of Liberal, USD 480, and the Liberal Area Coalition for Families, along with local church members, students, and SCCC administrators, trustee Kay Burtzloff, and staff members all sat down together to enjoy pancakes, bacon, and eggs.
Faculty were unable to attend due to teaching obligations. That’s a fitting detail, as their work achieves just as much good for the causes championed by Dr. King as our celebration did. They were busy providing what our students need to claim their share of the American dream.
During the breakfast, emcee Linda Whyte, spouse of pastor and event speaker the Rev. Larry Whyte, encouraged attendees to stand and read quotes from Dr. King interspersed with the centerpieces. Later, more quotes from Dr. King came to mind when thinking about what the college aims to do for our students, whatever their skin color or background: “Love that does not satisfy justice is no love at all,” and “It seems to me that education has a two-fold function to perform in the life of man and in society: the one is utility and the other is culture. Education must enable a man to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility the legitimate goals of his life.”
Justice and education, the ability to reach big goals. At SCCC, our mission statement speaks to these ideas: “Seward County Community College provides opportunities to enrich and improve each person’s life and the advancement of the community and those we serve.”
Students of United States history can’t help but be aware that such opportunities have not always been available to each person. The long-term results show the difference in having a college degree, the ability to earn better wages, and the economic and social advancements that flow from both those achievements.
I often remind our faculty and staff that SCCC is all about second chances. Many of our students are the first in their families to walk through the door of higher education. Many are “returners,” students who tried college years ago and stopped attending because they didn’t believe it was for them. Some walked away because, as our former colleague Dr. Todd Carter pointed out, “life happens” in the form of a house fire, a sick child, a car accident, or the pressures of trying to balance work and studies.
Second chances are not just for individuals, however. Second chances are also for systems, cultures, and societies. We often hear life coaches and public speakers say that life is a long series of choices to “grow or die.” SCCC is a great example of this principle. We continually strive to grow, whether that means reviving a long-dormant program like agriculture, expanding our CDL and diesel departments, or offering an incredibly wide variety of continuing education classes through Business & industry.
We also provide our students and community the opportunity to grow through embracing diversity and inclusivity. More than 30 international flags in our student union recognize the many students from around the world who have contributed to a campus culture that welcomes different perspectives. Our students have the opportunity to sit in class alongside peers who may have grown up in Kansas, but speak only Spanish at home, or who arrived in Liberal after years in refugee camps in Africa or Asia. There’s so much to learn from our fellow humans, whether they are classmates or students enrolled in a course we teach.
Along with celebrating the person Dr. King was and the progress we have made to achieve some of the goals he dreamed of, SCCC is committed to continuing the work he began. It’s a process of growth, and it is worthy of our best efforts.