Washburn Tech, Kansas National Guard partner in Back to School Bash

Soldiers of the Kansas National Guard visit with students at Washburn Tech in Topeka during the school’s Back to School Bash Aug. 15.

By Steve Larson
Public Affairs Office

Back to school.

Three words that strike “the summer is over blues” into many a student across the country. However, Washburn Tech University did what it could Aug. 18 to take away a little of the back to school sting this year.

“This is our ‘Back to School Bash,’” said Clayton Tatro, associate dean for instruction at Washurn Tech. “It’s an opportunity for us to give our students a ‘welcome back’ type opportunity. We started classes on Monday, so we set aside the first Friday to welcome them to campus, show them how much we appreciate them being here on campus.”

Around the perimeter of a large Washburn Tech courtyard bounded by garage bays and other instruction buildings were food trucks offering refreshments, a live band mounted on a large flatbed trailer and several tents and vehicles provided by the Kansas National Guard. Guardsmen visited with curious students who stopped by to learn a little more about them and the equipment they displayed.

Soldiers of the Kansas National Guard visit with students at Washburn Tech in Topeka during the school’s Back to School Bash Aug. 15.

“We are here today at Washburn Tech to work with the school to find places where their people who attend here might be interested in the Guard and jobs that we have in the Guard that mesh with what they teach here at Washburn Tech,” explained Maj. Chuck Leivan, Education Services Officer for the Kansas National Guard. “As these people graduate and get jobs, or want to go get additional training at a four-year institution, we like to take the time to explain how the Guard can help them pay for school.”

“We have a good partnership with the National Guard,” said Tatro. “When you think about the opportunities the Guard offers in terms of employability skills… there’s a direct connection with career and tech education.”

Students at Washburn Tech enjoy some food and music at the school’s Back to School Bash Aug. 15.

Leivan said many of the courses taught at Washburn Tech train students in the same skill sets needed by the Kansas National Guard.

“They have diesel tech, automotive tech, locomotive tech, specialized engine tech for diesel; we have a big fleet of diesel engines that need to be maintained,” said Leivan. “A lot of those jobs are full-time. Additionally, they have nursing, and things like that that mesh with our medical corps. There are other skills, such as culinary arts, computer technology, information technology, robotics. All those things are the future of the military.”

“There are a lot of kids out here learning to be mechanics, auto body, electrical engineering that would fit really good in the Guard,” agreed 1st Sgt. Jimmy Jarvis, 995th Support Maintenance Company.

“We take a lot of pride here at Washburn Tech in putting students to work,” said Tatro, “so a lot of our programs, in terms of occupation and vocation, connect very closely with what the Guard is offering, not only in terms of the military career, but life after the military. What we affectionately say is ‘Our students are their students and their students are our students.’”

Even though recruiting was part of the reason for the Guard’s presence at the event, their participation was more than that.

“It’s not only about trying to enlist them,” said Sgt. 1st Class Craig Jackson, Recruiting and Retention Battalion, “but showing them we are out in the community all the time, which is what the National Guard is all about.”