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YEC Competition Planners’ Spotlight: Cherokee County

By: NetWork Kansas

Cherokee County is entering their fourth year of hosting a YEC Series local event, and in that time they have grown their event to include five school districts. Janet Miller, Executive Director of Cherokee County Economic Development, leads the way in planning each year. 

Janet Miller
Janet Miller, Executive Director of Cherokee County Economic Development, leads the YEC planning efforts in her community each year.

We'd like to share with you some tips from Janet that make their event a success year after year. Key components of their planning include:

· Starting early each year

· Seeking out local sponsors

· Forming solid connections with the school districts

· Continuing to build their network year after year

Cherokee County's largest focus has been on connecting with the school districts within their county. Janet says that finding a champion varies between districts, and that it's helpful to find what works in each different situation. For example, in one district they use a top-down approach, where they start with administration and work down to the teachers. 

Another tactic that Janet uses is providing all the necessary and helpful information to the schools up-front. All contacts at each school district (teachers, counselors, administrators, etc.) receive a packet of information including an overview of the competition, who can participate, how to register, and the Executive Summary template. "The packet is for all contacts and anyone who's interested," Janet says.

The final element of connecting with the school districts is a vital one. Janet works hard to get buy-in from the schools by including them in key decisions. Overall, the schools dictate what the event looks like. Janet asks them things like, "Is this a good idea? Will this fit into what you're already doing?" and each year she asks, "What did you like or dislike and what should we change?" The schools also help pick each year's guest speaker.

Through Janet's outreach to local sponsors, Cherokee County has been able to fund their entire event through sponsored donations. This makes the schools more receptive and raises community engagement. Many of the sponsors are able to connect with the students too.

Cherokee CO YEC 2017 4
In Cherokee County, multiple school districts participated during the 2016-2017 season in a single, county wide event. 

This past year's guest speaker was Zach Haney, who really connected with the students. He is in his 20's and from out of the area. One-on-one coaching calls with him were part of their prize package for winners, another best practice to consider.

We hope you'll look over the takeaways from Cherokee County's planning process and find some inspiration for your own event!