SMSD News: One Shawnee Mission gathers at Fall Breakfast

The Shawnee Mission Education Foundation has become the first affiliate of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, giving families in the Shawnee Mission School District with children ages birth to 5 years

The Shawnee Mission Education Foundation has become the first affiliate of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, giving families in the Shawnee Mission School District with children ages birth to 5 years old the opportunity to sign up to receive a free, age-appropriate book each month through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library! For more information and to sign up visit www.smef.org/dolly.

This makes the Foundation the first affiliate of the Imagination Library in Johnson County to offer this program to children, even before they enroll in the district. Kim Hinkle, executive director of the Shawnee Mission Education Foundation, announced the program during the Sept. 22, 2022 Foundation Fall Breakfast. The Breakfast brought Shawnee Mission School District supporters together at the Overland Park Convention Center to celebrate what can be accomplished because “We are one Shawnee Mission.”

“As one Shawnee Mission we work to make sure every child achieves their personal best,” Hinkle shared. “We are all thrilled that years before these children are old enough to learn in our schools, opportunities to explore and connect with books right in their home will be a part of their story.”

Hinkle shared the announcement with help from Leigh Anne Neal, chief of early childhood learning and sustainability, Melissa Rooker, executive director of the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund, and Jo Yun, president of the Foundation board of directors. All costs associated with the program will be covered by the Shawnee Mission Education Foundation and the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund. 

The surprise announcement followed a morning full of Shawnee Mission School District celebrations.

Superintendent Dr. Michelle Hubbard and Students

The Breakfast featured a conversation between Superintendent Dr. Michelle Hubbard and Shawnee Mission students. Kiko Rodriguez, a Shawnee Mission West senior and Leadership Shawnee Mission graduate, Michael Houser, Shawnee Mission Northwest senior and Leadership Shawnee Mission graduate, and Lenexa Hills fourth-grader Sophie Lewczenko led the superintendent discussion.

They discussed facilities improvements across the district made possible by the $264 million bond passed by voters in 2021. This year, Shawnee Mission opened a newly rebuilt Westwood View Elementary School. They talked about the many facilities projects completed, underway, and beginning across the entire district. 

With Read Across SMSD now in its second year, Dr. Hubbard highlighted the program, which encourages reading for all ages. Presented in partnership with NEA-Shawnee Mission, Read Across SMSD provides numerous opportunities for our community to celebrate books and cultivate a culture of belonging for every student. This year, The Shawnee Mission Education Foundation has ensured that Read Across SMSD titles are available to students in every SMSD school.

The student interviewers also asked Dr. Hubbard to reflect on the theme “We are One Shawnee Mission.” She thanked teachers, staff, and community for making us one Shawnee Mission.

“We are diverse and all of our school communities look different,” she shared. “All have different characteristics, but at the end of the day we are one Shawnee Mission and we celebrate and cheer for each other. We pick each other up and support each other and our differences – those things that make us unique – are our strengths.”

 We Are One Shawnee Mission

Hinkle, along with hosts and Leadership Shawnee Mission graduate Dom Dawson, Shawnee Mission South senior, and Alyssa Alvey, a senior from Shawnee Mission East, took a look at the achievements and talents of Shawnee Mission students and staff including:

  • Unified Bowling Dr. Todd Dain, Shawnee Mission South principal, joined the SM South Unified Bowling Team on stage. Unified Bowling brings students of all abilities together to compete on the same bowling team. In Shawnee Mission, all high schools have Unified Bowling teams and Unified Bowling is now a championship-level sport. Shawnee Mission South’s team was placed on the Special Olympics ESPN Honor Roll for promoting inclusive programs and creating an accepting school environment for all students. “Inclusion is something we take seriously at Shawnee Mission South and throughout the Shawnee Mission School District,” Dr. Dain expressed.
  • Real World Learning Laura Harsch, business to education program officer for the Shawnee Mission Education Foundation, welcomed several special guests to highlight Real World Learning opportunities in Shawnee Mission. Jennifer Lyon from JE Dunn, Addie Perry, John Diemer fourth grader, and John Diemer teacher Ashley Jensen spoke about how the construction of a new John Diemer elementary school has provided learning opportunities. The JE Dunn team has helped students explore construction in a variety of ways including learning about blueprints and viewing the construction site.

Luis Montanez, a SM North senior and Leadership Shawnee Mission graduate, joined Brian Gosseen from Newkirk Novak Construction Partners. Montanez is Newkirk Novak’s first high school intern and he is gaining Real World Learning experience working on the Pawnee Elementary rebuilding project. Through the experience, Montanez has gained an OSHA-10 certification, learned to read drawings and plan sites, and is gaining skill in communicating effectively, he said.

Sarah Lauck, vice president of human resources, talent, and belonging at H&R Block, spoke about how the experience of hiring 3 interns last spring exceeded expectations. They are now planning to host ten interns this spring, sharing that it is a win-win for students, schools, and businesses. Anyone interested in connecting with Shawnee Mission students for mentoring, job shadows, or internships can get started by contacting Laura Harsch.

  • Breakfast hosts Hinkle, Dawson, and Alvey provided a preview of this year’s Scholarship Shawnee Mission program. In the 2021-2022 school year, the program brought more than $2.1 billion in scholarship offers to SMSD students from 46 colleges and universities. This year, the program includes 54 college partners and both seniors and juniors will receive scholarship offers. Hinkle shared that the Shawnee Mission Education Foundation will be making announcements at all five Shawnee Mission high schools in October. The hosts also recognized the multiple graduates of Leadership Shawnee Mission at the breakfast. Leadership Shawnee Mission is an invitation-only leadership development program offered through the Shawnee Mission Education Foundation.
  • In a grand finale performance, choirs from all Shawnee Mission High Schools shared the song “Sisi Ni Moja” – a Swahili song whose title means “We are One.”

The Shawnee Mission School District regularly shares news about student art on www.smsd.org and on the district’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. If you have a tip for consideration, please let us know at adcommun@smsd.org.

Shawnee Mission School District is the third largest school district in Kansas. The district serves students in Pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade in 34 elementary schools, five middle schools, five high schools, and several educational centers. It has been consistently ranked among the finest school districts nationwide for its high student performance. The district’s objective is that each student will have a personalized learning plan that will prepare them for college and careers, with the interpersonal skills they need for life success. The district serves a diverse student population from 14 cities within northeast Johnson County, Kansas, which is 10 miles from downtown Kansas City, Missouri. For more information, visit www.smsd.org

About the Shawnee Mission Education Foundation

The Shawnee Mission Education Foundation’s mission is to advance scholarship and leadership, to enable all Shawnee Mission students to achieve their potential. We believe all students deserve equitable access to education including academics, leadership, and social and emotional learning. 

Through a strong partnership with the Shawnee Mission School District, the Foundation provides countless opportunities for our students from early childhood to high school, college and career. The Foundation is proud to support District initiatives, educational enhancement opportunities, as well as Foundation-sponsored programs, like the Shawnee Mission Cares Fund, Leadership Shawnee Mission, Scholarship Shawnee Mission, and Real World Learning. For more information, please visit www.smef.org.