The Youth Leadership Butler Class celebrated its 20th graduation Monday evening at the El Dorado Community Building. Leadership Butler is an exclusive class offered to high school students showing promise in the roles of leadership, academics and positive roles in the community.
Students participating in the program involve themselves in not only leadership challenges, but obstacles offering outcomes of personal growth and understanding.
Tanner Swift, a meteorologist at KAKE News and a Youth Leadership Butler graduate of the class of 1996, began the evening by recognizing what it takes to become a positive, valuable leader.
"Leadership is the action of leading a group or organization," began Swift. "A good leader does not need a title. Sometimes a person with a title has poor leadership skills. Not everyone can be a leader, but we need leaders in our daily lives."
Swift went on to explain how the leaders in his life have influenced him – especially his wife.
"My wife, who is a stay-at-home mom of four young children, is a fantastic leader," said Swift. "She does not have an official ficial sounding title, but she is able to keep my household from erupting into ultimate chaos."
Swift's job at KAKE news held yet another example of the need for strong leadership in the community.
"This is Kansas and sometimes the weather does get serious and sometimes even life-threatening," began Swift. "In the studio, there are several tools that are at our disposal and we use them to keep people informed about what the weather is doing. Ultimately, leadership is somehow getting other people to do what you want them to do. If the weather is severe enough to cause a need for people to seek shelter, the meteorologists need to have the leadership skills and understanding to give the community a sense of urgency about reaching safety."
Swift went on to explain the young graduates need to gain their leadership skills by going out into the community. They need to build relationships with those they can learn from and stay in touch with. Those relationships will last throughout their lives.
"Leadership Butler is not only about leadership," agreed Becky Wolfe, executive director of Youth Leadership Butler, "but it is also about making connections. The curriculum consists of several tools and skills that are designed to help the youth later in life. They help to build connections and expand the youth's awareness of the communities around them."
Aside from the three main towns that are visited by the youth (Andover, Augusta and El Dorado), the group typically does their best to explore a lesser-known community as well, such as Benton, Cassoday, Rose Hill, Towanda, Whitewater or Potwin.
"We have 13 incorporated communities in Butler County and 10 public high schools," explained Wolfe. "We try to make a difference in all of them. The best way we can do that is with the class projects."
Page 2 of 2 - "For our class project this year, we wanted to focus on something that hurts teenagers every day," said Serwah Twumasi-Ankrah, Youth Leadership graduate from Andover Central High School. "We learned a lot of things from Leadership Butler – friendship, partnership and the ability to work well with others. We traveled to communities in the county that I had never heard of – like Rosalia. We learned our strong points and our weaknesses as well as how to improve on those weaknesses. I was given the opportunity to face my fear of heights at the first class. Leadership Butler was able to teach us things we would have never learned in school."
Twumasi-Ankrah went onto to explain about the class project that speaks about distracted driving. The video focused on main distractions teenagers often see while driving – pedestrians, music and fellow passengers. It also presented several facts about distracted driving and its consequences.
"Reading and responding to a text message takes an average of 4.6 seconds," the video explained. "That averages to the length of a football field when traveling 55 miles per hour."
The video, produced and filmed by the students, will be shown at area high schools in the county as part of the Youth Leadership Butler Class project.