RELAY - March 2022

Great Bend USD 428 - News and Highlights

It is the goal of the monthly RELAY to connect our staff with news and highlights from across our schools and community. There are so many successes, positive stories, and virtual smiles to share!

We hope you enjoy this brief update. Take a moment to learn something new, celebrate with a colleague or friend, and pause to see the good happening all around you.

In this issue:

  • District Highlights
  • In the News
  • 2021 Next-Gen Leader, Chuy Loera
  • Let's Celebrate - March Birthdays
  • District Highlights

Keep up the great work and keep it safe, 428!

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Let the Good Times Roll - Staff Appreciation Event 3/11

We want to help you kick-off Spring Break with a fun afternoon spent with colleagues and friends! Join us at Walnut Bowl from 3:30-5:30 pm on Friday, March 11 for some friendly competition on the lanes.

Stop by just to say hi, or plan to stay for a game of bowling and fun! We hope to see you there.

Prize Time - Share the fun, share the love!

Door prizes at this event will give you an opportunity to share the fun with your colleagues, building, or classroom. Stay tuned for a full list, but in the meantime, think "jeans day," classroom pizza parties, breakroom treat deliveries, and more!

This is a small token of appreciation for your dedicated work EVERY DAY for the students of Great Bend USD 428. Complimentary bowling and appetizers will be provided for USD 428 staff. We hope you'll join us!

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SupportLinc now available to all USD 428 Employees

Life can be a juggling act. It takes time and energy to balance your work, family and personal challenges. To help you manage life’s daily challenges, USD 428 Great Bend is pleased to announce the SupportLinc employee assistance program (EAP). SupportLinc offers confidential and professional support, at no cost to you or your family.
Visit Support Linc

web access log-in: usd428 (no password neccessary)

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Chuy Loera named Next-Gen Leader of the Year

From a young age, Jesus “Chuy” Loera knew he enjoyed two things – playing soccer and working with kids. But he didn’t always know what direction those passions would take him. Now, Loera’s career has him doing both, as a family engagement coordinator at Great Bend High School, and as a boys soccer coach for both GBHS and Great Bend Middle School.

Loera, himself a 2006 GBHS graduate, described his entrance into coaching as “a natural thing.” He began by coaching recreational soccer at the age of 14, which progressed into coaching first instructional, then traveling club soccer in his late teens. Though he loved playing soccer, he knew his own playing career would eventually end, so coaching became a way to still contribute to the game by being around the kids and help them learn the game he is passionate about, as well. As a coach, though, he said his goal is to teach them about more than just soccer.

“My favorite part is just being with them and building relationships with them,” Loera said. “It’s fun to win games, and it’s fun to see their progress as a player, but it’s more exciting to me to think that maybe we can help them find a path or purpose (beyond soccer).”

Part of this work is recognizing the natural gifts and talents his players have and helping them see how those can benefit them beyond the playing field, “once education ends and real life begins.”

“Maybe you are good at communication, you are a good leader,” he said. “And maybe you can go into a position where you are your own boss; you could start your own business just because of the way that you’re able to communicate, lead and motivate those around you.”

As his coaching career progressed, Loera first accepted a job as the boys soccer coach at GBMS in 2015, then at the high school in 2016. The deeper he got into coaching, the more he realized how much he enjoyed working with the youth.

“I like getting to know their stories,” he said. “I like getting to see their personalities.”

One of his goals as both a coach and a mentor of students is simply to help point students in the right direction, who may not otherwise know which direction they want to go after school, something he said was a challenge for him growing up.

“Just because you try hard doesn’t mean you’re always going to figure it out right away, (especially) if you don’t have someone to point you in the right direction,” he said. “When you’re 14 to 18, you’re expected to know so much, but you really don’t.”

That person for him was Rusty Wrinkle, a science teacher at GBHS during Loera’s years there.

“He was always there to check up on me, to see how I was doing,” he said. “He would ask questions to make me think beyond today, like, ‘what’s your plan for next year? What are you thinking about doing after high school?’”

This is advice he tries to pass on to his students, as well. It’s okay not to have everything figured out, but it’s important to always be planning beyond today for what you might want to do in the future.

“It’s okay not to know, but it’s not okay not to have a plan,” he said. “If your answer is ‘I don’t know,’ usually it’s going to get you somewhere you don’t want to be.”

Work in the classroom

But Loera’s work with students extends well beyond the playing field and into the classroom.

GBHS Principal Tim Friess said Loera has been a huge blessing to the school. “He has always done a great job as our soccer coach reaching his Soccer kids and now he is connecting with all of our students. He has come in and worked hard to build relationships with kids and staff and has been a big part of changing the culture here at GBHS every day.”

After years of working with the City of Great Bend, Loera is in his first year working as a family engagement coordinator at GBHS. His job there, he said, is to bridge the gap of communication between school and home.

This involves helping parents be more engaged daily with their students’ progress, academics and activities at school. From the students’ perspectives, he said, his job is to help students to find ways to be more involved and engaged at school.

