Wichita-area groups among finalists for leadership training

02/08/2012 5:00 AM

02/08/2012 2:06 PM

Two plans by Wichita-area groups are among a handful of proposals in the running for a $1 million leadership training package, designed to promote civic change at a grassroots level.

The Kansas Leadership Center announced this week interviews are under way for seven finalists vying for its Academy for Team Leadership, the center’s first large, free civic training initiative. Among the finalists is a partnership between the Wichita and Derby school districts, which have proposed creating a new model for high school aimed at boosting the number of students prepared for college or careers upon graduation.

Local nonprofit Visioneering Wichita Health Alliance also is among the finalists. It plans to improve citizen health in a four-county area by focusing on mental and oral health, obesity and diabetes, healthcare access and health disparities.

The Leadership Center will provide up to four years of in-depth, immersion-style instruction — valued at as much as $1 million — to 400 people. The winner will be chosen in mid-March.

The contest’s announcement last October attracted interest from more than 100 organizations statewide; 21 submitted applications by the Jan. 13 deadline. Kansas Leadership Center president and CEO Ed O’Malley said the finalists took an active, community-wide approach to fueling change on one civic issue, rather than relying on policymakers — a key goal of the academy.

“They were intriguing because of the commitment they have to the idea of working differently … which is really the heart of this program,” O’Malley said. The center was established in 2007 by the Kansas Health Foundation to help build communities by fostering civic leadership.

“There’s a strong commitment from these seven organizations to this idea,” he said.

Five other finalists plan to focus on health, education and quality of life, if selected:

•  The Kansas State Department of Education teamed up with the Kansas Association of School Boards and Hutchinson-based Educational Services & Staff Development Association of Central Kansas to propose increasing graduation rates statewide.
•  Topeka-based child advocacy group Kansas Action for Children plans to decrease infant mortality statewide. The nonprofit works with legislators to improve the lives of Kansas families through economic, education and health policies.
•  Thrive Allen County will focus on the health of southeastern Kansans. The nonprofit promotes quality of life and rural revitalization in the county, located about two hours east of Wichita.
•  Dodge City Community College plans to use the training to improve the quality of life and economy in southwest Kansas by using collaborative efforts with others in the region.
•  Lawrence public schools and United Way of Douglas County will work to improve graduation rates at Lawrence-area high schools.

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