USD 234 Superintendent Ted Hessong nominated Fort Scott High School Senior Elizabeth Ngatia to serve on the Kansas Learning Plan Commission, started by the Kansas State Department of Education.
The KSDE asked all school districts to nominate one senior from the graduating class of 2020 to be on the task force to assist other seniors across the State of Kansas in dealing with the pandemic of COVID-19.
“I felt so honored, thankful to have a superintendent who believed in me so much,” she said. “The nomination was to represent the USD 234 school district and our seniors.”
Hessong was impressed with Ngatia as a student at FSHS, he said. “After hearing some of her speeches, I was moved by the passion she had for topics she was conveying to the listener. I was not aware of Elizabeth’s personal story at the time of the nomination, but when she shared her story with me I knew she was the right choice to nominate for her to represent USD 234.”
Once nominated, Ngatia wtote a bibliography about herself and waited to see if she was selected to be a part of the 50 students selected.
“After the meeting with the 50 students, a few weeks passed and KSDE contacted me about being a part of an even smaller group to help have a more focused conversation that can benefit students,” she said.
The group met online for discussion beginning May 1.
The following is an email interview with Ngatia.
What do you do on the commission?
“I discuss my thoughts, ideas, and concerns about my struggles as well as other seniors and their struggles through this trying time with fellow seniors in Kansas, and the staff of the KSDE.”
How do you meet?
“We meet every few weeks on Zoom calls as a group.”
What is the commission all about?
“The commission is all about… the leaders of the Kansas education system, getting to hear from students about how we are coping with everything. They are able to have an insight on what ways they may be able to help with such a drastic change. However, the commission goes beyond Covid-19 and the burden it has been. We discuss how and what educators can do to help address some of the barriers seniors face. What they can do to create, and improve, some of the high school learning experiences for future graduates.”
Has anything good come out of the experience of the pandemic that shut down the country, for you?
“I think for me I took the time to grieve and be heartbroken about the situation. I took the time to remember all the things that would no longer be accessible to me, once I got past that grieving stage, I reminded myself that this is the way that it has to be, that although it has affected many important areas of my life, I must look at the positives. I quickly recognized how lucky and blessed I am to have a home life where I feel safe, cared for, and can easily focus on my online studies well. At the end of the day, you must take the bad situations and make them good, I am happy to have gotten this extra time with my family, this extra to also re-evaluate and discover more about myself before moving on to a new chapter of my life.”
What challenges have there been?
“For me, asides from the common missing being with friends and extended family, it was navigating post-secondary education plans without the help of teachers and especially the counselors.”
What are you looking forward to in your education?
“I am really looking forward to being in the leadership community at Washburn University and being around such a family-like atmosphere. I am also really looking forward to studying pre-law (political science) in the capital city where I will hopefully get to work with some of our state lawmakers and see everything in action, hopefully, pick up a few skills!”
“Elizabeth has a bright future in front of her and I know by her participating in this task force, others will be able to learn and relate to her story and she will help her fellow seniors across the State of Kansas in dealing with COVID-19 in a positive manner,” Hessong said.
Ngatia shared a little of her life journey with fortscott.biz:
She was born and raised in Mombasa, Kenya, and her parents worked hard to support the family.
“At the age of seven, my family immigrated to America,” Ngatia said. “My parents picked up jobs at local fast-food restaurants to support us.”
The culture in Kenya and the U.S. were immensely different, she said and she felt like she was out of place due to her strong accent, financial issues and other cultural differences.
Her family became her source of motivation.
Her parents told her the American Dream was meant for her and her sister.
“They pushed us to be successful because this is an opportunity not many have in Kenya,” she said.
The faith and support of her parents helped her realize the opportunities she has before her, and she looked for ways to change the status quo, by getting involved in many school activities to fulfill the goals she had, she said.