Senator Jerry Moran made a stop in Cottonwood Falls for a tour of the Chase County Junior/Senior High School Tuesday morning.

The tour was lead by four CCJSHS seniors, who showed Moran around the building and answered questions about their educational opportunities in the district.

Moran said he was impressed with the students at CCJSHS.

“I am very impressed with the students that I met and I appreciated the opportunity to thank the teachers that I met for what they do,” Moran said. “The future of Chase County is in large part determined by what goes on in this building, and what I saw here was very encouraging. It gives me hope about the future — not only of Chase County — but our country. I was particularly happy to see a strong emphasis on technical education. What I saw was students and teachers and administrators who care, and that’s a very good thing.”

Moran said he was interested in what benefits the students saw in attending a smaller high school, as well as learning about their successes. He asked the students if they felt like they were missing opportunities, or gaining opportunities by going to a smaller district.

Each agreed they didn’t feel deprived of opportunity. Jacob Tubach said he didn’t feel like he was missing out on any opportunities because he was able to be involved in so many activities and extracurriculars.

“Each of us are involved in, like, 12 different clubs around school,” he said.

Moran said that was a common response he has heard from other small districts in the state. He said the smaller class sizes would be beneficial for developing supportive relationships between students and teachers.

“I visited Cloud County South, which is in Miltonvale, and they have four seniors in their class,” he said. “I asked them the same question that I asked you, and the answer was, ‘Nothing. We get all the classes we need. Some of them are provided by technology, but nothing happens in this school that doesn’t involve us.’”

He also asked the students if they had the opportunity to take college credit classes through a community college or technical school.

Meghan Eidman said they had each taken college courses, working through Butler County Community College or Flint Hills Technical College.

“We have a really good partnership with Butler County that makes it pretty easy for us to take classes,” Eidman said.

Ryan Kohr added there were scholarships available that made it possible for many students to take classes without incurring debt.

“We have local scholarships that allow us to take college classes without paying our own money,” Kohr said. “We’re basically getting college credit for free.”

Moran said he was glad to see CCJSHS students had access to those types of opportunities.

“People ask me about student loans and the affordability of education, and part of that is community colleges and starting when you’re in high school to get the basic classes out of the way,” he said.

Principal Travis Githens said it was important to offer those opportunities to his students because they will take advantage of everything that is offered to them.

“Our kids — these kids and all of our kids — are hardworking, hard-nosed kids who strive to do well at everything,” he said. “This year, we’re probably going to have another seven who qualify for valedictorian status because they all have 4.0 averages. Our tradition has not been to single out one for valedictorian. If you’ve earned it, you get it. There are a lot of hardworking kids in Chase County.”

Moran spoke of the need of encouraging young people to explore vocational careers or degrees that lend themselves to creating business opportunities. He was impressed to hear about the district’s recent Youth Entrepreneurial Challenge, which had students create business models and present them to a panel of judges.

“We did have an entrepreneurial challenge that started this year,” Claudia Filinger said. “Everyone designed their own business designated for Chase County and made your business plan and competed. It was a really good program and it really opened everyone’s eyes.”

Githens said he was grateful for the opportunity to show Moran around the school, and give the senator a chance to speak directly with students about their educations.

“I’m so pleased that he has the ability and time and makes effort to stop at smaller schools to see what we’re doing and what we’re all about in Chase County,” Githens said. “We do try to offer as many opportunities as we can. We understand our size limitations, but if we try to make it happen to accommodate kids, that’s what we’re here for.”

Superintendent Jeff Kohlman said he was excited to showcase the district and let people know what opportunities can be available to students in small, rural districts.

“I think it’s very important to showcase or promote our own district so that Senator Moran and the community can see what we’re doing,” Kohlman said. “We can show that small schools do have a place in education and that it’s not a bad place to be. It actually has a lot of its own advantages, which our kids talked about a little bit.”

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