Students Attend Kickoff Event for South-Central Student Leadership Initiative

Students from four south-central Missouri schools attended a kickoff for the third class of the South-Central Student Leadership Initiative, designed to develop skills to create future community leaders for the Ozarks region.

Six additional south-central Ozarks schools will participate in this pilot project of the Rural Schools Partnership, an initiative of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. Sigler is beginning his second year of the two-year program, while Collins is beginning her first.

Students from Alton, Bakersfield, Dora and West Plains attended this year’s kickoff event on Friday, May 10 at Shannon Hall, Missouri State University – West Plains’ Mountain Grove satelitte location. Missouri State University-West Plains is a partner on the SCSLI, along with the RSP, the MSU Rural Education Center and the Thomasville Place-Based Learning Collective.

The students were welcomed by CFO’s south-central region staff associate, Carol Silvey, based in West Plains. The students will have opportunities to learn from both adults and peers through activities that emphasize the RSP’s mission of place-based education that connects rural schools and their communities.

Two speakers, both from the medical field, shared thoughts and advice with the students, who also had time to get to know one another during the morning event.

First, Jeanne Looper, Chief Operating Officer for Ozarks Medical Center in West Plains, talked about her rise to the C-suite of medical administration and the traits someone might need to rise to a position of leadership. The former secretary for Sam Walton, who as a single mother returned to school in her late 20s to become a nurse, told the students that they should always be willing and ready to take on a task, and also to value where they come from.

“Think of ways you can be helpful and make an impact,” said Looper, who rose through the nursing ranks and into administration. It’s not the place she thought she’d wind up, but she knows she’s still making a difference. “Every time I hire a physician, I know I’m making a huge difference for the people of this area.”

Over lunch, Mountain Grove-based physician Dr. David Barbe spoke to the students. Barbe who opened his own clinic in Mountain Grove in the 1980s, eventually affiliating 1997 with St. John’s (now Mercy), will begin a year as President of the Board of the American Medical Association on June 1. Barbe is also the board chair for the Mountain Grove Area Community Foundation.

Like Looper, Barbe urged students, above all, to be present and engaged in their lives and activities, embrace and share their talents, and be ready to step through a door when it is opened for them. “A lot of life is just showing up,” Barbe said.

The next session for these students is planned for October.