Getting to see aspects of a city many of its residents don’t get to see or just take for granted is a perk, but participants in Leadership Kansas get much more out of the program than sightseeing.
Many members of the 2018 class of the program administered by the Kansas Chamber arrived in Hays on Wednesday to start its three-day visit to tour area sites and learn about local issues.
The Leadership Kansas program runs from April through November, meeting for three days each month in a different city.
Wednesday afternoon, they toured Hays aircraft manufacturer RANS Designs, 4600 U.S. Highway 183 Alternate, and got a look at the collections at Sternberg Museum of Natural History, 3000 Sternberg Drive.
“It’s a whole new perspective. You think of airplanes, but you don’t think of how they’re built,” said Ifrah Ahmed, a food scientist from Garden City.
Cindy Wilson, who works for Westar Energy in Topeka, said she was familiar with Hays only because it’s a stopping point while traveling to Colorado, so being able to see more of the city was “incredible.”
Through Leadership Kansas, she said, she’s learned about industries she didn’t know much about even in Topeka, where she works for Westar Energy.
Thursday, the group traveled to Rooks County, where they learned about entrepreneurship at a tour of Plainville’s Dessin Fournir and the challenges of rural health care from a panel discussion at Rooks County Health Center.
Back in Hays in the afternoon, they toured Gella’s and LB Brewing, 117 E. 11th, learned about downtown development from a panel discussion and servant leadership from Christie and Curt Brungardt, founders of Jana’s Campaign.
They were to spend today at Fort Hays State University’s Center for Applied Technology to learn about water issues and higher education.
“We’re very intentional about covering topics. Instead of a little bit here, a little bit there, we take an in-depth look at each topic at each individual session,” said Blake Benson, a 2010 alumnus of Leadership Kansas who volunteered to coordinate this year’s class with local chair people.
Hays Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tammy Wellbrock is Hays’ chairwoman.
Participants in Leadership Kansas are nominated by local and statewide groups, chamber of commerce members, elected officials and other individuals. A board of trustees with Leadership Kansas then invites them to apply and selects 40 of the applicants for each year’s class, considering their level of personal and professional improvement, community involvement and honors and awards received.
“We’re not making leaders. This isn’t a leadership development program. Everyone in this class has already shown leadership in their community, in their profession,” Bensen said.
“It’s really to make them more aware of topics and issues from a statewide level, so as they progress their leadership roles, they’re more well-versed in what Kansas as a whole has to offer,” he said.
Ahmed said she has learned much about the state during this year’s program.
“It’s a good opportunity to see Kansas has more to offer than people know, and there’s an incredible diversity, a lot of things to learn. I got an opportunity to meet incredible people, see incredible places. Breathtaking. I’ve loved every minute of it,” she said.