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A Bulldog Prepares to Share Her ‘American Spirit’ on State Stage

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Senior Leah Mayfield finds her calling and voice through KHS, the Northland Career Center and SkillsUSA

UPDATE: Leah Mayfield and her teammates successfully presented their “American Spirit” project during the Missouri SkillsUSA Leadership & Skill Competitions last week at State Technical College of Missouri! They will advance to the SkillsUSA National Leadership & Competitions event that will be held this June in Atlanta.

Kearney, Mo., March 7, 2024: Leah Mayfield isn’t afraid of being scared.

Ms. Mayfield is a senior at Kearney High School and a first-year student in the Law Enforcement/Crime Scene Investigation program at the Northland Career Center (NCC). She and two other NCC students are the only team in Missouri that is preparing to present an “American Spirit” project at the state SkillsUSA competition on April 4-6 at the State Technical College of Missouri in Linn. 

Depending on how well Mayfield and her teammates do at the state level, they have a unique opportunity to earn an invitation to the organization’s national event in June in Atlanta. Achieving that success will require extraordinary confidence while sharing her expertise and insights with judges she’s never met. 

That’s something Mayfield never would have even attempted before enrolling at NCC and joining the SkillsUSA club. It’s the sign of a young adult who has discovered her calling and her voice.

“The biggest challenge for me has probably been getting out of my comfort zone and actually having to communicate with leaders and people who I would have never normally talked to before,” Mayfield said. “From the start, in my SkillsUSA group, there were two people who I did not know. So that alone – getting to make new friends – really helped me overcome that fear.”

SkillsUSA was founded by students and teachers who were serious about their professions and identified the need for more training in the areas of leadership to complement their chosen careers, according to the NCC website. Its mission is to help develop a skilled workforce for the nation through various activities and competitions.

The “American Spirit” project is part of the SkillsUSA Leadership career development cluster. It requires teams to perform community service, teach others about patriotism and lead a marketing/advertising effort related to the topic.

This academic year, Mayfield’s team has volunteered at Kansas City’s Groundhog Run, taught elementary school students about the meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance and staffed a table to help promote NCC at Kearney Junior High’s recent College and Career Fair. They have documented their work and insights and will share them with SkillsUSA judges next month.

“Our goal is to show others what patriotism and the American spirit is because it can look different for every single person,” Mayfield said. “I like to showcase the diversity of this nation. America is a mixing pot, and we are free to share different ideas. I think America looks even better when we put our different ideas together. All three of us have different ideas and we’re just showcasing that.”

Mayfield was raised in this community and attended Kearney Elementary. She credited her parents, teachers and classmates for helping her develop the skills and confidence she needs to succeed. NCC Law Enforcement/CSI Instructors Officer Darrick Bruns and Officer Erica Hopper have been particularly supportive this year.

“I mean, all of my teachers at KHS have been important to me. That would be a long list,” Mayfield said. “Both of my instructors have given me advice about my college major, and they’ve given me connections that I can use for my career advancement.”

She plans to study political science and criminology at Northwest Missouri State University starting this fall, and then apply to one of the region’s police academies after earning her degree. Mayfield has known for a while that she wanted to pursue a career in law enforcement.

“I’ve always been interested in law enforcement,” she said. “Since I have an uncle who is a sergeant in the Overland Park Police Department, I did a ride-along and actually learned what it was like. That led to wanting to actually pursue that career.”

Mayfield believes that any student can benefit from exploring their career options through NCC. She described how she started off focusing on the CSI track but realized that being in the field as a Law Enforcement officer was more to her liking.

“Going to NCC isn’t committing to a specific job,” she said. “They help you determine if you like a career field, but also if it’s not for you. It’s trial and error. They allow you to go into something else. It’s an experiment. It allows you to see if you actually want to pursue that career.”

The most important thing that Mayfield has learned at KHS and NCC and with SkillsUSA is to push past her fears, seek support and embrace opportunities to grow. That’s what she wants younger students to learn from her experience.

“It might be scary, but just do it scared,” Mayfield said. “The worst thing that can happen is just finding that it’s not for you. There are always several different options, and with each option there is someone who is going to help you, so just go for it and try it.”

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