USD 490 and Butler Community College recognized businesses for their contributions to education during the School Bell Awards luncheon Tuesday.
The event, which was put on by the El Dorado Chamber of Commerce, began with a welcome from Chamber Board President Katie Runnion.
“We are here to recognize local businesses that go above and beyond in our community,” she said.
Some help in education and others in stimulating the economy.
Before they got to the awards, Julie Jensen, USD 490 curriculum director, recognized all of the Vision 2020 mentors.
“Thank you to all of the businesses that have been involved in the Adopt-A-Class program for the last seven years,” she said.
They have 210 mentors making up 49 teams that visit 50 classrooms. They have mentored more than 1,000 students in the last seven years.
“Imagine the difference this is making,” Jensen said.
She said the top three things she saw in surveys of mentors from the beginning of the year to the end was more trust, increased positive class interaction and increased self confidence.
They need seven more teams to mentor students next year for the new kindergarten classes. Those mentors stay with the class until they graduate.
“When we conceived of this we didn’t know how big it would get,” said Superintendent Sue Givens.
Next, the speaker for the lunch was introduced, Dan Soliday, president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kansas.
He talked to the group about the importance of community engagement.
“Community engagement is a phrase we have all heard before as business and community leaders,” he said. “We have heard it so often it becomes trite.”
He went on to tell the story of Piper Alpha’s oil rig disaster on July 6, 1988, deemed the worst catastrophe and killing more than 150 people. He said those on the platform had to make a decision: to jump into the freezing water and face possible death or to stay on the platform and face certain death.
“Today as a nation we face some burning platforms,” he said, giving the examples of unemployment, drugs, weak economy and increased poverty.
“In Kansas, nearly one out of four kids live at or below the poverty rate,” Soliday said. “That has increased nearly 10 percent in the last 10 years, the fastest growing child poverty rate in the U.S.
“For more of us, there is not a lot we can do about the larger impact, but we must ask ourselves on which platform we can engage,” he said. “We either engage or everything goes away. Community engagement is truly about partnership.”
There are three things people can do to be a positive force for change.
The first was to get involved.
“Give your time, dollars, expertise and resources to change life for a child,” he said.
Second is to look at what a person can pass on to someone else.
“Choose to be a mentor to someone else,” he said.
The third was to inspire and teach youth.
He said today there are 6,000 kids in Kansas BBBS, 80 percent live in a family with an income at or below poverty level.
“They need not just an education, but an adult to walk beside them,” Soliday continued.
“Of all of the burning platforms, I cannot think of one with greater consequences if we fail and not one with greater rewards if we work. Nothing will be more rewarding than giving of yourselves for the betterment of others.”
Following Soliday’s speech they moved on to the awards.
They announced the Golden Bell nominees and winner. The nominees included Art of Life Chiropractic, Butler County EMS, Kiwanis Club, El Dorado Sports Foundation and ICI.
“When you see the number of businesses involved, we have to limit our numbers,” Givens said. “You see why El Dorado is a special place and a good place to raise your children.”
The winner of this year’s school bell award was ICI, accepted by Tom Murry.
“It is very, very special,” Murry said of the award.
Being involved in his community is important to him.
“I was told by my very first mentor who said if you live in a community and work in a community, you owe it to give back,” Murry said. “I have always felt that way. When I joined ICI, Jim Clennan had the same attitude.”