By Ayesha Vishnani
Every graduating senior receiving financial literacy education. More residents in good paying jobs.
These were just some of the goals a group of community leaders identified for Johnson County over the next five years at United Community Services’ annual Human Service Summit. This year’s summit, which had the theme “Navigating the Future,” started with an exercise that asked the attending mayors, business owners, school administrators and other leaders to envision where Johnson County will be in five years.
“I want you to come up with at your tables three headlines that describe Johnson County in 2022,” facilitator Karen Dehais told the group, “that describe what vision we have achieved in 2022 to make Johnson County better and stronger.”
After a few rounds of discussions, attendees narrowed down the list of headlines they hope to see in the future. These included headlines such as “100 percent of high school students receive financial literacy education provided by private corporate partners” and “Public private partnerships work to increase number of Johnson County residents employed in higher living jobs by 15 percent.” Participants were also asked to discuss what actions and collaborations are needed currently to “achieve the headline.”
There were also two panel sessions which included leaders within the community including Interim Superintendent of the Olathe School District, Patricia All and Olathe Mayor Mike Copeland. The panels also included leaders of different outreach organizations such as United Way of Greater Kansas City and the Caring for Kids Network. They talked about homelessness, minimum wage, financial literacy and other issues.
“It was very intentional to start the day off with the panel representing the different sectors of the community,” United Community Services Executive Director Julie Brewer said. “Not only to hear sectors perspectives but to hear some examples of current collaborations.”
United Community Services celebrated its 50th anniversary by facilitating conversations on health and human service issues like poverty, diversity, mental health and child care through a data presentation, a series of panels and interactive activities.
UCS is a nonprofit organization that provides data analysis and resources to different groups within Johnson County and surrounding areas. Shawnee Mission Board of Education member Brad Stratton said UCS is crucial in providing information for the district when they make important decisions.
“We as a school district rely heavily on UCS’s data about what’s going on and the trends in this district, we don’t have the resources to pull up all this data,” Stratton said. “Even the last boundaries data we had to use a lot of the data. We were very cognizant of making sure that we looked at the number of students in free-reduced lunch, all the different poverty indicators in those areas, both current and future trends.”
The summit this week concluded with Brewer recognizing the work of the individuals who participated in the program and the need to continue to work toward the plans for the future.
“Intentionally, this room is full of people who not only lead their organization, but are also boots on the ground in the organization,” Brewer said at the summit. “Because it’s people of all levels who will make a change and difference.”