Category: Education (Page 1 of 2)

Sister Cities Bridges Communities and Hearts

Kelly Schultz, Megan Durner, and Joan Durner share the positive impact Sister Cities is making in Lawrence.

Megan Durner, incoming Senior in Lawrence, discovered her love for cultural exchange as a Freshman. Through the Sister Cities program Durner’s family hosted a student from Germany. It was such a positive experience, the family hosted again the following summer.

This summer Durner became the exchange student, traveling to Eutin, Germany, a Lawrence Sister City since 1989.

“Being in Germany is the best thing that has ever happened to me,” said Durner. “I truly learned what it was like to live in someone else’s shoes. I relished learning the differences and similarities in how we live.”

As soon as Durner received information about her Eutin host family, she started talking with her host sister. “By the time we met she felt like family.”

The whole trip felt like “something out of the movies,” said Durner. The students went to class, on day trips, and took in the beauty of the small lake-side town. 

2019 will mark the 30th year of Lawrence and Eutin’s history as Sister Cities. Kelly Schultz, from the Sister Cities Governing Board, shared an update on changes in the board’s structure.

The City of Lawrence has recently restructured several of its boards in order to improve efficiency and combine like-efforts. Sister Cities is now managed by a Governing Board and will continue to benefit from financial support from the City for operating expenses. While this has reduced the board size from 14 to 9, the change has provided greater autonomy.

Lawrence has three Sister Cities: Eutin, Germany, Hiratsuka, Japan, and Iniades, Greece. The goal of Sister Cities is to “Promote peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation — one individual, one community at a time.”

Schultz thanked Lawrence Central Rotary for their support of Sister Cities programming. “The goal of good international relations is something Rotary is very interested in. It’s also a way to assist students with an incredible educational opportunity. Sister Cities combines these two goals.”

Schultz encouraged the Club to send a Rotarian on the 2019 delegation to Eutin, celebrating the 30 year international friendship.

Sunrise Project Grows More than Gardens

Gardens. Orchards. Cooking. Worms. All are ingredients to connecting people to good food, community and the environment, according to Emily Hampton, Executive Director, and Melissa Freiburger, Director of Programs, at Sunrise Project.

Sunrise Project is an effort to “empower people to live healthy, self-determined lives through engagement with food and the environment to build a socially just community.” It’s a significant challenge, as some people in Lawrence do not know much about where food comes from or how to prepare it to eat.

The non-profit organization is developing a center that includes workshop space, a community kitchen, and gardens. The group has also planted a small orchard. Community members are invited to enjoy the harvest by picking what they need to bring home.

Healthy Sprouts provides programming to child care centers and in-home daycares that includes gardens, food-based curriculum, family engagement and farm connections. For older children, Sunrise facilitates a cooking and gardening club at Cordley Elementary and a cooking club at New York Elementary. Sunrise is also building a worm bin to demonstrate vermicomposting, the process of composting using worms.

In addition to its outreach to young people, Sunrise Project has partnered with Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department to develop a health equity model. Eight Community Coordinators were hired and trained in food systems, local policy and civic engagement. They then went out to gather everyday stories and experiences with food in Douglas County. Those stories were incorporated in the Food Plan that will inform future decisions in the county for years to come.

Ray, son of Lawrence Central Rotarian Audrey Coleman, stands with his sister Zea after the club meeting they attended with their mom. Ray was so inspired that he drew apples, cherries, and a tree while listening to the presentation.  The Sunrise Project hit its mark!

Southwest Middle School Students Envision the Future

Over two dozen eighth graders from Southwest Middle School told Lawrence Central Rotarians their ideas about how to make the world a better place. The students are all members of the Future City team that placed first in regional competition and then took home the fifth-place prize at the national Future City competition in Washington, D.C. In May, members of the team will give their presentation once again at the annual meeting of Underwriters Laboratories, a Future City sponsor. They are one of two teams who have been invited to attend the meeting.

