From the August 2022 Kansas Country Living magazine centerspread
Erin Johnson of Kirwin and Makenna Russom of Phillipsburg were among 17 Kansas student delegates who attended the Kansas Electric Youth (KEY) Leadership Conference, held June 5-8 in Topeka. Johnson and Russom were selected to represent Prairie Land Electric at this exclusive leadership conference through a competitive application process that evaluated the leadership ability, community involvement and academic accomplishment of each candidate.
The KEY Leadership Conference was created as an alternative to the long-standing Electric Cooperative Youth Tour to Washington, D.C., as a safer alternative during the pandemic.
“Prairie Land is honored to sponsor our co-op’s youth in developing their leadership capabilities at the KEY Leadership Conference,” said Kirk Girard, CEO. “We continue to look to programs like these to provide our future leaders tools to advocate for their cooperative communities throughout their professional lives.”
The four-day conference focused on the fundamentals of leadership and hands-on engagement with students representing Kansas communities. Activities included an electric safety demonstration at FreeState Electric and a tour of the Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Site. The students attended interactive workshops to help prepare them for success as future leaders, including seminars about online reputation management, budgeting and investment, defensive driving, energy efficiency and the transition between high school and higher education.
Student leaders explored how to be a force for political action with state legislators Rep. Steven Johnson and Rep. Kyle Hoffman, who are both alumni of electric cooperative youth programs. They acted as guest speakers and gave the students a night tour of the Kansas State Capitol. After answering questions from the students about their reasons for entering public service and how they spend a typical day as a legislator, they shared school and career advice for the students.
The final guest speaker was Kansas City Chiefs mascot Dan Meers, author of “Wolves Can’t Fly.” He shared an inspirational story of his recovery from a devastating stunt injury.
Prairie Land also sent chaperones to the conference. Engineer Dakota Julian and his wife, Jacqueline, attended all of the activities and mentored a team of five to six students over the course of the week.
For both Johnson and Russom, attending the conference as a representative of Prairie Land was a motivating experience. “The people here have taught me so much based purely by example.” Johnson said. “I feel honored to be here.”
“This conference has inspired me to go out of my comfort zone,” Russom said. “I have always been super hesitant to try new things and the chaperones did a great job when it came to encouragement.”
After attending the KEY Leadership Conference, students are eligible to apply for the KEC Auxiliary Scholarship and the NRECA Glenn English Scholarship. For more information about the KEY Leadership Conference or other KEC youth programs, contact Shana Read at firstname.lastname@example.org.