Five students from Barton Community College in the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Honor Society were recognized as members of the PTK All-Kansas Academic Team during an award luncheon Thursday at the Ramada Inn in Topeka. Prior to the luncheon, inductees toured the state capital building with Barton administrators and instructors and visited with state legislators.
Emmy Kempke and Brittnee Barber from the Barton County campus, Kristina Cook and Don Moser from the Fort Riley campus and Rebecca Gentzler from the Fort Leavenworth campus all attended the award ceremony.
Kempke, sophomore in accounting, plans to transfer to Wichita State University to finish a bachelor’s degree in accounting. She was inducted to PTK in the spring semester of 2017 and said it’s been a valuable asset to her experience at Barton.
“I think it’s really helpful and it’s just a fun thing to be a part of,” she said. “We get together and have dinners, go bowling together and volunteer in the community.”
Cook, a sophomore who hopes to pursue a career in homeland security and criminal justice after Barton, echoed Kempke’s comments.
“PTK got me volunteering in the community and it has made me a more well rounded and outgoing person,” she said.
As a non-traditional retired military student pursuing a nursing degree, Moser brings a different perspective.
“A lot of times I’m the old guy in class,” he said with a smile. “It (PTK) allows me to interact with and better understand individuals half my age.
“My tenure as a soldier allowed me to see the incredible work nurses perform,” he said of the motivating factors behind his new career path. He also offered some advice to others considering a life change; “don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something.”
Gentzler is a sophomore in elementary education. She said she enjoys the social aspect of PTK, but she has found a lot of value in mentorship from her chapter’s sponsors.
“The administrators’ involvement and guidance has been great,” she said. “They’ve helped us with resumes, job applications, scholarship applications and helped me build a greater awareness of how to move through my college experience.”
Barber, sophomore in business, serves as her chapter’s PTK Social Chair, which has her organizing events and opportunities to build relationships.
“I’m also really thankful for all the opportunities PTK has given me and the scholarships, which will really help with school next year,” she said.
Barber plans to pursue bachelor’s degrees in accounting and business and a master’s degree in business administration, after which she hopes to land a job in healthcare administration.
After the brief ceremony at the statehouse in Topeka, the honorees were recognized by peers, legislators and college administrators during a luncheon.
The keynote address was provided by longtime educator Dr. Liang Chi Wee, President of Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC).
“They come to us with their life challenges,” he said of community college students. “They trust us to be their partner in life and their journey, and sometimes it’s rocky. Every time somebody is successful at NICC, we impact their family. We truly lift that family. And guess what happens to their community? It’s enhanced as well. We’re here celebrating more than these students. We’re here celebrating families. We’re celebrating community.”
He shared a few memories from his life that illustrated the importance of having a willingness to adapt, a drive to care for others and a willingness to put our communities before ourselves.
“We are the community,” he said. “The community is us. We cannot forget that.”
PTK is the international honor society for two-year colleges and symbolizes excellence in higher education. Students with a GPA of 3.5 or higher are invited to join PTK. The PTK group at Barton spends significant time sponsoring local events as well as volunteering to support others’ events.
The students had to go through an application process and their applications were reviewed by an anonymous selection panel on their respective campuses. All five students will have a chance at being named to PTK’s All-USA Academic Team, which will be announced in March.