Seward County Community College/Area Technical School joins forces with Liberal Area Coalition for Families

KSCB News - March 2, 2016 10:33 am

The mission of a community college is inextricably linked to the place it calls home and Seward County Community College/Area Technical School takes the notion seriously. A growing partnership with the Liberal Area Coalition for Families will help the college do more to make life better for students and the community.

We look at education in terms of the whole person, so working with the LACF just makes sense, said SCCC/ATS President, Dr. Ken Trzaska. Once we started talking with them, the ideas just began to flow. Trzaska listed healthy vending options on campus, walking and biking paths, and education programs for responsible alcohol consumption as high priorities.

We started the discussion with Dr. Trzaska about his vision for walking and biking trails it s just a conversation and all of a sudden, here comes this notification of a grant opportunity from the Sunflower Foundation, said LACF board president Kay Burtzloff. It s one of those things that s kind of serendipitous.

It also aligns with the original purpose for the LACF to serve as a grant-processing entity in the community.

We can help with grants that the college cannot apply for but as a community, nonprofit coalition, we can, said Burtzloff. The trails path is one example.

As the College prepared plans for a landscaped walking path to connect the Hobble Academic Building on the center section of campus with the Industrial Technology Division and dorms on the north side of campus, Traska was inspired to think broadly about the possibilities.

We want to encouragement movement and connection, he said. Why not think about a network of bike and walking trails that tie our campus to the community, and encourage people in the community to see our campus as a resource?

Burtzloff hopes the Sunflower Foundation will agree.

Another project in the works involves healthy vending options around campus. SCCC/ATS Wellness Center Director Andy Highfill started a conversation several months ago, in hopes that increased vending options could enhance community use of the Wellness Center and pool.

I m always thinking about how to get people on campus to exercise and improve their lives, he said, and it s natural for healthy eating to be part of the picture.

The LACF had already worked with the City of Liberal s Parks & Recreation Department to do the same, and Burtzloff described the endeavor as surprisingly successful.

For example, at the Adventure Bay water park operated by the city s Parks & Rec department, the concession stand substituted fruit-juice popsicles for sugar-water treats.

The manager was really happy to see this was a popular change, said Burtzloff. There s this perception that somehow, people would be denied choices. That s just not the case. Nobody s going to take someone s Snickers bar away I would snarl if they did that. What we do, working with the Kansas Health Foundation, is offer people choices. We don t force them.

For campus vending, Burtzloff said, healthy vending would focus on small changes, like having more than one slot in the pop machine offer bottled water. There would still be regular potato chips and candy bars in the machines, but there would also be baked chips, protein bars, nuts.

Burtzloff said national trends show consumers want the option of healthier foods.

The thing is, if it s not there, if the granola bar is only one of 25 choices, when it s gone, there s no healthy option, she said. We want to broaden the opportunities.

The College is committed to empowering our students and staff to make healthy life choices, said Trzaska, and moving to at least half the options meet healthy snack guidelines is a way to do that.

SCCC/ATS Wellness Education Coordinator Alli Lyon agreed about the importance of affirming and empowering good nutritional choices.

Students have better focus, more energy, and a better quality of life by eating healthier foods, she said. There s a direct connection between what a student eats and how they perform mentally and physically in school and in life. If a student eats poorly, they may be sluggish and want to sleep. If they could quickly choose food that was healthy it may help them academically.

Lyon, who teaches first-year seminar classes to freshmen and sees how students must transition to independent choice-making as young adults, isn t naive.

I suppose the question is would they choose the healthy option? she asked. Maybe if it was in the culture to do that they would.

Having the option available is a great first step, added Trzaska.

We re looking into ways to provide hot meal vending options for night class students in the Industrial Technology division, he said. The idea is that you can t expect students to do their best or choose better options, unless you make a concerted effort to provide better options.

Burtzloff said the Kansas Health Foundation and LACF has the resources to help make that idea a reality.

We d like to work even more closely, she said. We ve got the opportunity to apply for an underage drinking prevention grant, and bring in guest speakers, provide simulations of drunk driving, work with the kids who are at risk for these behaviors.

Dean of Student Services Celeste Donovan noted that since most of the SCCC/ATS students are underage, these efforts could directly impact their ability to succeed and complete their first two years of college.

We currently have a drug and alcohol prevention plan, but if we received additional resources, it would enable to enhance and expand the program, she said. Being away from home, experiencing independence for the first time can be really challenging to many of our students. We want to assist them to learn and grow and balance all the demands of adult life.

While LACF grant-writing for all three projects is still underway, the College plans to move ahead with establishment of its first new walking trail. Dean of Finance and Operations Dennis Sander has also started conversations with the College s contracted vendors.

It s all a little bit like the trail project itself, said Trzaska. We re taking it one step at a time.


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