The Future City competition encourages middle schoolers nationwide to “imagine, research, design and build cities of the future.” This year the challenge for the competition was “The Power of Public Space.” The Southwest team selected Jakarta, Indonesia, to re-imagine 150 years in the future. They called their new city “Teratai,” a word that means lotus in Indonesian, symbolizing “the peace and serenity that is part of the rebuilt city.”

In the process of their work, the students learned and followed engineering methods: identify the problem; learn the specifications; brainstorm solutions; design it; build it; then test, improve, and re-design. The program requires each team to develop a project plan, create the city virtually, compose a 300-word essay to describe their solution, build a working model out of recycled materials, and present their concept in a seven-minute talk.  Co-coaches Danielle Lotton-Barker and Jamie Shaw guided the team in their work.

When asked what they had learned from their experience, the students repeatedly exclaimed about the power of teamwork. They came together last fall as individuals with diverse talents, interests, and expertise, and they learned to work together to create not only a prize-winning product but also to develop respect for each other’s contributions and strong friendships. Several said that they intend to pursue careers in engineering and related professions because they enjoyed working on the project so much.


Mail Ballot Supports Student Centered Learning

USD 497 Superintendent Kyle Hayden brought a message to Lawrence Central Rotarians focusing on an upcoming mail-in ballot election.

Kyle Hayden grew up in Sabetha, Kansas, and attended college at Tabor, later earning an advanced degree at Emporia State University. He worked at several teaching assignments in the state before serving five years as Assistant Superintendent for USD 497. He has been on the job for one year, presiding over the seventh largest district in the state, including 1,850 employees and 11,700 students. The District is experiencing steady growth with a ½% to 1% growth increase a year. Kyle Hayden has three children, and his wife is a teacher at Free State High School.

The District strives to achieve a creative engagement of teachers, parents, and community in order to provide and excellent education. Toward that end the May 2, 2017 Mail Ballot Election is intended to address long standing building deficiencies, primarily for the middle schools and high schools. These schools are all in need of more flexible spaces, energy efficiencies and more secure entrances. Due to its age Lawrence High School is a particular focus of the plan.  The development of this proposal was the charge of a Facilities Planning Committee, focus groups, administrators, staff and students. The result is an 87 million dollar bond proposal with 58,000 dollars identified for Lawrence High School. A 2.4 mill tax on local property will be required to fund the plan.

The election time line provides for voter registration to be completed by April 11. Ballots will be mailed April 12 and must be marked and returned to the County Clerk’s Office by noon May 2. Work could start as soon as next summer if the Bond is approved. More information on the Facilities Master Plan and the Mail Ballot measure may be viewed at the District web site.

Van Go: An Artistic Path to Success

Van-Go Development Director Eliza Darmon

Van Go is a unique and creative non-profit program that has provided employment, guidance, and success for disadvantaged youth in the Lawrence community.  Development Director Eliza Darmon presented the story of this award -winning program started 20 years ago by Lynn Green with a modest Arts Commission grant.

Van Go has grown into an arts based social service and jobs program serving at-risk teens aged 14-24.  Van Go operates a year-round after school and summer job training experience utilizing local businesses, nonprofits, and community members who provide over 100 youth employment opportunities annually.  Young people are usually referred to Van Go through school social workers and have an IEP, a mental health diagnosis or have been in the court system.  Some 70 percent of these young people live in poverty.  Accordingly, the program is committed to providing a support system which includes academics and tutoring, counseling, encouraging a healthy lifestyle and other life skills.  Clients participate in Bench Mark, an eight weeks employment program in which a bench is constructed and placed in the community.  The Adornment program employs 22 clients to produce art and decorations for the yearly Van Go recognition ceremony.  Young people also plan and paint a mural each spring.  A tile recognition wall also provides employment with colorful fused tiles representing over 700 donors.

Van Go has a budget of $743,000 with almost half coming from Federal, City and County funding.  The rest comes from donations, fundraisers, art sales, two well-attended annual dinners, and an on-site gallery that is open 9:00 am through 5:00 pm.  The Van Go website is

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