Meet Jensen, an insightful senior at Washburn University. Enjoy this candid and fresh perspective of her first Heartland Visioning Steering Committee Meeting. - Kristen
Heartland Visioning Steering Committee Meeting
By Jensen Moore, Senior Washburn University
October 28, 2015
With my final year in undergraduate studies at Washburn University on its way in, and the pressures of my (limited) job experience creeping up on me, I kept my focus on unique options and internships for an English Major with a writing emphasis. And perhaps my want to focus on the familiar and the un-talked about drew me to Heartland Visioning.
My history with Visioning started at a subconscious level; before I knew what the organization stood for, I witnessed its effects on my community. With the NOTO Arts District making its appearance in 2010, I became associated with the name "Heartland Visioning". But the name went misunderstood, until I met John Hunter.
I recall the day in John Hunter's class, Introduction to Theatre, when he brought up his role with Heartland Visioning. Being the Executive Director of the organization and a professor of Theatre at Washburn, he often built a bridge between the two. He told us that Topeka would be "very different" in the years to come. Visioning's mission was to address what Topekans need to experience a better quality of life; thus, creating a more holistic, dynamic community. What does this really mean, though? Basically their mission is to make Topeka a more enjoyable (safe, complete, ect.) place for its residents to interact in. However, this (giant) task must be tackled at a holistic level, which brings me to the Steering Committee meeting.
Held in the lower level of Washburn Tech. on October 9, 2015, the Steering Meeting commenced at the tender time of 7:45 AM but the overall turnout was over 40 people. The separate tables assigned to Parks and Rec, Dynamic Core, Community Pride and Services, and Entertainment all retained representatives speaking for these sections. The steering committee chair, Miriam Krehbiel, opened the meeting with new attendee introductions and the presentation of the Topeka Proud, downtown video by Phillip “Braille” Watson. This was followed by an update from Mayor Larry Wolgast on events such as The Kansas League of Municipalities, The Downtown Topeka Jazz Workshop event, and the 2015 Christmas Parade.
The final part of the presentation segment was the introduction of Glenda Washington, Vice President of Entrepreneurial and Minority Business Development. Washington’s presentation strongly represented the potential change Heartland Visioning hopes to offer Topeka. By profiling and educating Topeka’s small businesses Washington’s program hopes to create “better skilled entrepreneurs” and “small businesses that actively engage in enterprise”. This development of Topeka’s small businesses, Washington addressed, will greatly strengthen the community. However, Washington also recognized that there are gaps in the system and strongly recommends collaboration between separate agencies. For Washington it was clear that “unless we work together we will remain fragmented.”
After these separate presentations, the individual tables divided into groups for a round robin discussion on topics related to the individual network team. As a part of the Community Pride table, my group discussed the examples of progress and gaps related to social services, public health, public safety, and so on. My ignorance about these subjects quickly surfaced as my group-mates named off the numerous programs created to address these concerns; e.g., The Market Match, Recycled Rides, Heartland Healthy Neighborhoods, Safe Streets. The common gaps that needed to be addressed (either by Visioning or the holistic community) often came down to exposure. Many of these programs lack marketing and staff, educational protocol, and government advocacy.
At this Steering Meeting I spent a little under one and a half hours with other people volunteering their time to discuss the future of Topeka. This short discussion offered me a base of education, a platform for discussion, and the opportunity to connect with those involved with the future development of Topeka.
I’ve found the biggest challenge for Visioning (other not-for profit organizations) is keeping the conversation going. Many people, myself included, have thought our voices too small and our connections too few. Consequently, this mindset feeds the notion that “I, as a citizen, have no control of the progression of my society and change seems all but impossible”. Now, obviously, it’s easy to be a cynic when you’re alone. However, civic outlets are more than available. Wolgast, Washington, and multiple members of diverse, local organizations are available. Therefore, change is not unattainable and neither is one's ability to impact his or her community.