SMSD News: Leadership Shawnee Mission celebrates five years

The Shawnee Mission Education Foundation recently kicked off its fifth year of Leadership Shawnee Mission, a leadership development program for incoming juniors and seniors held in partnership with William Jewell College and the Tucker Leadership Lab.

 Representing all Shawnee Mission high schools, twenty-seven students participated in the prestigious, invitation-only summer program. Educators across the district nominate students they think would be strong candidates, and then students are invited to apply to the program. 

“Less than 1% of Shawnee Mission sophomores and juniors are invited to participate in the program. It is highly selective,” explained Kim Hinkle, executive director of the Shawnee Mission Education Foundation. “Our goal is to find hard-working, bright students who show a spark of leadership, but who may not have had the opportunity to develop their skills.”

During the intensive, two-week program students complete self-assessments and participate in activities and exercises designed to hone their leadership skills. Through a variety of interactive activities, they explore topics like conflict resolution, communication, responsibility, and trust. 

“I think what’s so special about Leadership Shawnee Mission is that you don’t just learn how to become a leader for other people, you learn how to be a leader for yourself,” shared SM West senior Max Napovanice. “You learn who you are, what your strengths are and how to work on those to be a better person. It’s been a great experience.”

During the program, students also gain practical opportunities for networking, mentorship, and resume-building. A highlight of the experience was being paired with a career mentor, Jaida Henderson, SM West senior shared. 

“I want to go into the behavioral sciences, to give back to my community and help people grow,” said Henderson who was paired with John W. Smart, behavioral health clinician at Health Partnership Clinic. “It’s been helpful to be able to get guidance from someone who is in a career I’m interested in.”

To celebrate the fifth anniversary of the program, participants from the previous leadership cohorts were welcomed back for a reunion and cook-out at the Center for Academic Achievement.

 Jetzel Chavira, Leadership Shawnee Mission class of 2019, is currently a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and holds a Mellon Curatorial Fellowship at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Chavira credits Leadership Shawnee Mission for teaching her the skills that helped her on her path after graduation.

“I’m not exaggerating, Leadership Shawnee Mission truly led me to where I am now,” shared Chavira. “In high school, I didn’t know how important the power of networking would be later. The leadership skills I learned have helped me get so many opportunities.”

Leadership Shawnee Mission class of 2019 graduate, Lee Marshall, is currently a student at Baker University majoring in Communication Studies. Marshall is on the football team and works in the admissions office as an admissions assistant, meeting prospective students and giving campus tours.

Marshall shared that the Leadership program was a great experience. In addition to preparing him for the future, it also was the catalyst for forming lasting friendships.

“I’m so glad to have been a part of this program,” expressed Marshall.

 Since its 2018 inception, the Leadership Shawnee Mission program has continued to change and grow. One thing that has not changed is the goal to shape the next generation of leaders.

“I hope that Leadership Shawnee Mission continues to expand, and that our students take the skills they learn to go out and change the world for the better,” expressed Hinkle.

The Shawnee Mission Education Foundation advances scholarship and leadership to enable all Shawnee Mission students to achieve their full potential. Click here to learn more about the Shawnee Mission Education Foundation.