Todd Vogts

The Voice of the Vogts

Category: Life (page 1 of 65)

80th year of Boys State begins

In 1937, young men in the state of Kansas received their first opportunity to have their lives changed.

The American Legion Boys State of Kansas debuted, and for the past 80 years, the program has been instilling ideals of civic responsibility and leadership into our communities by providing a relevant and real-world interactive program aimed at creating more engaged members of society.

Boys State is a “learning by doing” political exercise that simulates elections, political parties and government at the state, county and local levels, providing opportunities to lead under pressure, showcasing character and working effectively within a team. It’s also an opportunity to gain pride and respect for government and the price paid by members of the military to preserve democracy.

The goal is for participants — they are called Staters and they are young men entering their senior year of high school — to leave the program with new leadership skills and feeling empowered to enact positive change in their local communities. Though this has always been a primary objective, this year the curriculum of the program has focused on this more intently, putting the emphasis on city and county government. After all, when a Stater leaves the program, that is the area where he can affect the greatest good.

The 2017 session kicked off today, and I am once again the Program Coordinator, meaning I oversee the day-to-day operations of the program. I work with a talented team of other Coordinators who are charged with various aspects of the program. Below them, if one where to look at a hierarchy, are nearly 100 other staff members teaching the Staters about all aspects of government. I always feel honored and humbled to be able to work with the caliber of people who volunteer their time to make Boys State the program it is.

This year’s session, which as I mentioned is the 80th anniversary of the Kansas program, is taking place today through Friday on the campus of Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. It was planned with care. You can see what is happening each day by visiting http://ksbstate.org/curriculum/schedule/. You can keep up with the details of the session at http://ksbstate.org/2017-session-2, and http://ksbstate.org/news/ will have Stater-produced news (print, video, and audio) and staff-shot photos throughout the week.

In 2003, I was a Stater, and the program impacted me deeply. It gave me the opportunity to explore my own leadership abilities and grow them into life-long skills, and the lessons I learned from my time as a Stater, which is what the participants are referred to as, still influence me today.

If it weren’t for Boys State, I wouldn’t be who I am today, and I wouldn’t be a journalist. While at State, I was elected by my county to be the newspaper reporter. At the first meeting of the newspaper, called the Staters Union, I was then elected by the other staff members to the editor-in-chief. I was in charge of the entire operation, from writing to editing to producing the newspaper, which was a daily newspaper.

The experience was invaluable. I quickly learned the essentials of newspaper production, and though the daily deadlines were stressful, it gave me a delicious taste for the world of journalism.

I’ve been hooked ever since.

Obviously I’ve gained more journalism knowledge since my time at Boys State, but I wouldn’t have found my passion and true calling if it wasn’t the experience I had that summer prior to my senior year of high school.

I love this program. I honestly feel it is one of the most valuable things I do with my time, but sometimes it is hard to explain why. I hope to spend time this week reflecting on that so I can provide a salient answer. However, that will not keep me from focusing on the Staters and ensuring they have as powerful an experience as I did.

Getting a 2nd master’s degree with sights set on higher ed job

University of Missouri

This school year has been rough. My full-time gig as a high school journalism and English teacher hasn’t been bad, but I have been swamped by course work. This is because I am working on a second master’s degree. My first one is in education from Fort Hays State University. I got it because it moved me across the teaching pay scale. Other than that, it doesn’t do a whole lot for me. However, this second degree is in Media Management (journalism) from the University of Missouri, which is one of the best journalism schools in the country.

Obviously, a master’s degree in journalism is more up my alley. I love journalism. That’s why I became a teacher in the first place. It just makes more sense for me and my focus, and it allows me to better pursue my ultimate goal, which is to teach journalism at the college/university level.

Of course, a doctoral degree in journalism would allow for this too, and I almost went that route. I got accepted to the University of Kansas William Allen White Doctorate in Journalism and Mass Communication program a little more than a year ago. However, the timing wasn’t great, and I was unable to jump on the opportunity. Do I wish it had worked out differently? Sure, but that’s life. Besides, through the course of the interview for the program, I quickly felt I was underprepared to do the necessary research the doctoral program entailed. The kind folks at KU said I would be fine, but I wanted to be more than fine.

Hence my enrollment in the Mizzou program, which will culminate in me writing a thesis. That’s something I didn’t have to do through Fort Hays.

The thesis will give me great experience with conducting research, and the degree will make me qualified to teach journalism at the college/university level I aspire to be at. However, I don’t plan to stop at this master’s degree. I want to earn my doctorate. I want to be Dr. Todd Vogts, and I will be, one day.

