School counselor enjoys guiding senior students
Since kindergarten, Dana Young has known she wanted to be a teacher. And she fulfilled that calling for many years as a business education teacher for a variety of schools. But in her current position, Young has taken the teaching to a different level by providing deeper guidance for students at Duncan High School in Oklahoma as the senior counselor.
Dana began her education at Wayland’s Plainview campus in psychology several decades ago, but after marrying her husband Trent and following him to the Dallas area for a seminary degree, she ended up finishing her undergraduate degree at the University of North Texas in education.
She taught for three years, then took time off to raise the couple’s children until 2002, when she got back into teaching. When the family moved to Oklahoma for Trent to pastor the Patterson Avenue Baptist Church in Comanche, she began to feel the pull back to counseling.
Turning a corner
“I looked into a counseling program and really wanted a Christian plan if possible, so I was really glad that God made a way for me to do that through Wayland,” said Dana. “I was Google searching counseling programs and Wayland came up. I looked online and when I finally decided to get out of the boat and applied for the program.
“Tom Condry (then advisor at Wayland’s Altus campus) called me that next week and said they had a cohort starting that next month. I didn’t realize the program was on the quarter system, so we were able to start that fall and I liked that I could do the whole program in two years.”
Dana said the Wayland program provided great flexibility with weekend classes and online components, meaning she could still work full-time. She earned the Master of Arts in Counseling in 2016 and then took a year off teaching to do counseling at a private agency.
She admits she learned much but didn’t enjoy it. The pull of the school environment keep beckoning. When Duncan opened the position as counselor to seniors, she jumped at the chance to get back to her roots.
“I love working with students and helping them set goals, apply for college and all that,” she says. “We have 220 seniors that I work with and one-third of our freshmen as well. That freshman year really matters, and it is amazing how I can look at some freshmen and already pinpoint those that will be stragglers later on.”
Challenges and rewards
Dana said with a school population that is lower socioeconomically, she finds her role as an encourager even more vital since some families are not always able to provide great support for their students.
“I try to help them find their strengths, their study skills, their career pathways as young as sixth grade. Every student in Oklahoma has an individual career and academic plan they follow every year, and we hope they will embrace that and I can help keep them on track,” she said. “By starting the conversation earlier, we are able to give them more exploration. The internship program gives them hands-on experience and they can determine if they still want to go that route. I’d much rather them decide that in high school than after they’ve been in dental school for two years.”
While Dana mostly works on a guidance level and not with students in crisis or facing behavioral issues, her training is adequate to allow her to refer students with such needs to the licensed professor counselor on staff for deeper needs. The job is rewarding, she says, and she knows she is making an impact.
“I really enjoy the school environment. This is where God has called me to serve and be a positive influence on the students. I pray for my students, and I love doing that. We get to see a lot of forward progress.”
Devotional: Sin can obscure majesty of grace
A few days ago, it rained here in Kathmandu, and the result, after the clouds moved, was a breathtaking view of the Himalayas to the North. However, as each day passes without rain, the pollution of the city continues to build up again. As a result, the dust, smog, and smoke obscure the foothills, but the mountains are the highest in the world and stick out above the smog.
Due to the height and size of the mountains they appear even taller than normal. It is easy to forget, when the air is clean, the size of the mountains as it is a gradual sort of thing with each foothill being just a little higher than the last until it is one of the peaks. But when the smog and dust have settled over the valley, the mountains appear taller as the gradual foothills are, to an extent, obscured. This perspective makes me think of the formerly sinful woman who anointed Jesus with perfume (Luke 7:36-50).
Jesus is invited to have dinner with one of the pharisees and he is at the table when a woman comes in and anoints Jesus’ feet with an expensive bottle of perfume, washing his feet with her tears. Watching what appears to be an unnecessary spectacle, the pharisees and others are indignant and wonder if Jesus knows this woman’s reputation. Jesus answers with a story about a man cancelling two debts, one large and one moderate, but neither debtor can pay. Jesus asks which man would feel more gratitude toward the one who cancelled his debt, and naturally the Pharisee answers the one who was forgiven more. Jesus agrees, forgives the woman and demonstrates the same principle.
The mountains are similar. Sometimes the pollution is so thick that you cannot see the mountains or foothills, but the mountains are still there, still magnificent, still present, though unseen. Sometimes the mountains can be seen over the top of the pollution, and they appear to be larger and more incredible as you see the tops seeming to just float above the city. Sometimes it rains and the mountains cannot be seen; it is not terribly pleasant, but after the air is clear, you can breathe deeply, and as the clouds part, you see the panorama that has been hiding.
