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Despite the increasingly grim news of the coronavirus pandemic, there are good things happening in the Joplin area — and specifically on the campuses of the region's two four-year universities.

Officials at Missouri Southern State University this week announced a new program called Global Leaders, to be funded in part by a $1 million gift from the estate of the late Joel Newby. Newby, a World War II veteran, graduated in 1947 from Joplin Junior College, which is now Missouri Southern.

The program will be open to 50 high-achieving freshmen beginning in fall 2021. The students can network with future employers, connect with nationally and internationally recognized executives from a variety of workplaces, access exclusive learning opportunities, enroll in honors courses and register for classes early.

Global Leaders also aligns with the university’s mission of international education: Each program participant will have access to $4,000 in private funds that can be used for international travel, as well as for leadership development, undergraduate research or travel to academic conferences.

“We believe the program will have a transformational impact on our region and beyond by developing these graduates who have the skills of communication, teamwork and global leadership," said Alison Hershewe, chairwoman of the Missouri Southern Board of Governors.

We believe that, too. Global Leaders promises to be a great program that could prove beneficial to both MSSU students and the Joplin community at large. This is one we'll be excited to watch develop.

Over at Pittsburg (Kansas) State University, students recently took a holiday-inspired approach to make an impact on their community.

Students in the Society of Architectural Woodworkers have built 150 to 200 wooden toy trucks to give to the local Toys for Tots chapter. The majority of the students are pursuing degrees in architectural manufacturing management and technology, which is offered through the PSU College of Technology.

Toys for Tots directly affects more than 1,500 Southeast Kansas children by collecting toys, books and stocking stuffers from individuals and businesses. The gifts are given away each December during the Salvation Army's Christmas distribution at the National Guard armory, just across the street from the Kansas Technology Center.

What a wonderful service these students have provided by ensuring that local children in need will have a gift under their tree on Christmas morning.

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