Washburn Tech Female Student of the Year

July 1, 2018

Topeka, Kan. – “It’s 2016, I’m working a 12-hour shift at McDonald’s, my third in three days. I have moved through every position, up to a shift manager. I don’t have enough experience to work in a large scale kitchen. At this moment, I know only two things. One, I have to make a change. And two, it must revolve around food.”

Danielle Lehr’s reflection on her previous employment situation is similar to what is expressed by many students affiliated with Washburn University Institute of Technology. A need is identified, and a plan is launched, fueled by determination and the desire to succeed -- qualities that earned Lehr the designation of Outstanding Female Student for 2018.

Lehr first discovered her passion for cooking when home-cooked meals were prescribed by the doctor due to a health condition. A little later, while convalescing from a back injury, she became acquainted with the barrage of culinary programs on TV and the decision was made, fueled in part by encouragement from her husband.

Her first achievement as a student in the culinary program was realized when she received the Joint Economic Development Organization/GO Topeka Scholarship, which is awarded to qualified post-secondary students of Shawnee County who are enrolled in a high-demand career program, as determined by the Kansas Department of Commerce. Her financial package was also boosted with the Horatio Alger Association Scholarship, designed to recognize leadership potential of students who have exhibited determination, integrity and perseverance.

Lehr notes that her professional development was further enhanced by her participation in SkillsUSA, an international organization designed to improve the quality of the workforce through structured programs of citizenship, leadership, employability and technical and professional skills training. After attending a chapter meeting at Washburn Tech, she was motivated to run for district and state positions in addition to participating in numerous fundraisers and community events. Her favorite was Top Tank Topeka, a new event intended as a celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit.

“I was given the opportunity to spearhead appetizers and personally handed out all 300. Receiving the feedback was satisfying,” she said.

As Lehr prepared to graduate, an internship evolved into a position at the new eatery, The Pennant. But she’s not stopping here. She plans to complete an associate degree at Washburn University, with food photography as a future goal.

Lehr noted that her education at Washburn Tech “opened doors to new opportunities and new culinary paths” and “surpassed her expectations of training.”