So it is in our lives as well. Perhaps we make mistakes and cause pollution, sometimes to the point of not being able to see the grace of God. But we confess and repent and as 1 John 1:9 says, “God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” At last, rain, and the breathtaking view of the mountain of God’s grace.
Carolyn Thaxton earned her degree in intercultural missions and piano in 2016 and is currently teaching music at the Kathmandu International Study Centre in Nepal. She taught music in Hale Center before leaving her for two-year stint in July 2018. You can follow her adventures online here.
From the History Files
When Tulia rancher S. F. Flores and his wife Leetta made a gift to Wayland Baptist University in 1959, they likely had no idea the impact that generous gift would be to the small liberal arts college on the Texas Plains. That was more than half of the university’s life ago – WBU was founded in 1908 – and the dividends from the Flores gift continue to bless the school.
Known from childhood as “Rack,” S.F. Flores learned the cattle business from his father, who raised his family in several Texas counties before moving to the Texas Panhandle in 1888 when S.F. was 20. He worked as a cowboy on a smaller ranch and married Jennie Lynch two years later, soon building a homestead for the couple near Dimmitt, Texas. He sold the property after three years of improvements and purchased a small herd of cattle with the proceeds. They moved to Tulia and both joined the First Baptist Church just after the turn of the century, remaining highly active for the rest of their lives.
Flores continued to raise cattle and purchased a large ranch in Sherman County near Stratford, soon adding more land and buildings in and around Tulia to his investment portfolio in the early 1920s. He worked at First National Bank first as a vice president, then as a president for 20 years. He was active in other community development efforts including the purchase of land for the future Swisher County hospital.
When natural gas and oil were discovered across the panhandle in the mid-1920s, Flores’ land jumped in value due to rich natural gas wells. But just a few years later, Jennie’s health declined and she died in June 1929. Now a widower with no children, Rack Flores divested his bank stock shortly before the stock market collapse and went on an extended vacation to rest. In April 1930 he married widow Leetta Heflin, who brought her own money to the marriage and acclimated to the Tulia happenings easily.
The Floreses continued their business ventures and banking in Tulia for many years. Their philanthropic efforts began at their church with regular tithing as well as special gifts such as a new grand piano, pew cushions and building campaign contributions. He became good friends with then-pastor Neil Record and trusted him deeply.
A former Plainview resident who was a family friend of founder Dr. J.H. Wayland, Leetta Flores actually made the first gift to Wayland to fund a new Bible building, bringing some concern from the couple when the building construction did not get started right away, Record investigated the matter and found the money was intact at Wayland but was not enough to build the building. Soon, Rack Flores showed up with another $50,000 to complete the building and the edifice in their name was completed in the fall of 1959. Shortly after that gift, he deeded a 1,650-acre tract of land in Swisher County to the school.
Several months before, in January 1959, the college announced the receipt of what was then the largest gift ever given to a Texas Baptist institution. S. F. Flores had deeded 27 sections of land in the Panhanlde to Wayland upon his death. Unofficial estimates of the land value ranged from $2-3 million, excluding oil and gas revenues.
When S.F. Flores died in 1966 at age 98, Wayland began realizing revenues from its new property assets and the lease agreements with farmers. This pattern has continued over the decades, creating endowment funds that have kept the university going in some leaner times in its history. The land and its benevolence remain intact with a few changes, including some wind turbines added a few years ago.
But for the past 60 years, the university has been blessed year after year by the generosity of a simple, humble farm and ranch couple from Tulia who probably never would have imagined the difference they were making.
(Material for this article was gleaned from The Wayland Century history book and an article by religion faculty member Dr. Michael Dain titled “Giving ‘Til it Helps: S.F. Flores, Panhandle Philanthropist,” presented to the Texas Baptist Historical Society meeting in 2013 and printed in the 2014 of the society’s Texas Baptist History journal.)
Graduate helping businesses thrive as consultant
Brian Benavides says he’s always had a fascination with business operations, so it’s no surprise that he’s now living the dream by running his own business, Omega Strategic Consulting, based in Arizona and Texas and serving a diverse client base all over the United States. His path to entrepreneurship was both unique and unconventional.
