Sumner-Cowley Electric Cooperative is sponsoring two local high school students to participate in the 2022 Cooperative Youth Leadership Camp and Kansas Electric Youth (KEY) Leadership Conference this summer. The delegates were selected based on their application and essay on the topic of leadership and their goals for attending the camp. Each was required to complete a resume, essay and in-person interview.
Jensen Lynnes, junior at Wellington High School, and Elizabeth Jirak, junior at Udall High School, were the winners of both trips.
In June, they will attend the KEY Conference in Topeka to experience leadership learning opportunities, engaging speakers and team-building activities. Student leaders from across the state will tour the Kansas State Capitol and other local attractions.
In July they will head west to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, to attend the Cooperative Youth Leadership Camp. The camp focuses on developing leadership skills, while campers learn the cooperative business model and how it functions. At camp, Lynnes and Jirak will meet students from Colorado, Oklahoma and Wyoming, in addition to other students from across Kansas. Campers will form a mock “candy cooperative” and learn about leadership and the co-op industry.
Each year, the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour and Cooperative Youth Leadership Camp are coordinated by Kansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. (KEC), the statewide service organization for rural electric cooperatives in Kansas. Read more about the delegates and see excerpts from their submitted essays.
About Jensen Lynnes
Lynnes is a junior at Wellington High School. She is the daughter Chad and Jenoa Lynnes. She is an accomplished athlete participating in tennis and swimming. She also plays the drum line in the Crusader band and pep club.
“I believe this program would be a wonderful opportunity to expand my leadership skills, improve my public speaking skills, and meet and network with other students like me who are highly driven to make a difference in the future. I will seize the opportunity and make the most of the experience by being an active participant learning as much as I can. I love to continue to grow and learn and I have found that leadership experiences have provided those growth opportunities while also finding a level of fulfillment of giving back to the team/group/community,” Lynnes said.
She enjoys being involved with Crusader Support and Student Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) where she can act as a positive influence and leader for other students at Wellington High School.
“Another unique leadership experience was that I was the first ever Wellington High School swimmer as a co-op with Winfield,” Lynnes said. “I was able to achieve a qualifying time to attend state and place high enough to put points on the score board for Wellington. Not only was this a personal goal because of my passion for the sport, I also have been determined to open the door for future Wellington swimmers to have this same opportunity in their high school years. I love that I can work with young swimmers through the summer program with Wellington Recreation Center but now I have also helped to create a path for them to succeed in this sport as part of their high school experience. This is important for swimmers who may want to pursue this sport in college.”
Jensen’s leadership skills to adapt and overcome were put to the test when COVID-19 restrictions threatened to derail her aquatic training.
“I had been looking forward to my first high school swim season for a long time and then having it shut down after only eight practices was heartbreaking. Not only was my high school swim taken, but all club practices were also as well,” she said. “I never like to be sitting inside on the couch. I always need to be on the move.
I was beginning to go crazy from the stay-at-home order mandate and thought of a great idea. I told my parents how I wanted to swim laps at the lake and although they looked at me like I was crazy … they made it happen. As it was early April, my workouts only lasted about 30 minutes due to the water temperature. My love for the sport kept me in the water, even if that is lake water!?”
Lynnes plans to attend college to achieve a biology degree with the goal of getting accepted into optometry school and to pursue a career as an optometrist.
“I would love to own my own practice at some point in the future and play an active role within my community,’ she said.
About Elizabeth Jirak
Jirak is a junior at Udall High School. She is the daughter of James and Sandra Jirak. Elizabeth describes herself as an ambitious scholar with a passion for leadership aspiring to help her local area through service. We found her to be a humble servant that quietly moves through the act of giving back with a quiet grace. Jirak’s extracurricular activities are extensive and include FFA, Student Council, National Honor Society, basketball, track, cheer, dance team, band, forensics, Mathletes, church youth group and humane society volunteer. In her free-time she is a youth mentor in the elementary school and is employed part time as a practicing certified nurse assistant.
“I believe that this youth program trip would be highly beneficial for me. This is an amazing opportunity to be able to meet different, inspiring leaders from my region. And this experience will be able to engage me in gaining new leadership skills,” Jirak said. “I will strive to use those newly learned skills from an experience such as this to help the people in my life and community.
It is rewarding to be able to help and give back to my community that has helped me in so many ways. My community has helped develop me into the person I am today. I strive to find ways to serve my community, from organizing a food pantry for families of my fellow students to volunteering as a mentor to elementary students who need a role model or simply just a friend.”
Jirak’s educational goal is to attend a Kansas four-year university majoring in nursing and continue her education to get obtain a master’s in nursing to become a nurse practitioner.