Spirit Shadowships Photo

Collegiate prides itself on the opportunities it provides for its students.  Our greatest satisfaction, however, is seeing how those opportunities empower our students to see more, do more, learn more, and experience more than most.  In short, these opportunities imbue our students with confidence and, as our mission statement confirms, help them to “be the best versions of themselves.”  These opportunities range from participating in a myriad of athletic, artistic, and academic activities, to becoming comfortable speaking in front of varied audiences, attending tutorial time, traveling to fascinating places, strengthening work ethic and time management skills, and feeling supported by their teachers and counselors in all their endeavors. 

Collegiate’s Leadership Academy, part of the WCS Institute for Community Impact, is a great example of empowerment for our students. The Leadership Academy provides our students the opportunity to engage with community leaders and industry executives across the Wichita area. Director of the Leadership Academy Joyann Brake beautifully sums up the purpose and potential of these opportunities: "We believe graduating Spartans should have an understanding of who they are, and how their service may transform our communities and our world. As we build students with an aim to lead and make a difference, we believe we are positively affecting the culture for now and in the future." After bringing in over a dozen speakers to the school last year, the Leadership Academy has expanded its program, offering different tracks in the nonprofit, civic, and business sectors with which students can engage, including “shadowship” partnerships in various fields for this year’s seniors.  

Kicking off this year’s Leadership Academy speaker series was Spirit Aerosystems’ President and CEO Tom Gentile. Over forty WCS juniors and seniors were able to gain from Mr. Gentile’s wisdom as he spoke to them about his company, time management, the 737 Max, and COVID crisis management. As he shared his experiences, he touched on what he deemed key leadership traits as well as the importance of learning from failures and weaknesses.  Those in attendance listened intently, asked intelligent questions, and appreciated that they had the opportunity to learn from the leader of Kansas’ largest employer.  

In addition to this session, eight students in this year’s senior class will have the opportunity to work with mentors from Spirit in the areas of engineering, business, finance, entrepreneurship, and politics. These “shadowships” with their mentors will span the school year. In addition to the mentoring provided by members of the Spirit community, seniors have been paired with attorneys, doctors, veterinarians, local business owners and entrepreneurs, journalists, City Council members, and environmentalists, while others are working with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Habitat for Humanity, ICT SOS, Music Theater of Wichita, and Wichita Family Crisis Center.  These partnerships provide students the opportunity to learn directly from community leaders, and in doing so, ignite our students' passions to create meaningful change in Wichita and beyond.

These empowering opportunities wouldn’t be possible without the vision and hard work of Collegiate faculty members Georgia Ahern, Amy Cunningham, Rob Egan, David LeVan, Julianne London, Hans Widener, and Leadership Academy Director Joyann Brake.  Nor would these opportunities be empowering if they weren’t embraced by the students at Collegiate.  Over fifty students in the junior and senior classes are taking part in the academy, and there are plans to involve younger students as early as next year.  It is admirable to see so many students taking advantage of this opportunity and carving out time in their busy schedules to make the most of what is being offered to them.  The old adage, “You only get out what you put in,” continues to ring true, and the students at Collegiate continue to put in tremendous effort as they work to be the best versions of themselves.