As for the degree at hand, as of this writing, I am halfway done (most major assignments and other course work have been done for a week or more, actually, but I had one lingering final I had to take). I spent the Fall 2016 and Spring 2017 semesters killing myself with 9 graduate hours each. My beautiful and pregnant wife Kendall has been a grad school widow. I’ve experienced stress I am not used to, and I’ve often thought I couldn’t do it anymore. However, I am lucky enough to have a great supporter in my wife, and she has pushed me to keep working hard and has been gracious enough to proofread the hundreds of pages of papers I have written through the course of my classes. I don’t know what I would do without her.

This summer, I am taking 6 hours, which again is a pretty good load considering the summer classes are 8-week courses instead of the 16-week courses during the fall and spring semesters. Then, in Fall 2017, I will take 4 hours in order to wrap up a few classes before taking my 9-hour thesis in Spring 2018.

If all goes according to plan, I will be finishing up this time next year.

My students know I am working on this, and they know what my career goal is. I don’t look forward to the day when I say goodbye to them, but when that times come and I have secured a job at a college or university, farewells will have to be exchanged. They get it, though I’m sure when the day comes, the students won’t be particularly thrilled. In fact, I know that’s the case based upon another teacher in my building recently taking another job. As I’ve tried to explain to them, though, they can’t expect someone to stay forever. Change happens. People have to do what is best for them and their families. Besides, the students will, theoretically, be graduating and leaving one day too, so it is unfair for them to hold the teachers to a different standard. I understand where they are coming from. Change can be uncomfortable, but sometimes it can be a good thing.

So, I don’t know when I will get to move into the next level of teaching. Until it happens, I am just going to keep plugging away at my own self-improvement and the improvement of my students. And I will continue to do so with as much transparency as possible.

We’re having a baby girl!

Kendall and I posed for a quick picture after revealing the gender of our first child to be a girl. That’s why I’m holding a pink balloon and she’s holding a bow. The little outfit we are both holding is a baseball-themed onesie. No matter what, this girl will be a Cardinals fan!

OK. I know this might be old news for a lot of you. My wife Kendall and I started spreading the word about the fact we were expecting a while ago. And we revealed the gender on Easter via a Facebook Live video (I wanted to include that, but I can’t get it to download to my computer in order to share it on here). However, I still wanted to make a historical record of it on this blog.

Yes. I should have done so much sooner, but I’ve been swamped lately with grad school (stay tuned for another blog post soon about my reflections on that).

And, Kendall has already been covering the growth of our family pretty extensively on our blog at toddandkendall.com. It’s quite humorous to read. You should check it out.

However, assuming perhaps some of you haven’t heard the news, we are having a baby girl this September. We did the reveal by having my brother shoot an arrow at a balloon filled with the appropriate colored confetti. It was windy, but he nailed it on the first try and the pink confetti flew.

This was a nice way for all the family to find out at once instead of having to make countless telephone calls. For my parents, this is their first grandchild, and they are pretty pumped. My brother often gets called “Uncle Troy” by the children of his friends, so he’s excited to actually be an uncle.

I’ve had a lot of people ask Kendall and I if I’m excited. I don’t show a whole of emotion, unless I’m screaming profanity at the TV while watching St. Louis Cardinals baseball. However, I am excited about having a daughter. I can’t wait to meet her and watch her grow into a beautiful young woman. Sure, it’s going to entail some changes in my world, but I’m good with that. It’s going to be challenging and exciting. I say bring it on!

Kendall has already started getting the nursery ready. She’s painting the walls a new color. I’m not much help in this department because I despise painting and don’t understand why we need to paint a wall that was freshly painted just about a year ago when we bought our house. But I’m just a dumb guy. What do I know about this sort of thing?

Oh, and during the sonogram where we confirmed the gender, she waved at us. She also flopped around a lot so we couldn’t get a good look at her face using the 3D sonogram feature. The wave was cool. The being difficult made it clear she is her mother’s daughter.

Another Kendall is coming into the world . . . Send good vibes my way if you feel so inclined.

Experiment with less connectedness proves fruitful

fb_icon_325x325I did it. I went without Facebook on my phone for a month, and it was incredibly freeing.

In June, I came to a realization. I was a slave to the notifications on my phone. Every time I heard the sounds or saw the notifications glowing red on one of my apps, I had to check it. I was compulsive.

I decided I need to break myself of this, or at least become less addicted to checking what those on my Friends list had posted. So, for the month of July, I vowed to run an experiment with myself and delete the Facebook app from my phone.

This stemmed from a speaker I heard. He talked about connection versus presence . . . being connected to social media versus being present in the moment with actual humans.

I was much more connected to social media than present in the moment.

My absence from Facebook wasn’t complete, though.

I kept the Facebook Messenger app installed. I view that as a communication tool, one some family members and prospective dj clients (yes, I am also a dj on the weekends; I provide music for weddings and birthday parties and other events) use to reach me almost exclusively.

I also be kept the Facebook Pages Manager app since I am an administrator for multiple pages for various organizations.

