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Speaker tells Soaring Students to dream big

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, May 8, 2014, at 10:15 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, June 10, 2014, at 6:40 a.m.

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Jeff Fluhr’s message to Wichita-area young people: Don’t be afraid to dream big.

Fluhr, president of the Wichita Downtown Development Corp., told a room full of hard-working, high-achieving young people – winners of The Eagle’s Soaring Student Awards – that they already were on their way to big things. And he urged them to use their energy and enthusiasm to help their communities.

“Each of us are city and community builders,” Fluhr said during a ceremony Thursday honoring the award winners at Wichita State University.

“You have a very important part in what happens to Wichita, and tonight is a celebration of what you’ve already started. … You’re bringing a new view. You’re bringing a new set of expectations. You’re bringing a new perspective,” he said.

“The goal is this: It’s for you to get your fingerprints on our community. We want you to own it. We want it to be part of who you are as individuals. … How do we build a city that you want to live in and that you want to develop?”

Fluhr delivered the keynote address at the ceremony, which honored 45 high school juniors from four counties.

The students – whose resumes include academic success, extracurricular activities, jobs and volunteer work – already inspire others, said Kim Nussbaum, The Eagle’s publisher.

“This (award) helps celebrate the total student – the student that excels not only in the classroom but outside the classroom,” Nussbaum said. “These kids are working 30 hours a week at jobs, they’re doing more volunteer work than some adults, and I’m just impressed by them.

“It’s a great opportunity to honor them and recognize them.”

The ceremony included snippets of video interviews with each of the award winners, in which they shared what they like about school, why they volunteer, how they overcame obstacles and where they see themselves in 10 years.

Chidinma Iweha, a student at Maize South, said she hopes the next decade finds her graduating from medical school and starting a career as a pediatrician.

“I just can’t wait to get out there and help people,” she said.

During the ceremony, Fluhr urged students to become leaders and shape their community’s future.

“Seek out your passion,” he said. “What is that thing that truly motivates you even when you’re exhausted? … That thing that when people get around you, it’s contagious, it’s infectious?”

Fluhr’s passion, he told the students and their parents, is city development. And he quoted legendary American architect and city planner Daniel Burnham:

“Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized.”

Make big plans, Fluhr said. Aim high. Encourage others. Have integrity, character and humility. And don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers.

“We don’t have to have all the answers for a vision,” he said. “Because if we have all the answers, the vision isn’t big enough. … We should welcome visions that challenge us, visions that seem impossible to achieve.”

Fluhr encouraged the students to continue doing the things that earned them this honor. That kind of hard work and energy, he said, really can change the world.

“Make no little plans for your future or the future of our community,” he said. “We want to ask the questions, ‘What if?’ or ‘Why not?’ … We need your leadership, your involvement, to create a more vibrant city.”

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @suzannetobias.

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