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Event connects campus, downtown





The second annual Core2Campus will build on its 2013 debut with more students from other schools in Hays.

The Downtown Hays Development Corp. and Hays Convention and Visitors Bureau will partner again for the event from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Aug 21. Fort Hays State University will be joined by North Central Kansas Technical College and Hays Academy of Hair Design during the march from FHSU to downtown Hays.

The gathering aims to immerse students in the community and retain them. Led by FHSU President Mirta Martin, the procession also will feature Hays city commissioners.

"The biggest portion is that we want people to feel welcome because one of the reasons students have left Fort Hays is they didn't feel connected to their community," said Megan Colson, former DHDC executive director. "So, this is making that happen."

The program was also spurred by research suggesting many students were not familiar with downtown's offerings. Six hundred people in last year's event were introduced to the businesses, and 1,000 people are expected to take part in activities this year designed to promote downtown's assets.

"So many students come here for school and they don't realize that just a few blocks from them is wonderful dining and shopping, and people miss that," she said.

The first 500 students will receive a free barbecue meal from TK's Smokehaus, a downtown restaurant. Live music also will entertain participants.

Colson hopes the evening strengthens the bond between the students and the city.

"I feel that we are a very much a welcoming and inviting community, and we just needed to find a way to really connect with those students," she said.

Kent Steward, FHSU's director of University Relations and a Hays city commissioner, said the event promotes education.

"Everything we can do to emphasize the importance of education at any level, but especially higher education, and not just Fort Hays State, but those other entities, that's a good thing for the community," Steward said.

Including NCK Tech and Hays Academy of Hair Design in the program reflects Hays' strength in education.

"Hays has an awful lot to offer when it comes to higher education," he said. "Of course Fort Hays State is the big player, but all those other things are really important, also. I think that's great to have them involved."