SM South students Help Recruit Overland Park Lifeguards

Shawnee Mission School District


A group of Shawnee Mission South High School students dove into a project this spring to help the City of Overland Park hire and retain more lifeguards.

Their work was part of an English Language Arts (ELA) and English Language Learner (ELL) classes and helped them gain Market Value Assets (MVA) through Real World Learning experiences. They also had a chance to help their community by conducting research and presenting ideas for solutions with city officials.

The project helped students learn how to conduct proper primary and secondary research and work on presentation skills, with the added challenge of presenting to adults, freshman Joseph Kariuki shared.

“Lots of people at school say ‘What we learned here is not going to help us in the real world, but this research project actually helped us a lot,” Kariuki added.

To prepare, students conducted surveys among their peers and organized the information to assist the City of Overland Park. This project met the qualifications of a Client Connected Project that allowed student participants to earn an MVA. This is a part of Shawnee Mission’s Real World Learning efforts and the goal that by 2030 every Shawnee Mission student will earn an MVA by the time they graduate. For a Client Connected Project, students work to solve problems in collaboration with professionals. These types of projects include 24 hours of work and feedback from a mentor or coach.

In addition to earning MVAs, the project also supported ELA and ELL curriculum objectives, culminating with final presentations made by the students.

During the final presentations, the Shawnee Mission South students shared the results of their work to gain student perspective.  Their findings related to issues like money offered, scheduling, work-life balance, and how students feel about the responsibility of taking on a lifesaving job.

The project was so successful, Bryan Toben, deputy director of City of Overland Park Parks and Recreation, said he thought it was a partnership that should continue moving forward. After the initial presentations, the City of Overland Park invited SM South students to speak at an Overland Park City Council Community Development meeting. There, they were able to talk about their findings and what they gained through the Real World Learning opportunity.

“As a community, we all live, work, and play together. Our students, children, neighbors, they all go to these schools. As we thread and weave ourselves together in the community, we need to understand the challenges we have from both sides,” he expressed.