Participants and leaders pose for a photo by the Munchie Mart Cooperative as part of the Youth Leadership Camp held at Rock Springs 4-H Center. Pictured from left are: Jamie Boggs, KCC Program Coordinator; Janna Klassen, Montezuma, KS; Taylor Axtell, Montezuma, KS; Isaac Jirak, Udall, KS; Rebekah Harmon, Otis, KS; Lane Thompson, McPherson, KS; Ruby Howell, Preston, KS; Brian Briggeman, Arthur Capper Cooperative Center Director; Ali Paz, Hanston, KS; Brandi Miller, KCC president and CEO; Ashley McKenny, MKC Intern.
While summer provides a welcome break in the school routine for many, it also grants opportunities for real world learning experiences like those taught through the KCC Youth Leadership Camp. This pilot program was held for seven rural Kansas high schoolers at Rock Springs 4-H Center July 8-10, 2019.
“At this camp, the students set up a functioning cooperative business, in the form of a snack cooperative that they named Munchie Mart,” said Brandi Miller, president and CEO of the Kansas Cooperative Council (KCC). “The students created articles of incorporation and by-laws, maintained the business, and decided how to distribute patronage back to the members as well as how to share profits from non-member business.”
The camp was made possible through a cooperative education grant from the CHS Foundation as well as support from KCC sponsors and Kansas cooperatives. KCC partnered with Arthur Capper Cooperative Center Director Brian Briggeman to develop and deliver the training.
Among the camp highlights were opportunities to meet new people and make friends. Camper Ruby Howell, Pratt, Kansas, said “I didn’t know what a co-op was when I came to this camp, and so a thing I learned was member value. It is the most important thing, because a co-op is serving its members.”
Philanthropy was also a component of the camp as it illustrated the cooperative principle of Concern for Community. This group of students shared the profits with the Rock Springs 4-H Center as well as donated all remaining snacks to Kansas State’s Food Pantry called Cat’s Cupboard, which helps fight food insecurity among college students.
“Along with setting up the business, the students enjoyed many camping activities including an interactive team challenge course,” Miller said.
They also participated in a formal dining experience with etiquette training provided by Kansas State University’s Anne DeLuca.
In addition to engaging young people, Miller said the camp was developed to educate high school students about cooperatives in an engaging way because sometimes those impacts are overlooked by young people in rural America.
“I appreciate the work in developing this program. It will be used to educate high school leaders on the importance of the co-op system,” said Jerald Kemmerer, CEO and general manager of Pride Ag Resources, Dodge City, Kansas. He added, “These campers can now share this information back in the local communities and lay the foundation for new cooperative leaders in the future.”
The campers agreed that they left with a new appreciation for the roles of their local co-ops. Camper Isaac Jirak, Udall, Kansas, summed it up by saying, “I learned the importance of co-ops in our world and what they do for our community.”