Leadership Kentucky 2022 visits Bowling Green

Posted on: September 6, 2022
LKY 2022 Bowling Green

By: James Ayers, Leadership Kentucky 2022

The August session for the 2022 class of Leadership Kentucky took place in the beautiful region of Bowling Green and Fort Campbell. This three-day session can be summed up in one word: diversity.

The session began on the thriving campus of Western Kentucky University. Dr. Timothy Caboni, the tenth president of the University, welcomed the class to the campus and gave an overview of WKU’s ten-year strategic plan. The class was impressed by the initiatives taking place at WKU, particularly the Summer Scholars program and the fact that the debate team has won national awards. Dr. Caboni stressed the importance of holding oneself and others accountable, as well as the importance of striving for continual improvement. It was clear from his presentation that WKU is doing just that.

Next, Will Spaulding and Shannon Schulter gave an overview of Kentucky’s only international high school, the GEO (Global Education Opportunity) school, located in Bowling Green. The school includes students from 19 countries, many of whom speak English as a third language. The presenters impressed upon the class that kids are kids, no matter what part of the world they may be from. Mr. Spaulding and Mrs. Schulter’s passion for their work was very evident and the GEO school has a bright future with the two of them at the helm.

Mr. Albert Mbanfu spoke to the class about the International Center of Kentucky. Mr. Mbanfu educated the class on the true definition of refugees, how refugees come to the US, and the history of refugees going back to the Displaced Persons Act of 1948, coming forward to the Refugee Act of 1980. The class was left with a much deeper understanding of who refugees are and how they can add immeasurable value to the communities that they settle in.

Bowling Green is one of the few cities with an international coordinator, Mrs. Leyda Becker, and the entire class was impressed by her work. Among many other duties, she trains the first responders of Bowling Green on how to better communicate with the diverse population that makes Bowling Green the fastest-growing community in Kentucky.

The room was eerily quiet as Trent Lovett, former Superintendent of Marshall County Schools, discussed the events of January 23, 2018, when two students tragically died in a school shooting. Mr. Lovett’s leadership on that dark day provides a roadmap for others to follow that face such daunting circumstances.

The class left the campus of Western Kentucky University wiser than we arrived with empathy for the challenges faced by those desiring to flee war-torn countries, an immense respect for those working to educate and assimilate these individuals, and a desire to embrace diversity within our state. The first day ended with a wonderful dinner at Hickory and Oak, located in downtown Bowling Green.

The next day began with an early morning bus trip to Fort Campbell, KY. Here the class was introduced to the 101st Airborne Division. The day began with a demonstration of how military working dogs are trained and used in deployments. Next was the Sabalauski Air Assault School where class members were given a  demonstration of various rappelling techniques used by the Air Assault group and then given the opportunity to rappel themselves. Many members of the class took this opportunity and found it to be absolutely thrilling. After lunch at the Oasis Warrior Restaurant, the class received a command brief from Colonels Bordwell and Jordan. The class was informed on various initiatives taking place on the post, particularly with respect to those leaving the military and transitioning into civilian life. The final briefing of the day took place on the compound of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), commonly referred to as ‘The Night Stalkers’. The class members were blown away by a demonstration of how soldiers train to exit a helicopter that has crashed into water.

The motto of the 101st is ‘If you want it done, ask the 101’, while the motto of the 160th is ‘Night Stalkers Don’t Quit’. The class left the post knowing that those are much more than words; they are a way of life for the brave men and women who make up these military units. The respect and admiration that we collectively have for these individuals are indescribable. On the way back to Bowling Green, the class stopped in Hopkinsville for a reception at Novadell Restaurant. This is a lovely venue in a beautiful part of the state.

The session ended on Friday at Alvaton Elementary School, where the school day starts with upbeat music and very energetic school administrators greeting students! After greeting students in the hallway, the principal of Alvaton discussed the Leader in Me program, which is based on the work of Stephen Covey. The highlight of the day was hearing from the students themselves as they discussed their Leadership notebooks and their ‘WIGS’- Wildly Important Goals. After the student’s presentation, they gave us a tour of the school. Still feeling adventurous from the rappelling experience, many members took advantage of the slide that runs from the first and second floor of the school.

Meredith Rozanski with the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce discussed the very important work that her group is doing on preparing high school students for college and careers. This was a perfect lead-in to the class education panel, where members of the class discussed how their respective institutions are working to improve the lives of students and the economy of Kentucky. The entire class applauds these individuals for the work that they do.

The morning ended with the class discussing school shootings, the class attempting to answer two questions; why are there so many now, and what can we do to stop them? While there were many diverse opinions among the group, we found that we were all able to discuss these opinions in a respectful manner without the vitriol that seems to permeate this conversation today. Perhaps the national conversation that is taking place on this issue would result in sustainable solutions if it were carried out in the manner that Leadership Kentucky approached it. Perhaps. But there is no doubt that if we all strive to have the resilience of refugees, the leadership acumen of Trent Lovett, the courage of the soldiers at Fort Campbell and the character of the students of Alvaton Elementary, this state, and this country would move forward.



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