Meet the 2017 Kansas Participants!


We are so thrilled to welcome our third class of Kansas participants to the Kansas Women’s Leadership Institute! This stellar group will work right alongside our international participants this summer for a transformative six weeks. Learn more about each of them below.

Courtney Blankenship

Pittsburg State University
Double Majoring in Political Science and Communication with a minor in Music
Pratt, KS

My name is Courtney Blankenship, and I am a junior at Pittsburg State University. I am very passionate about promoting diversity and cultural acceptance, so I work very closely with the international student program at PSU, participating in the Peace Corps preparatory program and volunteering in the Intensive English Program as a conversation partner where I am able to work with international students who are learning English. As a reporter/journalist for the university, I have made it my goal to give a voice to international students who, so often, go unrepresented.

As a student living in Crawford County, I have seen poverty in a variety of devastating ways and have conducted extensive research over the negative stereotypes that people associate with poverty, and have presented my research at a conference, colloquium, and a research summit. Throughout this semester, I have also had the incredible opportunity to work as a legislative intern at the Topeka State Capitol, which involved leaving my apartment at 4:30 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday to make the 2 1/2 hour drive to Topeka from Pittsburg–During the internship, my love for political participation strengthened and I found myself involved with working political campaigns and ultimately, founding my own student organization on campus to get students more involved with politics called, W.E. R.I.S.E., which stands for “We Empower Resilient Individuals to be self-sufficient and Educated.”

I hope to continue growing in both my leadership capabilities and my education through my participation in KWLI.

Anita Patel

University of Kansas
Communications Major with a minor in Creative Writing
Topeka, KS

My name is Anita Patel, a Gujarati student attending the University of Kansas. Even though I grew up and continue to live in Topeka, KU is my home as well. During my first year, I have enjoyed the opportunity to participate in: The KU Honors Program; Veggie Lunch, a weekly program providing free vegetarian lunches to the community; KU Fights Hunger; and the South Asian Student Association’s talent show, Jayhawk Jhalak, in a dance with a group of wonderful girls.

Currently, I am interested in supporting community outreach programs. I want to further develop my understanding of how NGOs aid in helping people realize their full potentials. Specifically, my focus is on arts engagement and food appreciation in the nonprofit sector. I enjoy writing creatively as well. With my discovery of literary magazines this year, I will continue to stay engaged in the creative writing world. Culturally, I want to further my studies of Gujarat, with hopes that I can study abroad. Then I can share the vivacity of my heritage with others upon my return.

Through the KWLI program, I hope to acquire lasting skills while deepening my appreciation for a variety of cultures. I have faith in humanity, of course, but there’s a special place in my heart for womankind. I’m quite looking forward to developing a close bond with some spectacular, empowered women!

Leonor Ramos-Salamanca

University of Kansas
Psychology Major
Johnson, KS

Hi! My name is Leonor Ramos-Salamanca and I am from Johnson, Kansas, a small town in SWK, which I was very involved in. I volunteered at the Recreation Department, church, and just about anywhere, I could lend a hand. I am a first-generation student and currently a freshman at the University of Kansas majoring in Psychology with a minor in Sociology and French. At KU, I am involved in HALO (Hispanic American Leadership Organization) and I’m currently the organizations Historian. After I receive my degree, I intend to go to graduate school and proceed a career in Counseling Psychology. I have a passion for helping people in any way possible. I love learning new things and am very open-minded. I hope to encourage other women to further their education and overall help them grow. I am incredibly honored to have been given the opportunity to be a part of the KWLI. I believe participating in KWLI will help me gain stronger leadership skills, expand my knowledge of other cultures, and overall help me learn about myself. Words can’t explain how excited I am to meet the other participants and form a close-knit community.