The San Antonio native actually got his start in the workforce as a police officer, building also on his love of human behavior. He moved up quickly in the ranks to a supervisory role and found himself, along with a few others, performing a “reengineering project" in the city from a business as well as a service and safety perspective.
“We found they had no semblance of infrastructure, no real financials or budgets, and no controls in place,” he says. “We had no trackable resources due to some mismanagement of the previous administration. We had to set up the entire city like a business, and that was my first experience in really reengineering something and rebuilding it from the ground up.”
Building from scratch
After seven years in law enforcement, Benavides retired after sustaining an injury. When he began his new job hunt, he realized that few companies really regarded the leadership experience that he’d gained in law enforcement, and he was, in essence, starting over from square one. He went to work for a door-to-door sales company, but that entry-level role quickly changed.
“I noticed a sales role was easy for me because it was all about motivation and basic human behavior and how to interact with people, understanding their dominant behavioral traits,” he recalls. “I took to it very easily and adapted to it quickly. My approach was very non-salesy, more of a passive consultative approach.”
That natural talent was quickly recognized by the leadership teams, and Benavides was soon moved into a training position for sales staff. He was then tapped to help develop a Growing Leaders program to groom managers from within the organization, and Benavides was the first official participant in 2008. His final project on process improvement involved practical ways to recruit staff using the company’s fleet of trucks and was adopted immediately. It is still is used today all over the U.S., replacing the former recruitment strategy of advertisement in the local newspapers.
From leadership to consultant
He naturally progressed into leadership, enjoying a casual management style that empowered employees to do their best work for the company through a positive corporate culture and utilization of their strengths while building cohesive teams and fostering an open, collaborative environment. During this time, Benavides was taking a college course sporadically toward his degree. A chance encounter with a human resources director from the Christus Health System led to a new role as Benavides was selected for a three-month consultancy to improve corporate culture, performance, and revenue of a five-location medical group.
“I started working with their revenue cycle (billing and collecting) and found they did not have a denials department (where claims sent to insurance companies are kicked back for various reasons). That is one of the most crucial pieces of all medical practices, as it can account for 30-40 percent of your collectable revenue,” he said. “I took their two most senior medical billers and created a denials department with each of them structured to resubmit corrected claims in an average amount of over $340,000 per year. I also brought in a third medical biller to work with personal-injury claims, an area where no payments had been coming in for years. Within 20 days, we had collected more than $50,000 in personal-injury payments alone.”
That successful project led Benavides to finally draw a line: it was time to hunker down and finish his degree. He knew about Wayland’s campus in San Antonio from his law enforcement days and enrolled immediately. He graduated in 2011 and continued to grow his business as a consultant for other healthcare organizations and general independent and franchised businesses. In his contracts, he always draws on his knowledge, intuition and experience to improve processes and operations for long-term sustainability and growth. That means putting the right people in the right places, creating an environment of continuous refinement and diversifying revenue for companies of all kinds. Ultimately, Benavides says, they all operate the same, regardless of size or industry.
“It’s all dollars, cents, and people… there’s very little variance between the types of companies and the variables which make up their general industries. I found this to be true in my vast experiences because I’ve worked with many different industries,” he laughs. “My whole basis in consulting is human behavior and motivations, because that is not subject to change. People can say whatever they want, but ultimately they will do what they will do because of their dominant behavioral traits.”
Meeting critical needs
Benavides says his consulting strategies are critical because whether it is a physician’s medical practice or a plumbing company, the issues rarely lie in how well the tradesman or practitioner is performing their respective craft. Instead, the issue is usually a lack of training in operations, economics, and finance, leaving them deficient in the mission-critical skills and time needed to effectively improve the business performance, hire and develop the right personnel, develop future strategy, and ensure execution of that strategy. His relationship to a company can be as long or short as they need depending on the goals and challenges before them. All projects are customized on the company's professional and personal goals.
He’s in the process of compiling some of his approaches, processes, and tips into a book about the importance of experience over pedigree and leadership versus management, and he said it boils down to simple concepts of proven track records of performance. And despite his successes, Benavides said he’s still a little surprised by the different path his life has taken.
“I never would have expected it to take this turn, going from a simple police officer to this organizational and operational professional. Once I got into it, I realized I loved the investigational part of it and enjoy working with people,” he said. “I see it as a form of social responsibility to help these businesses that serve so many people in our communities more effectively. It is another bonus for me that I am changing lives of these business owners, shareholders, and physicians.”
