Jesus "Chuy" Loera named Chamber’s NextGen Leader of the Year
Leader of the Year
BY DALE HOGG
For decades, the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce has been privileged to annually recognize a Business of the Year and a Citizen of the Year for their impact on the Great Bend business community. Established in 2012, the NextGen Leader of the Year Award aims to recognize a particular individual’s service to the community as an up-and-coming leader.
This year’s recipient, Jesus “Chuy” Loera, definitely fills that bill.
He awarded this achievement during the 100th-annual Great Bend Chamber Banquet the evening of Saturday, Feb. 19, at the Great Bend Events Center. Andrea Bauer, public information officer for the Unified School District 428 who nominated Loera, and Danny and Junior Franko, former student athletes, presented the award.
Loera has coached the Great Bend High School boys soccer team since 2016, and the Great Bend Middle School boys soccer team since 2015. He also works at the high school as a family engagement coordinator.
For her part, Loera’s wife Anna is excited to see her husband recognized.
“I’m just so proud of him and how he has progressed in his coaching and his career,” she said. “He really has a passion for this and really loves being around youth.”
One of the criteria for this award is that the recipient must be nominated by someone else – an employer, a coworker, a friend, a spouse, or another who can attest to their commitment to the betterment of the Great Bend community. Additional criteria includes:
• Must be affiliated with a member of the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce.
• Must have lived in the Great Bend service area for at least three years.
• Must be seen as a leader in their work environment, as well as in the community.
• Must be creating a meaningful impact in the community and be seen as a rising leader.
In the nomination, Bauer noted:
“Chuy invests a tremendous amount of time investing in Great Bend’s young people,” she said. “Beyond the duties of a coach, he creates opportunities for his team to explore careers, volunteer in the community, and make an impact.”
Often he’ll stop practice early or continue beyond “coaching hours” to address common life topics like manners, hygiene, accountability, respect for women, mental health, and more. He also invites community members to talk with these young boys about potential career opportunities.
“Chuy has also implemented a mentoring program where his players visit elementary schools and pass on sportsmanship and life lessons to students,” she said.
He has personally taken the time to advocate for youth soccer and facilities in Great Bend, Bauer said. He’s been instrumental in championing improvements such as the new scoreboard, sound system, Field House renovations, and team jerseys - most of which were fundraised and paid for by the Panther Booster Club.
“He understands that elevating the soccer program is an important way to encourage participation and growth for students, both on the field and in the classroom,” she said.
Loera is bilingual and serves as an important connector for our youth and families. “He seeks out opportunities to bridge gaps and make sure his students are aware and included in community resources and opportunities,” she said.
In the fall of 2021, he started a new position at GBHS as family engagement coordinator. Prior to this, he worked in a variety of positions including surveying for the City of Great Bend. In this new role, Chuy will be able to work full-time furthering some of the same goals and priorities he’s pursued in youth development as a volunteer and coach.
“Chuy understands how athletics and accountability and positively impact learning in the classroom and life,” Bauer said. In his six seasons as head coach, the GBHS boys soccer GPA has improved along with attendance and student behavior inside and outside the school setting.
“His ultimate goal is to support these young men by making them aware of opportunities available to them and to have the confidence to pursue these opportunities,” she said.
“Chuy has a positive and solution-driven approach to nurturing our community,” she said. “While he strives for improvement in communication, inclusion, and facility development, he works hard to highlight the positive programs, services, and opportunities available. He’s worked with community leaders and developed partnerships to help realize change and enhancements that benefit many. “
NextGen Leader of the Year Award Criteria
The NextGen Leader of the Year award is presented annually to an individual creating a meaningful impact as a rising leader. Nominees are leaders in their work environment, as well as in the community.
Previous NextGen Award Recipients
2020 Andrea Bauer
2019 Ryan Fairchild
2018 Rachel Mawhirter
2017 Jason Mayers
2016 Regan Reif
2015 Matt Hiss
2014 Dr. Nels Lindberg
2013 Kristy Straub
2012 Cody Lee