First Bell: 750 words could yield $5,000 for a young entrepreneur; board member joins advisory board for Community Corrections

High school students with visions of creating the next iPhone or next Habitat for Humanity now have a chance to score some venture capital.

McPherson College plans to award grants to individual students or teams of students who come up with the best entrepreneurial ideas.

The college will give $5,000 — with no requirement to attend McPherson — to the winner in each of two categories:

• Best commercial venture.

• Best nonprofit venture.

The college also will offer scholarships to winners and finalists.

“We’re putting our money where our heart is: encouraging the development of young entrepreneurs in Kansas, both in the commercial and social arenas,” said Kori Gregg, executive director for entrepreneurship at McPherson, a liberal arts college in the community north of Hutchinson.

Interested students — all high schoolers are eligible, as long as they are enrolled in a Kansas school — had better work fast. The deadline for applications is Jan. 25, but it shouldn’t be too difficult for the entrepreneurial set: All you need is a written version of your plan, in 750 words or less and the help of a faculty mentor from your school.


Vanessa Sanburn

A member of the Lawrence school board is accepting an appointment to the Douglas County Community Corrections Advisory Board.

County commissioners approved the appointment Wednesday of Vanessa Sanburn, a social worker now in her third year as a member of the school board.

Serving on the advisory board will give Sanburn an outlet for her professional skills, experience and education. Sanburn, who in May earned her master’s degree in social work from Kansas University, works a contract employee for the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, providing family-based sexual education through a “Kids Need to Know” program.

Sanburn previously worked for Planned Parenthood in Wichita, where she managed grants, prepared reports and met with about 350 students per month about sex education. Among the population she would address: students incarcerated at the youth correctional facility in Sedgwick County.

Joining the advisory board also should provide “some overlap” regarding broad issues facing the Lawrence school district, Sanburn said.

“This gives me an opportunity to see how we could do a better job, at the school board level, preventing truancy problems and high school dropouts,” she said.

Sanburn’s appointment is to a two-year term. She takes over for Melissa Boisen, whose term expired at the end of December.

The advisory board makes recommendations to county commissioners regarding Community Corrections, a state-funded, county-operated program that provides “intensive supervision” of offenders. It is considered a level between probation at the low end, and incarceration at the high end. The group also advises the commission regarding grants and other matters involving Youth Services, the county division that handles juvenile offenders.