you can go back
Scott City Elementary School kindergarten teacher is among the growing number of SCHS alumni who have returned to their hometown to pursue careers.
By Rod Haxton, editor
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For the last 30 to 40 years, Kansas - and Western Kansas in particular - have lamented the “brain drain” as young people leave, never to return.
In far too many instances, young people can hardly wait to get their high school diploma and see their former town in the rear view mirror.
The lack of job opportunities in many Western Kansas communities which are struggling for survival is a driving force that keeps many young people from considering a return to their home town. While Scott City isn’t immune to that same concern, a thriving Scott County Hospital, a healthy agricultural economy and school enrollment that has been experiencing a slight increase have all contributed to a stronger job market.
And former Scott City residents have shown they will take advantage of the opportunity to return home.
Of 11 new teachers in the Scott County school district this year, four are SCHS alumni.
“I think it’s pretty neat to look around and see friends here that I used to go to school with,” says Shelby Kite, a 2009 graduate who is now a kindergarten teacher.
After attending Pratt Community College on a volleyball scholarship and attending Ft. Hays State University, Kite returned to Scott City and finished her degree while living here.
“Even while I was away I always thought of Scott City as my home and this was where I wanted to raise my family,” she says. “When the teaching position opened up that was great. And when I was also given the chance to coach that was perfect. It’s just what I wanted.”
Amanda Kennedy, the vocal music director at Scott Community High School, wasn’t quite so sure about returning to Scott City after getting her diploma in 2008.
“I told myself at the time that I wasn’t coming back,” she says with a huge smile. “I knew I didn’t want to live in a small town.”
After getting her music education degree from Wichita State University and then teaching in the Wichita public school system for two years, Kennedy began to look at things differently.
“I missed the small-town feel and being part of a community that’s so supportive like Scott City,” she says. “I had to move away in order to see that. I had to experience it personally.”
Not everyone understands the small-town life. When Kennedy told friends and colleagues in Wichita she was returning to Western Kansas they tried to talk her out of doing so.
“They kept telling me that everything I had was right there. Why would I want to leave?” she says. “If you haven’t grown up in a small town you probably wouldn’t understand.”
No Plans to Return
Kennedy’s initial sentiments were also shared by Lauren Robinson who admits she had no plans to return to Scott City after getting her diploma in 2007.
“It wasn’t until I was away for awhile that I realized being from Scott City is different. I’ve been in other towns and you don’t get the same sense of community that you feel when you’re from Scott City,” says Robinson.
After getting her teaching degree from Kansas State University, she was hired as an assistant director with the Scott Recreation Commission. Robinson had been the SRC director for 2-1/2 years before applying for the fourth grade position at Scott City Elementary School.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity. I get to teach and coach, which is what I love doing,” says the first-year teacher.
As for the decision to return, Robinson says most of her friends weren’t surprised.
“I think a lot more people my age get it. That’s why we’re starting to see so many coming back,” she notes.
Admittedly, having a social life can be challenging when you’re young and single in a small town.
“It’s not always easy finding something to do. It comes down to who you surround yourself with,” Robinson emphasizes. “I’m lucky that I have good friends that I can hang around with.”
What may have been almost unthinkable for too many graduates 10 or 20 years ago is becoming more commonplace. More former graduates are returning because they have a chance to become part of the family business or farm, a career opportunity has opened up or they simply want to raise a family in the same small-town atmosphere that they once enjoyed.
“Attitudes are changing,” says Kite. “Kids I went to school with are coming back because this is where they want to raise their family. We’ve learned to appreciate everything that Scott City has to offer.
“When you get down to it, I think it’s because we’re proud to say we’re from Scott City.”
Alex Hutchins, a science teacher at Scott City Middle School, said he’d only been away to college for a couple of years before realizing he would like to return.
“When I mentioned it to my friends I think they understood. It was important for me to be around my brothers and watch them compete in sports. Being around family is important to me,” he says.
But he also appreciates the extended family that comes with being from Scott City.
“There’s something special about going to a state championship (football) game or a state (basketball) tournament and seeing so many people who still feel the pride of being from Scott City even though they no longer live here. It’s something that never leaves you,” he says. “Now I get to be part of that again as a coach.
“I don’t know that you can call a high school a brand, but the name of Scott City is out there and people have seen what we’ve been able to accomplish over the years. Wherever you are in Kansas people know about Scott City.”
As for whether it will be a lifelong decision, Hutchins isn’t ready to make that commitment.
“If it happens, I’m fine with that. Right now, this is a great situation for me. I get to teach and I have the opportunity to learn under one of the best coaches (Glenn O’Neil) in Kansas,” he says. “And if I end up raising a family here someday, then I can’t think of a better place for that to happen.”
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