Brian’s company can be found online at www.OmegaStrategicConsulting.com, and he offers no-obligation phone calls to companies that may need his services to investigate what he could do to help.
"Sometimes just a casual conversation can give someone clarity and direction without them having to make a large investment using a consulting company or losing money due to poor business practices or risky decisions," says Brian. "Even if it does not generate revenue for my company or any of my affiliates in my strategic alliance, I am still happy to help anyone and hopefully share some insight that will be of genuine value to them."
Friends of Music celebrates 10th year at gala
Wayland's Friends of Music philanthropic organization celebrated its 10th year recently with a dinner gala on April 13, followed by the annual opera scenes event in Miller Recital Hall. The gala featured entertainment by the faculty jazz combo and a brief word from longtime president Joe Provence, who thanked the audience for support and recapped the group's accomplishments, including spearheading the Steinway Initiative and the many scholarship endowments created and dollars given to recruit and reward excellent music students over the first decade.
Dr. Ann Stutes, dean of the School of Music, then gave the keynote address, sharing some of the many successes within the school and philosophical changes to instructional practices. Portions of her address follow.
This year marks the ten-year anniversary of the Wayland Friends of Music. We honor them by celebrating that which they have passionately served during these years – Wayland’s School of Music. Contrary to what you might believe, creating music is not the only important aspect of our lives – here are a few additional skills we strive to attain:
- Communication – Our music students learn to communicate at extremely high professional and personal levels with their faculty, each other, and their audiences. They interact with the people they serve as we host UIL contests and festivals, tour into schools and churches, and share community platforms with other artists across West Texas. Not only do our students learn WHAT to say, they learn HOW to say it – to use convincing and proper language, reference accurate information, and harness their artistic passions so they may convincingly communicate their musical messages in teaching, ministry, and other professional pursuits around the globe.
- Critical thinking with reflection – To arrive at destinations of musical distinctiveness, our students learn to respect the process of critical review with self-reflection. Whether they are in classrooms, rehearsals, lessons, or practice rooms, our students engage in learned critical processes relevant to the profession of music. They seek to understand the motivation for and the standards behind what they know and what they do. They critically assess how well they achieve their goals and respond to challenges by refining their processes. Practicing these processes in relation to musical performance is intentional and replicated throughout the curriculum with far-reaching implications for their career endeavors both in and out of the music profession.
- Collaboration – Our students and their faculty collaborate at the highest level. They are respectful, courteous, compassionate, and supportive, while modeling collaborative skills appropriate for our discipline and those essential for a healthy and productive life beyond the profession.
- By integrating communication, critical thinking with reflection, and collaboration outcomes throughout our curriculum, we cultivate experiences that capture our students’ passion for music and, quite honestly, defy standard expectations for undergraduate music programs. Most large research-supported institutions use graduate students to fill out their performing groups forcing undergraduates to wait semesters, or even years, to earn lead roles or sit first chair. Other small- to mid-sized liberal arts universities have pockets of performance quality with flashy concert halls situated in urban communities that embrace the arts and provide extravagant resources supporting various curricular initiatives. At Wayland, our collective body of focused undergraduates and their dynamic faculty consistently produce music at increasingly high creative levels here in Plainview, Texas despite conservative resources and isolated geography.
There are two obvious keys to our success:
- First, our Wayland music faculty are simply outstanding. They thrive beyond the status quo. They never place educational or artistic limitations upon themselves or their students. They are dreamers who vision innovative programs, philosophies, and processes that take our students to profound professional places. They demand that our students seek creative distinctives while mentoring them thorough the sharing of information, but most importantly, through modeling professional behaviors and processes essential for 21st century career success.
- Second, we have intentionally cultivated a “workshop” environment within the School of Music. Our students learn WITH their faculty, not merely FROM them. We have developed a series of relevant music core courses that replicate professional environments while providing both disciplinary music training and acquisition of transferable skills such as communication, critical thinking with reflection, and collaboration. Our faculty are mentors and our students are their apprentices – sharing every moment as we “DO” music side-by-side in our classrooms, rehearsal halls, studios, practice rooms, and concert stages.
We treasure the continued support of the Wayland Friends of Music. Your impact on this institution cannot be overstated. We thank the Board of Directors and each contributing member for your persistent financial support and faithful prayer for our students, our faculty and staff, and our university. We look forward to ten more years of our partnership – making the world a better place through Wayland music.
To learn more about the Friends of Music and how to support those efforts, visit their webpages here.