“if you’re not an athlete, great,” Loera said. “Whatever it may be, there’s something we believe that there’s something for everyone at the high school, and so we’re just trying to find a spot for them, so they don’t think that there’s not something available for them.”

For Loera, that means helping students discover what they’re passionate about, and how to channel that passion into direction.

“As long as they have an interest, most likely, they’re by a little bit of research, and maybe talking to some of these people that already in our community only, like if they have if they’re interested in construction or architecture, you know, maybe we find somebody in the community that they can visit with,” he said.

Learning hands on from people in the community is something he wishes he’d had more of when he was younger, and something he wants to pass on to the students he works with. He’s sought to bring in workers in several different fields so the students can see for themselves what those careers are about, and how to get where the want to go in those fields.

The direction he tries to offer students is now direction he’s putting to work in his own life. Outside of the classroom, Loera said there was a lot of life lessons he had to learn the hard way, with not a lot of people around him who’d encountered the situations he was facing, particularly financially.

Those same situations are ones he wants to make sure he, and others, help the students prepare for, so that they don’t have to learn the hard way like he did.

“Everyday situations (like finances), finding balance and how to manage those kinds of things, is something that I think we don’t cover enough for our for our students. And that’s something that we have also tried to cover with them as well.”

And now, having embraced his love of working with students, Loera is now working toward a full-time career in education at the high school.

Loera is currently working toward an associate’s degree through Barton Community College, with his goal being to eventually obtain a teaching degree through Fort Hays State University’s Transition to Teaching program. Eventually, he wants to teach Spanish or history at GBHS.

“I like being around the kids, and I like helping them figure themselves out, so I’d like to find a classroom (to do that),” he said.

Outside of the classroom, family is a central focus in Loera’s life.

The oldest of seven kids, he said he still enjoys spending time with his siblings and their families. Plus, Loera is now growing a family of his own. Loera and his wife had their first child, a daughter, who was born in September of last year.

“If it’s not school, and it’s not soccer, it’s family,” he said.

For decades, the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce has been privileged to annually recognize a Business of the Year and a Citizen of the Year for their impact on the Great Bend business community. Established in 2012, the NextGen Leader of the Year Award aims to recognize a particular individual’s service to the community as an up-and-coming leader.

This year’s recipient, Jesus “Chuy” Loera, definitely fills that bill.

He will receive the award during the 100th-annual Great Bend Chamber Banquet the evening of Saturday, Feb. 19, at the Great Bend Events Center. It will be presented by Andrea Bauer, public information officer for the Unified School District 428 who nominated Loera, and Danny and Junior Franko, former student athletes.

Loera has coached the Great Bend High School boys soccer team since 2016, and the Great Bend Middle School boys soccer team since 2015. He also works at the high school as a family engagement coordinator.

For her part, Loera’s wife Anna is excited to see her husband recognized.

“I’m just so proud of him and how he has progressed in his coaching and his career,” she said. “He really has a passion for this and really loves being around youth.”

One of the criteria for this award is that the recipient must be nominated by someone else – an employer, a coworker, a friend, a spouse, or another who can attest to their commitment to the betterment of the Great Bend community. Additional criteria includes:

  • Must be affiliated with a member of the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce.
  • Must have lived in the Great Bend service area for at least three years.
  • Must be seen as a leader in their work environment, as well as in the community.
  • Must be creating a meaningful impact in the community and be seen as a rising leader.

In the nomination, Bauer noted:

“Chuy invests a tremendous amount of time investing in Great Bend’s young people,” she said. “Beyond the duties of a coach, he creates opportunities for his team to explore careers, volunteer in the community, and make an impact.”

Often he’ll stop practice early or continue beyond “coaching hours” to address common life topics like manners, hygiene, accountability, respect for women, mental health, and more. He also invites community members to talk with these young boys about potential career opportunities.

“Chuy has also implemented a mentoring program where his players visit elementary schools and pass on sportsmanship and life lessons to students,” she said.

He has personally taken the time to advocate for youth soccer and facilities in Great Bend, Bauer said. He’s been instrumental in championing improvements such as the new scoreboard, sound system, Field House renovations, and team jerseys - most of which were fundraised and paid for by the Panther Booster Club.

“He understands that elevating the soccer program is an important way to encourage participation and growth for students, both on the field and in the classroom,” she said.

Loera is bilingual and serves as an important connector for our youth and families. “He seeks out opportunities to bridge gaps and make sure his students are aware and included in community resources and opportunities,” she said.

In the fall of 2021, he started a new position at GBHS as family engagement coordinator. Prior to this, he worked in a variety of positions including surveying for the City of Great Bend. In this new role, Chuy will be able to work full-time furthering some of the same goals and priorities he’s pursued in youth development as a volunteer and coach.

“Chuy understands how athletics and accountability and positively impact learning in the classroom and life,” Bauer said. In his six seasons as head coach, the GBHS boys soccer GPA has improved along with attendance and student behavior inside and outside the school setting.

“His ultimate goal is to support these young men by making them aware of opportunities available to them and to have the confidence to pursue these opportunities,” she said.

