Newman University is proud to be a title sponsor of The Difference Makers for Wichita awards along with Emprise Bank and The Wichita Eagle/Kansas.com.
The awards, created in 2016, recognize individuals and organizations making a positive difference and celebrate their contributions, value and positive influence on improving the greater Wichita community.
The Russ Meyer Community Leadership Award, which was presented by JR Custom Metal Products, Inc. and named after longtime aviation advocate, philanthropist and community leader Russ Meyer, is given to an individual making a positive impact in our community through demonstrated excellence in leadership and outstanding initiative to create solutions for critical issues facing the area.
The 2019 recipient was Jennifer White of ICT SOS, a grassroots organization that has become an important component in Wichita’s battle against human trafficking.
White said she was honored upon hearing about the award.
“It’s always an honor to have somebody … say, ‘Hey, we see what you’re doing and we appreciate it,'” explained White. “I think like anybody that’s doing the kind of work that we do, you don’t do it for the recognition. But it’s encouraging when it happens because it kind of helps you get through those days where (you ask yourself), ‘Are we even making a difference?'”
White said she
She soon began reaching out to other organizations, asking as many questions as she could and finding out where she could volunteer, donate and help in any way. She “couldn’t shake it off” she said, and felt that she had to be a part of the solution.
“I founded the organization (but) I did not know I was starting a nonprofit (at the time). We started very grassroots, meeting at a coffee shop downtown and inviting the different agencies to come in and tell the community what they do and just kind of opening that up to anybody that wanted to come and learn.
“It really just kind of snowballed. And one of the questions … I kept getting asked was, ‘Are you guys talking to kids about this?’ And that’s really where the next evolution of the prevention education piece came from.”
White said she and her team at ICT SOS work with local law enforcement and social service agencies and others who work with at-risk kids or kids and adults that have been trafficked. The nonprofit also travels to schools to conduct prevention education with the students.
She said having a conversation with the children in the community is important to her.
“We want to empower them to be part of the solution and so we spend a lot of time talking about how we interact with the world around us, with social media, with friends and relationships and things like that.”
White said she appreciates the efforts the rest of the community puts in for her organization. She said without others in professional roles stepping up to help, to take her under their wing, ICT SOS wouldn’t have become what it is today.
“I’m still learning every day and I kind of joke that I don’t ever want to be the smartest person in the room because there are so many great people to learn from right here in our community.”