SM West Women in Leadership Meet Mentors

SM West Women in Leadership Meet Mentors
Shawnee Mission School District

For several months, Lilly Heffner, SM West sophomore, and Ninja Threat, from McCownGordon Construction, had connected as mentor and mentee. Threat has shared advice on preparing for college, how to build skills, and how it is important to give yourself grace while making big life decisions. 

A recent event at Shawnee Mission West finally gave them the chance to meet in person.

“I have learned so much from her,” Heffner shared. “It’s exciting to work with someone who is an adult who can talk about the real-world application of what I’m learning.”

This first-time meeting took place for dozens of mentors and mentees on Tuesday, March 8 at Shawnee Mission West.  This breakfast event brought 60 mentors to meet with students who are part of the school’s Women in Leadership organization on International Women’s Day at the beginning of Women’s History Month.

The gathering was led by associate principal Kelley Capper, who sponsors a Women in Leadership organization at Shawnee Mission West. She hopes the connections formed by this group and event help her students learn they can do anything. The event was presented with the theme “Empowered Women Empower Women.”

“My biggest hope is they learn about career options, how to be a leader, and how to provide opportunities and spaces for everyone,” she shared.

To be a part of this event and group is an honor, Taedyn Gray, senior, said. Working with her mentor, sports broadcaster Brenda Van Lengen has helped her think about her dreams related to communications and sports.

“Meeting someone who does what I want to be shows it is possible,” Gray shared.

The mentors in attendance represented a wide variety of fields including education, law enforcement, medicine and wellness, building and construction, non-profit leadership, broadcasting, and science. Dr. DeAngela Burns-Wallace, secretary of the department of administration for the state of Kansas, presented a video message to attendees, sharing her own story and words of encouragement.

Throughout the event, mentees had time to interact with their assigned mentor and also had time to join in activities with a variety of mentors. It was a helpful opportunity to explore potential paths, Soliana Guinto, junior, shared.

“Even talking to women with careers you would never think of, it is good because you don’t know everything that is out there,” she added.

Capper said she was also glad for the opportunity for mentors to meet SM West students.

“It is awesome for our mentors to see this is our future,” she expressed.