The beginning of a new fall semester is near. Labette Community College faculty will be back on campus, preparing for the semester with in-service and work days. It’s a time to remind ourselves about the central mission of the college: Creating quality learning opportunities in a supportive environment for success in a changing world. We are always seeking new ways to continue the legacy of changing lives.
Many times we have students who walk across the stage during commencement unknowing how we have impacted their lives. Years later we may read about their successes in the local news or on the web. So many times, we don’t realize how far a student has come, or the impact LCC has made on them until they are almost gone from Labette.
One such student was Tyra Jones, an LCC women’s basketball player from 2016-17. Tyra was raised in Detroit, Michigan, and graduated from Cody High School in 2014. Despite personal obstacles, Tyra was ranked 13th best player in Michigan and one of the top high school recruits. Multiple Division I scholarship offers began coming in and Tyra decided to sign to Duquesne University before transferring to a community college in Texas.
After a difficult fall semester in Texas, Tyra transferred to Labette for the spring semester in January 2016. When I visited with Tyra, she felt compelled to play at LCC after meeting head women’s Coach Mitch Rolls during a recruiting trip. She said they instantly clicked. She felt that LCC had given her a chance when she was in a difficult situation elsewhere. Tyra said LCC turned a negative time in her life into a positive and that her coach and academic adviser became like family. “LCC is forever rooted in my heart simply because of the relationships I developed with many people I met there,” said Jones.
While at LCC, Tyra earned every major honor that a community college player can receive including first team NJCAA All-American, KJCCC All-Conference and All-Region VI. Tyra helped lead Labette to a 25-7 record and finished the season ranked No. 15 in the country.
Tyra had over 15 Division I offers after that season and was academically eligible to sign. Again, because of their close relationship, Tyra turned to LCC’s Rolls to get his guidance on which college would be best for her academically and athletically. She decided to stay in Kansas and sign with Division II Emporia State University. Tyra continued to excel on ESU’s court, earning WBCA All-American honorable mention and first team MIAA All-Conference, including other accolades. Tyra’s success continues today as she leaves for Spain in early fall to play professional basketball for AD Cortegada.
The connection, the success, the legacy of a winning team that Tyra left at LCC is just one of the many student-athlete success stories at Labette Community College. LCC’s faculty and staff, the backbone of the institution, are the key to carrying out the central mission of the college. The mark we leave on a student’s future impacts our entire community and the communities in which our graduates live. We continuously seek new ways to improve our teaching effectiveness, degree offerings, student life, technology and facilities.
We look forward to continuing to grow and improve our facilities, like the current LCC gymnasium. With continued support, we anticipate a successful completion of the Pathways to the Future Capital Campaign to create the LCC Academic and Athletic Complex. This much needed facility expansion and improvement will help LCC better serve students, like Tyra, and continue the legacy of success for future generations.
Mark Watkins is president of Labette Community College.