ELIZABETH GOLDEN

egolden@dailynews.net

Growing up in Garden City, Nicole Walz knew she had a passion for leadership. Now, Walz is finishing her master's degree in liberal arts with an emphasis in organizational leadership from Fort Hays State University and is the program coordinator for Jana's Campaign, Inc.

Jana's Campaign was created in honor of Jana Mackey, a 25-year-old law student at the University of Kansas who was found dead in her ex-boyfriend's home in 2008.

The organization was created for prevention and education purposes to help end gender-based violence.

"I didn't really know I had such a passion until I got involved, and found out the reason behind Jana's Campaign," Walz said. "If her story wouldn't motivate you, I don't know what would."

Walz started as Curt Brugardt's assistant in the Center for Civic Leadership at FHSU. Brungardt is executive director of the Center for Civic Leadership at FHSU, president of Jana's Campaign and father of Jana. He asked if she would be interested in working for Jana's Campaign, as well.

"I vaguely knew what Jana's Campaign was at the time," Walz said. "I started just by doing the job and eventually became more interested."

She started working full-time as a special projects coordinator in January 2012. In January 2014, she was promoted to program coordinator.

"I grew up in western Kansas," Walz said. "There's obviously community organizing, but it's one of those things you have to find for yourself. I don't think it can be pushed on you without finding a reason or sense to do it."

Walz spends her days managing the social media for Jana's Campaign, creating press releases, sending emails and occasionally assists with presenting to high school students.

Jana's Campaign currently is working to implement a teen violence prevention program in high schools. Most recently, Walz spoke to a group of 250 high school students in Stockton about healthy relationships.

"We're taking the first steps," she said, "but it's really difficult because the schools all have their curriculums, and (dating violence prevention) is a scary topic."

In the future, Walz hopes to see Jana's Campaign grow, and feels she always will be involved in some way.

"I will always be involved because I have found a passion for it," she said. "Human rights are important, obviously, and if we don't fight for them, no one will."