When walking into Katie Meek’s classroom at Junction City High School, the words ‘family,’ ‘leadership’ and ‘legacy’ jump off the shelf to greet you. Coach Bill Snyder’s 16 Goals for Success quickly catch your eye in their large, bold print. These goals serve as a teaching guide for Meek, who was a member of the first class of the Snyder Leadership Fellows program at K-State.
“To culminate my experience and get to explore my own leadership and my own sort of path forward … to have that culminate with Snyder Fellows was just unbelievable,” said Meek.
The Snyder Fellows program was founded in 2015. The program focuses on personal and professional development through Coach Bill Snyder’s 16 Goals for Success and aims to prepare students to be lifelong leaders and agents of change within their communities after graduation. Funded completely by donations, the program selects up to 40 students each year across all majors in their last year of undergraduate studies. The fifth class of 39 fellows was announced in March of 2019.
“We want to develop a family of leaders,” said Marcia Hornung, director for the Snyder Fellows program. “We’re focused on making sure our students are feeling prepared to be connected in their communities beyond K-State. It’s a big transition to navigate.”
Meek teaches eleventh- and twelfth-grade social studies at Junction City High School. She said Snyder Fellows gave her the tools to not only develop as a leaders herself, but to teach leadership to students.
“That whole experience — fusing the 16 goals, looking at goal number 12 [no self-limitations], and seeing there is so much more that could be — I now have a new lens when I enter the classroom,” Meek said. “Very few students will pursue history or social studies, but I can help them focus on learning responsibility [goal 16] and leadership [goal 15] while creating a classroom community. Leadership is not a rule. It’s not a position. It’s how you operate within a system.” Meek said she also emphasizes unity [goal three], especially at the beginning of the semester when forming a community of learners.
“Having these 16 goals quite literally up across my classroom … I constantly use those as touchpoints,” Meek said. “I want to continue to improve for the betterment of my students and for myself as a teacher.”
Sam Nichols, a 2016 graduate in economics and fellow class of 2015-16, said it is difficult for him to express how important Snyder Fellows was for him and how much it changed his life.
“The program has been instrumental,” Nichols said. “I try to use some of those specific topics and tools that we learned in my daily life. But just in general, it really set the foundation for my career in terms of what I was looking for.”
Nichols works as a community manager for Sharper Management, a residential property management company based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. During his time as a fellow, Nichols said he thought hard about what his values and strengths were. He then used these revelations when looking for a job and found a company that matched up exceptionally with the strengths he learned about and identified through the program. Nichols said he personally focuses on goal number four, improve, as well as goal number 12, no self-limitations.
“I don’t want to say this is my maximum; this is what I’m aiming for,” Nichols said. “I just want to say I’m going to get better and whenever I decide to evaluate myself, in a year or whenever, all I’m going to worry about is continuing to get better.”
Nichols not only utilizes Snyder’s 16 goals for himself, but in the workplace as well.
“I actually use specific words with my clients that are straight from Snyder’s program about patience and committing to improvement every day,” Nichols said. “I try to dial it pretty specifically to appreciating what we have and improving rather than trying to be perfect right away.”
Nichols’ efforts have not gone unnoticed. In 2018, he was named as one of three finalists for the state award for Excellence in Service in his industry. While Nichols did not win the award, he said the other finalists were exceptional veterans in the industry, and being among them was good validation that he is doing something right.
Meek and Nichols, while being several years out from their time at K-State and the Snyder Fellows program, are firm believers in the power of the program. With Coach Snyder officially retiring in 2018, Meek said Snyder will now be able to engage with students in more ways that will transform their lives and the lives of the communities in which they live.
“This is so much bigger than just the 39 students that are in it this year,” Meek said. “It’s every person that’s walked through the Vanier complex with Coach Snyder, and it’s every person who’s had an opportunity to interact with any of the people he influenced with the 16 goals.”