SAINTS PERSPECTIVE, SCCC President Brad Bennett
Anyone who has been part of a civic group, neighborhood social circle, or religious organization knows how large gatherings of people work: first, you show up; second, you contribute what you can. I have been thinking about this principle in terms of how Seward County Community College takes part in our larger community.
Our presence in Seward County, Southwest Kansas, and the wider High Plains and Panhandle region has been a given since the late 1960s when SCCC was established. Like any long-standing arrangement, it is easy to take things for granted and make assumptions that might turn out to be out of date. That’s why the college continues to seek out increased engagement with our community.
When you approach the people and events around you with fresh curiosity and a willingness to explore, you are more likely to find the sweet spot that matches what you have to offer with what someone needs.
SCCC has so much to offer: more than 40 programs for career and tech learning, traditional academic transfer courses, and short-course refreshers for those already in the work force. We have a beautiful campus that offers students an authentic, well-rounded college experience. We have high-quality instructors who have chosen to bring their passion and expertise to the classroom. We have life-changing opportunities and life-enhancing experiences for just about anyone.
However, knowing what our community needs is a little more complicated. That’s where relationship building comes in. Perhaps it is shared experiences in service to a good cause, like volunteering for a project in the community. When we interact with school children preparing for the classroom, we learn more about the concerns and enthusiasms of kids who are our future Saints.
When we join in a small-town festivity and engage in conversation with the participants, we find out what’s on the mind of those in our service area. We get a better sense of how to serve and partner with the people who make this part of the world so special.
And, when our students and staff show up to help unload a truck filled with supplies for a local food pantry, we cultivate empathy for those who are struggling, and develop a better sense of gratitude for our own lives. Compassion and kindness often accomplish with the most well-intentioned policy cannot.
One of the key directions in the college’s Strategic Plan through the next two and a half years is community engagement. We’ve already made progress in terms of encouraging our Saints family to reach out. SCCC now sponsors any employee who wants to join a local civic club, paying the membership dues and accommodating attendance at regular meetings. We’ve increased our participation in local and area events, from the recent PRCA Rodeo Parade to the Little World’s Fair and regional Chamber of Commerce banquets.
Another way to connect is quite simply through sponsorship and support of events and projects. Giving a nod to the amazing partnership between USD 480 and our new soccer program, we signed on as sponsors for the new electronic scoreboard at Redskin Field, where both SCCC men’s and women’s soccer teams play their home matches. If competitive sports is about the final score, this one was a win-win for Redskins and Saints.
It is not all athletics, either: SCCC contributed to this year’s season of Community Concerts, making tickets available to students enrolled in Music Appreciation classes and helping a local arts organization at the same time. We pitched in to help with a concert event in Satanta, where proceeds are donated to enhancement activities for school children and the community.
Here in Liberal, our Business & Industry division works closely with independent makers and creators, offering a wide array of classes that benefit the instructors and the students. If you want to expand your creative skills with SCCC Art Instructor Dustin Farmer, decorate beautiful cookies with local baker Julie Veenstra, or give your child a chance to learn a musical instrument or explore pottery with the local start-up KidzBe, B&I is expanding the opportunities for all.
As a tax-supported public institution, SCCC has a duty of stewardship to handle our finances with care and accountability. We endeavor to do so in a way that benefits the people who make our existence possible, enables us to continue to provide services to the community, and support a positive cycle of care and growth. If you have questions, suggestions, or requests, let us know! We are here for you, our community.