“Chuy has a positive and solution-driven approach to nurturing our community,” she said. “While he strives for improvement in communication, inclusion, and facility development, he works hard to highlight the positive programs, services, and opportunities available. He’s worked with community leaders and developed partnerships to help realize change and enhancements that benefit many. “
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GBHS asks local businesses to join internship program

Opening doors for students to explore career opportunities and make professional connections, Great Bend High School announces plans to implement an internship program for students in the 2022-2023 school year.

“An internship adds so much to a student’s development,” shared Lacy Wolters, ACT and Career Coordinator at GBHS. “We believe this is a mutually beneficial opportunity for both the student and the business as students apply the learning from their high school coursework to a meaningful and relevant on-the-job experience.”

GBHS has been piloting the program with a few students and businesses this year, helping to build a framework for the program and ensure the classroom-to-workplace connection.

“The connection to the classroom is very important,” said Wolters. “It provides an element of accountability and reflection on the industry and necessary skill development. It also opens communication between our teachers and the workplace to ensure our pathways are equipping students with relevant skills.”

Internships will be a minimum of one semester and one credit hour. They can also be paid or unpaid based on the businesses’ preference. GBHS has defined roles and responsibilities for business partners, students, and teachers/coordinator.

GBHS is actively recruiting business partners for future internship placement and hope to enroll and place students as early as Fall 2022. High-demand industries include Agriculture, Architecture, Construction & Design, Engineering, Health and Biomedical Sciences, Manufacturing, Power, Structural & Technical Systems, and Welding.

Interested businesses are encouraged to contact Lacy Wolters, GBHS ACT and Career Coordinator, at 620-793-1521 for more information about the program.


Host Business Testimonial:

Megan Barfield, Great Bend Chamber of Commerce

“We are thrilled to be piloting the internship program with the Great Bend High School. Utilizing the program has allowed our intern exposure to large event planning, event photo archival and photography, social media communications, and more. It's been great working with her and Lacy Wolters as we navigate this new program. The benefits to both the student and the businesses are limitless. The intern gets an inside look at an industry at a hands-on level that can't be matched with just a job shadow experience. When we, as business owners, take the time to really allow the intern to dig in, there's reward in that. One being the possibility of finding your next hire.”

Photo Caption:

Great Bend High School Senior, Andrea Orona Favela, is piloting the GBHS Internship Program at the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce this semester. As an intern, she is completing various duties in the office and had the opportunity to assist with the Chamber’s 100th Annual Banquet in February.

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Board of Education visits Eisenhower

The USD 428 Board of Education visited Eisenhower Elementary on Thursday, February 24 for their monthly luncheon meeting.

Meeting at a Glance:

JoAnn Blevins, principal of Eisenhower, and Amanda Moran-Jones, coordinator at Little Panthers Preschool, shared preschool updates with BOE members.

  • In just one year, Little Panthers went from dream to reality. It was February 2021 when a needs assessment was reviewed by the BOE and approved.
  • There are 47 students currently attending LPP with only one opening in the three-year-old all-day preschool room.
  • Blevins and Jones are impressed by literacy data from LPP students and will look to boost math and numbers comprehension in the future.
  • Jones shared that inquiries about spots for the next school year began in January! There is a lot of positive feedback from families and the community.

Taylor Gobin, the Family Engagement Coordinator, shared a few highlights from her new position and the role she is serving for Little Panthers Preschool and Eisenhower.

  • Gobin's presentation was enthusiastic and positive as she shared her evolving and growing role at Eisenhower.
  • Communication with Families: Gobin spent a lot of time assisting with quarantine notices and relaying homework with families. With contact tracing slowing down, she is assisting with tardy communication and trying to help families understand the impact multiple tardies can have on their child's education. For example, 10 tardies could accumulate to 1/2 day's learning loss.
  • After School Program: Gobin coordinates Eisenhower's After School Program which includes both academic and social-emotional activities.
  • Unity Nights: Gobin shared details about engaging families in Unity Nights which take relationships to a deeper level.

Also in attendance were members of the Eisenhower Building Leadership Team which included Tandi Mai, instructional coach, and Cathie Haberman, speech-language pathologist.

Before the close of the meeting, the BOE approved a list of grants and contributions as well as a personnel report. The BOE also approved the return of family members to eat lunch with students beginning, Monday, Feb. 28.

For more information about the USD 428 Board of Education, you can visit our website -

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Do you have a celebration to share?

If you have a birth announcement, anniversary, personal accomplishment, or a celebration to share with your 428 family - please email to be included in the monthly RELAY!
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Panther Forensics Squad Wins FIRST Place at Wilson

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Hall of Fame Luncheon, Celebrating 2021 Inductees

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428 Staff Recognized for Milestone Service

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Share Your Stories and Activities!

It only takes a few minutes to share the GREAT things happening in your classroom! Email high-resolution photos and a quick caption and we'll share it with the community on social media!

Quick Photo Caption:

"Students are learning _______________, by doing ______________."

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