Former Kansas State footballer talks about the importance of youth

Julie Anderson

Former Kansas State University footballer Bill Snyder talked about a topic important to many residents in El Dorado during the El Dorado Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet Monday evening.

That topic was mentoring.

Snyder got involved in mentoring when Gov. Kathleen Sebelius approached him about leading a mentoring initiative upon his retirement from coaching.

“Which I was pleased to do so,” he said.

He was also pleased to see the mentoring initiative Vision 20/20 that El Dorado is undertaking.

“It really is a pleasure to be able to address such a wonderful program and it really is somewhat groundbreaking within the state of Kansas,” he said.

He said it all deals with the youth in a community.

He talked about how violence involving youth usually has one thing in common – the children don’t have anyone there with which to share their feelings and thoughts.

Back in 1989, Snyder recalls making the comment that it was the most difficult time for youth. He continues to believe that today, although perhaps for different reasons.

Because of that, mentoring is important in shaping the lives of youth.

He also pointed out some important statistics.

One is that 50 percent of all youth in the country are housed in single-parent homes.

“I look around and I see we are not a very diverse population,” he said, adding that is often the case in the Midwest.

That led him to his next statistic that one-third of all young black males will be incarcerated in their lives.

The highest suicide rate exists in those from teenagers to those in their early 20s.

“An alarming statistic is that over the last five decades the suicide rate has gone up 5,000 percent,” Snyder said.

“It’s so easy to say that doesn’t exist here.”

One concern in dealing with youth is health.

“The youth of our nation today statistically this is the unhealthiest group of children that we have had in our society,” he said. “The longevity rate for young people today, this is the first generation that has ever had a decrease in life expectancy.

“It means young people today for whatever reason are unhealthy.”

One of those reasons he said was fast food. Another reason is lack of exercise and the increased use of electronics.

“You find young people today spend a lot of time behind a desk where they used to go out and play sandlot baseball,” he said. “When was the last time you saw a bunch of young people in a vacant lot or out playing kickball or playing baseball. That doesn’t happen anymore.”

He said technological changes are wonderful, although you have to understand the proper balance.

Snyder went on to say that although drugs and alcohol have always been available, they weren’t as prevalent as today.

“What that tells me is there are a lot of young people who need guidance and need direction,” he said.

Statistics again show that kids involved in caring relationship are less likely to be involved with violence, drugs or alcohol.

“So mentoring has an impact,” he said. “People can have such an impact on the lives of other people.”

He said even coaching is mentoring.

Next the meeting moved on to chamber business.

Bebee Thomas talked about the past year as president of the chamber.

“I just wanted to start off by saying how proud I have been for being the 2007 president of the chamber of commerce,” she said.

“As we see Wichita suburban communities struggle to maintain retail and individual business, El Dorado is expanding. The El Dorado Chamber of Commerce takes an active role in supporting and enhancing the El Dorado business community.”

She said they recognize the need for active membership in order to maintain their organization.

She recognized not only the membership, but also the volunteers they have.

Taking over as president in this 90th year for the chamber is Craig Lorenson.

He thanked Thomas for her leadership during their transition year.

“We say to you ‘job well done,’” he said.

Lorenson went on to talk about making the chamber a flagship for El Dorado.

He talked about all of the calls the chamber receives for information.

“We have a goal to by the end of 2008 to have 350 members in this organization,” he said.

Several awards also were given out during the ceremony, including the 2007 Volunteer Organization Award given to the American Cancer Relay For Life; Volunteer Community Project for the Toys for Tots Drive given to Frank Kratzer, chair; Outstanding Committee of the Year for the chamber Membership Committee given to Rachel Tipton, chair; and Citizens Award for Mission El Dorado given to Don Hutchinson and Mike Lemke.

El Dorado Times