Also, the app was on my iPad, and I checked in from time to time when I was on my computer.

The point was to simply eliminate the easy access I had because I am on my phone more than any other device.

This experiment was beyond rewarding. I found myself more connected with my wife and other family and friends. Instead of constantly having my phone in my hand, I had conversations with those around me.

Sure, I checked Facebook on my iPad from time to time, but it was only sporadically.

Even when I did, though, I didn’t spend as much time scrolling as I had on my phone. Instead, I cleared the notifications, looked at a few friends’ postings, and then I got out of the app.

I was free.

This came in particularly useful during my wife and I’s recent trip to St. Louis to celebrate our one-year anniversary. Instead of constantly being on my phone, I enjoyed time with her as we watched a St. Louis Cardinals game, toured the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, walked through the St. Louis Zoo (it was free and a spectacular zoo), and went to the top of the Gateway Arch.

I still checked in on Twitter and Instagram, my other go-to social media apps, but I didn’t spend an inordinate amount of time there.

For Instagram, that’s easy. I don’t follow too many people, so it doesn’t take long before I see the same posts I saw the last time I was in the app.

For Twitter, I follow a lot of people, so I become disinterested quickly unless something exciting is happening in the world and Twitter is buzzing about it.

I equate this experiment to removing a shackle. I performed a digitial detox, and I feel healthier than I did a couple months ago.

I don’t feel anxiety tightening around my chest because I haven’t checked social media lately. It even gave me time, and almost a sense of permission, to take part in one of my favorite passtimes — reading. I read two books and started a third in this time.

So, how will I move forward? Facebook is staying off my phone. I will continue what I did during the month of July for the conceivable future, and if Twitter or Instagram become a burden, I might just drop them too.

I’m suggesting anyone else should do this, but if you are like me and feel Facebook, or any social media for that matter, is an opperssive presence in your life, give a digital detox a try.

At the very least, no longer being a slave to social media will be a wonderful result, and, if you’re lucky, you will be more connected to those around you too.

Consider civic engagement on Independence Day

So it’s over. The 79th session of the American Legion Boys State of Kansas Leadership Academy is over.

The program wrapped up nearly a month ago, and it’s always difficult to accept that. We refer to it as the “Boys State Hangover.” There is such energy weaving in and out of the week and activities making up each session of Boys State. It can be rather jarring for the energy to suddenly dissipate. It takes time to readjust to non-State life. Each year my fellow counselors, coordinators and advisors spend countless hours in preparation. Then, a mere week after we officially start the session, it is over.

But it never truly ends. Those involved in the program such as myself simply begin anew and start the preparations for the next session. In this case it will be our 80th session, so it is a milestone year.

For the delegates, whom we refer to as Staters, it is over, but it doesn’t have to be. If we’ve done our jobs, the program ignited a fire within. A fire inextinguishable by mere time.

That fire consists of civic responsibility and leadership.

It is my sincere hope our delegates use that fire to accomplish good in their communities and our state.

That fire needs to be fed, though. The month of July is a great time to toss a few more sticks of kindling on, especially this year since it is an election year.

With the 4th of July comes a national swell of patriotism. Everyone feels more American as they celebrate our country’s independence under the flashes of fireworks exploding in the sky.

Much like fireworks, a fuse must be lit to see the shower of light illuminating the night sky.

For Boys State and its goal of creating leaders instilled with civic responsibility, the fuse was lit when the Stater applied to be a part of the program, and the fire racing its way up the fuse is the experience of State. All we have to do is wait for the payoff and enjoy the show.

A lot of factors can get in the way of that fire and the resulting explosion of action, so I urge you to help keep that fire burning in any fashion you can.

Talk politics with your children, and urge them to research and explore where they stand on any given issue. Guide them through this journey, but let them come to their own conclusions.

It may be difficult to accept should your son or daughter end up disagreeing with you politically, but for the sake our country’s democracy, we have to have knowledgeable and engaged citizens who can stand up for what they believe. If the only rationale your son or daughter has for believing something is, “that’s what my mom and dad said,” then they don’t truly believe in anything.

They need to understand and be able to support their stance, and, more importantly, they need to be able to understand the beliefs of those who disagree with them. They don’t need to think the same as everyone else, but they need to be able to listen to dissenting views and work with those individuals.

Reaching a belief system is only the first step. They then need to go out and do something with it. Getting involved at the local level is a great start. Believe in them and support them as they take steps to make positive impacts within their communities.

That is the goal of Boys State, and it is something we are so passionate about that we want everyone to do it. We want to see the beauty of the fireworks as the fire ignites something larger than themselves.

Want to help light a fuse for a young man you know? Then please visit www.kansasboysstate.com and nominate him, or, better yet, have him fill out the application to truly get the fuse burning.

Together, we can help light up Kansas with smart, engaged civic leaders.

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