Andrea Schale

Hutchinson Community College
Majoring in Biological Sciences
Sedgwick, KS

Hello! My name is Andrea Schale. I’m from Sedgwick, Kansas and I am a Sophomore at Hutchinson Community College. I will transfer this fall to the University of Kansas to pursue a degree in biology with an emphasis in genetics before applying to medical school. My greatest passion is learning and understanding how the world works on a broad level, as well as making sense of the chemistry and connections underlying our world. I have served on the Hutchinson Community College Honors Student Council as Tri-Chair. I am also an officer in the HCC chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, where I have been able to help to set the groundwork for starting an on campus food bank, and I was recently added to the Phi Theta Kappa Academic All-State Team. I have presented at the state and regional level my research on ADHD medication and its effects on college students and was also chosen for Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. As you can probably tell, I have an interest in leadership, but I also am very passionate about the issues that face women today. I hope that through KWLI I can discover more about the challenges facing women not only within the realm of education, but throughout society as a whole.

Javen Smith

Emporia State University
Elementary Education
Wichita, KS
Summer 2017
KWLI Participant

Greetings from Wichita, Kansas! My name is Javen Smith, and I am honored to have been selected to participate in the Kansas Women’s Leadership Institute this year!  I am a student at Emporia State University (ESU), pursuing my degree in Elementary Education with an Educational Licensure in English as a Second Language, and minors in both English and Leadership.  

Nothing can describe the feeling of being able to help lead someone to their goals regardless of the obstacles they might face, which is why after receiving my Bachelor’s degree I will become an elementary teacher helping to guide students of low socio-economic status living in underprivileged communities.  While teaching, I plan to purse my Master’s Degree in Counseling so that I can provide professional support to these students and families in a more holistic capacity.

When I am not studying, I enjoy tutoring and staying actively involved in local community-based organizations such as the ESU E-Team leadership, where I serve as a facilitator and mentor to help assimilate incoming freshman from around the world to our wonderful campus; volunteering with Habitat for Humanity to help build homes for needy families; serving as a volunteer with The Salvation Army to provide charitable resources for families; helping to provide nutritious meals to impoverished citizens of my local community at The Lord’s Diner Food Pantry in Wichita, Kansas; and spending quality moments with my Little through the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Flint Hills.

I have always had a strong passion for helping others, which is especially why I believe it is important to support initiatives to help women who are facing economic hardships, domestic violence, and unplanned pregnancies in my community. In addition to supporting my local community, I also believe it is important to provide support to the social well-being & welfare of people throughout the world.  Therefore, I plan to participate as a Peace Corps volunteer as part of either the Education Program, Community Economic Development Program, or the Youth in Development: Empowering the Next Generation of Leaders Program, and I am confident that this transformational and multicultural experience with KWLI will help me to become a more effective, empowered, and enriched leader within my community, among my peers, and throughout my professional & philanthropic career.

Megan Storie

Hutchinson Community College
Majoring in Criminal Justice/Pre-Law
Hutchinson, KS

Hello! My name is Megan Storie, and, as my last name suggests, I often enjoy reading wondrous stories about faraway lands with beautiful, unique people, but, more importantly, I love experiencing new lands with beautiful people in reality. While I’m originally from the small town of DeSoto, Missouri, Kansas has always been a second home to me. This is where my mother grew up, where my parents met, and I have many fond memories of visiting Hutchinson throughout my entire adolescence, so my decision to move to Kansas was intentional and personal.

I am currently a sophomore at Hutchinson Community College where I study Criminal Justice/Pre-Law, and I was recently featured on NPR to speak about the Kansas Supreme Court and their visit to HutchCC. To say I am involved at HutchCC is an understatement, and I am currently the Student Government Association President, a Chapter Officer for the Kappa Gamma Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, and Secretary for the Honors Student Council. I was also recently named Who’s Who Among Students In American Colleges and Universities.

What I am most passionate about is the domestic violence and sexual assault that terrorizes women, especially young college women, throughout the world. After Hutchinson, I will transfers to Washburn University. My long-term goal is to become a District Attorney so that I can further make a difference in what I am most passionate about. I hope that KWLI will help me find my voice so that I can encourage women to stand up and speak out against this prevalent issue. I am beyond excited for this experience of a lifetime, and I can’t wait to meet my fellow KWLI sisters!

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