Pando News – March 2023

Pando Launches New Student Group

Pando’s newest group, the Code Crushers, has launched at Curtis Middle School. Funding for this initiative provided by the Brian David Higby Fund at the Wichita Foundation has allowed Pando to purchase 6 brand new Chromebooks, a traveling charging station, and snacks for the group members each week.

The Code Crushers is a traveling Pando program that will visit middle schools for 6 weeks, meeting once per week to explore the world of website building and coding. The idea for the group came from local web designer Marisa VanSkiver, owner of Captain Coder. While previously living abroad, she led a similar program in Europe, and since being back in the states she had been looking for an opportunity to create a similar program. After meeting Pando staff at a local event, the idea quickly evolved into the 6 week group course.

Curriculum for the group comes from, a nonprofit website focused on educating youth on coding, as well as personal experience from Marisa. Each lesson, about 40 minutes long, gives students an interactive experience to piece together visual representations of code to get familiar with the language, and then view their end work as a visual. Plans for the 2023-24 school year include traveling to other local Pando middle schools, and potentially creating a second traveling kit for elementary students.

Have a special interest and want to start your own group? Contact Daniel Morford at

“This is my new favorite thing! So excited to work with this group, and watch these kids learn!”

Marisa VanSkiver, Captain Coder

Pando is proud to present the STAR Students of 2023! These students were nominated by their Pando Support Advocates to receive a STAR Award on May 4, 2023 at the Crown Uptown Theatre. Students were nominated because they have shown exceptional growth through improved grades, increased school attendance and even personal growth.

“At Pando, we measure success by student growth. The STAR Awards is a way for us to recognize that growth and honor kids who have worked hard to achieve their goals,” said Kenya McConico, Pando Program Director.

Fourty-four Pando students will gather at the event, along with their family, school staff and friends to
receive their award.

Here is a sneak peek at some of the nominees!

“No matter how bad you get or how much people don’t believe in you, there’s always someone that’s going to be there to try to help. Just take their advice, because it really does help!”

Kaiden, Hadley Middle School

(speaking about Sundus Awadi, Pando Student Support Advocate)

“I eat lunch with my Pando mentor and do activities. Her name is Harriett, and is a WSU student and tennis player. She is really fun, helps me get my feelings out and makes me happy. I talk to her about my problems and she helps me figure them out.”

Evelyn, Cloud Elementary


“I can’t really speak for other kids, but I know for me it’s helpful to have that school support system. I always kind of struggle with who to talk to or trust about telling stuff to…you can feel good about coming to Pando and talking to someone you know you can trust.”

Kaylynn, West High School

(speaking about Julia Conway, Pando Student Support Advocate)


Become a STAR Awards Sponsor

Help create a special day to remember for Pando kids and one they can celebrate with family, school staff and Pando friends like you by becoming a sponsor.

Pando is seeking 22 STAR Student Sponsors at $500 to send two students from one school to attend the awards. A Box Office Sponsorship of $1,000 would double the support!

See a full list of sponsorship opportunities and secure your spot today here:

Questions? Contact Anglea Kessler, Director of Development at or 316.973.5155

Meet Our Staff

Karen Blucher

Sr. Director of Programs & Operations

Karen, Senior Director of Programs & Operations, has been with Pando since December 2009. She joined the organization as COO when it was known as Communities In Schools.

Karen has two children; a 28 year old son and 40 year old daughter, and one 6 year old granddaughter. In her free time she enjoys reading, watching period drama, and playing with her granddaughter.

She moved from New York to Kansas in 1983 and has worked in the nonprofit sector since then, utilizing her MA in HR Management and BA in Psychology.

“The highlight of my time here at Pando has been mentoring a PandoKid, starting in 4th grade and seeing them through 5th grade. We BOTH looked forward to having lunch together, talking, and playing board games every week!”

-Karen Blucher, Sr. Director of Programs & Operations

Volunteer at

Reality U

Reality U™ is a one-day financial literacy simulation that travels throughout the state. Students imagine their life as a 26-year-old and are given a monthly income, credit score, and family situation based on a pre-event questionnaire and their current GPA and school attendance record. Then they visit 12 volunteer-staffed booths to experience monthly expenses and financial decisions. Some of these major life decisions include housing, transportation, utilities, insurance, and daycare expenses. As student balance their monthly incomes and expenses, some find themselves in the negative and visit the “Help, I need more money!” booth to obtain a second job. Each booth at a Reality U™ event is staffed by two or three volunteers who help guide and educate students on making informed and smart decisions.

Volunteering with Reality U™ is easy, and there are no special skills or training required. Choose to volunteer at one 75-minute session, or for the whole day at a local school. You can even gather coworkers or friends to join you! Several upcoming dates still need volunteers. Click the button to be added to our volunteer list, and we will notify you of upcoming events!


Volunteering with Reality U™ is easy:

  • One-time opportunities available
  • 75-minute sessions
  • No training needed!


Upcoming Events

28th Annual STAR Awards

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Crown Uptown Theatre

11:30 AM – 12:30 PM

Ticket sales start April 1st, purchase yours here.

Cooking for a Cause 2023

Mark your calendars for Wichita’s premiere tasting event!

Saturday, November 4, 2023

Wichita Scottish Rite – Temple Live

Upcoming RealityU™ dates:

Gordon Parks – April 3

Derby High School – April 12-13

Campus High School – April 18-19

Southeast High School – April 25-26

Sign up to volunteer at one of these dates!


Contact Jacob Bentley, RealityU™ Manager for details

Posted in News on March 24, 2023.

Help Our Children Succeed

Gifts to Pando support the 1,800 students on our caseload and the 25,000 students we serve annually through our PandoKids™ and RealityU™ programs.