Two High School Seniors Win Rural Voices Youth Contest


Two high school seniors in North Central Kansas are being recognized with the John R. Cyr Rural Voices Award for submitting the top entries in the 2018-2019 Rural Voices Youth Contest.

Students had the option to submit an original essay or video reflective of the contest theme — “Rural Kansas…My Community.” McKenzie Shippy, a senior at Herington High School, was awarded first place in the video category. Kara Eilert, a senior at St. John’s Catholic High School, Beloit, was awarded first place in the written category. Both students will receive a cash award of $850.

The awards are named in honor of John Cyr who served for 22 years as the NCRPC Executive Director. High school seniors in the 12-county NCRPC service area were eligible to participate. NCRPC has sponsored the contest annually since 2006 and has awarded more than $22,000 to seniors from across the region.

“The contest theme this year allowed high school seniors to reflect on their community and the value it has in their lives,” NCRPC Executive Director Doug McKinney said. “Community culture, whether it is a specific place or an overall feeling in a broader area, is important. Knowing how a community works and its strengths and opportunities is also important.”

Both students say they enjoyed participating in the Rural Voices contest.

“I loved the opportunity to be creative showing Kansas how my community has shaped me into who I am,” Shippy said. “This video was my way of giving back to Herington and Woodbine for all the support they have given me.”

“To me, rural Kansas is home, so I was very excited about the opportunity to write about what rural Kansas means to me and share my thoughts on how we can strive to keep our communities sought after places for individuals to call home,” Eilert said.

To view the top entries or to learn more about the contest, visit Details for the 2019-2020 contest will be announced in the fall.

Derek Nester
Derek Nester
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2021 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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