For Laura Tyson, the most enjoyable part of her job as McClure Engineering Company’s (MEC) business development coordinator is making connections – the connections that build successful project teams, earn business and deliver solutions for communities. As a part of the Leadership Overland Park Class of 2017, she expanded these connections and developed the leadership skills to further help her community grow and thrive.

Tyson walks on sidewalk with her Leadership Overland Park classmates.

Tyson walks alongside Amber Beverlin from DLR Group and other members of the Leadership Overland Park class.

Developed by the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce, the annual six-month Leadership Overland Park program prepares participants to take on leadership roles by educating them about the community and the issues it faces. As part of this year’s class, Tyson completed 10 full-day classes and assisted her cohort with its community service project.

“Overland Park is a vibrant, growing city, so I was eager to develop my understanding of the community as a whole while meeting more up-and-comers in leadership roles around the community,” said Tyson. “Each week, I was very impressed with the speakers’ expertise and willingness to bring along the next generation of leaders.”

For Tyson, who grew up in a family of educators, one of the days that stood out the most was when they visited the Shawnee Mission and Blue Valley schools’ Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) and heard the superintendents from the schools speak.

“It’s really outstanding to see how they are working to prepare students for the real world with classes that focus on things like technology, coding and videography,” said Tyson. “When the superintendents talked about the issues with state funding, it was impactful. They are trying to put a puzzle together, and they simply don’t have all the pieces.”

Tyson’s class also decided to focus on education for their community service project by selecting Growing Futures Early Education Center, which serves 250 low-income children and their families with Early Head Start and Head Start programs in Overland Park.

“It was the organization where we felt we could make the biggest impact, and help these young children, who are the future of our community, to be successful,” said Tyson.

Tyson sits in a classroom with other members of Leadership Overland Park.

Tyson attends one of her full-day classes with Leadership Overland Park.

The Leadership Overland Park class raised money to trim and replant the site’s memorial garden and build raised bed vegetable gardens for the children to plant. Tyson was able to connect her class with SKW’s landscape architect Greg Pfau who donated his time to design the new landscape for the memorial garden.

“It was a great way to put what we were learning into practice,” said Tyson. “Many of the organizations we work for made donations, and we were able to tap into our connections and resources to improve the atmosphere at Growing Futures while also making the outdoor space safer and more private for the children.”

Following the completion of the program, Tyson is looking into nonprofits to find the right fit for her skills and interests to continue her involvement in the community.

“I think it’s important to connect with your community and help those who are less fortunate,” said Tyson. “You might not always be able to give money, but you always have time. It’s rewarding to find something you are passionate about and help that organization grow, evolve and make an impact.”