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Administrators, students, faculty and donors enjoyed the event.

Donors and Scholars Break Bread, Forge Bonds

'Working together' theme for School of Education luncheon

Dr. Gail Hackett, executive vice chancellor and provost, evoked “teamwork.”

Graduate student Shawnta Clark talked about “inspiration.”

And undergraduate Andrew Mitchell focused on “investment.”

They were all talking about the same thing. Each, in turn, described how people working together toward a common goal can have far more impact than any individual acting alone.

The occasion was the annual Donor and Scholar Luncheon sponsored by the School of Education at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. And while the topic was stated simply as a celebration of achievement by scholars and the generosity of scholarship donors who make that achievement possible, Hackett said the real impact is something far more important.

“Keep in mind who will be the ultimate beneficiaries of all this generosity, all this hard work and all this skill and commitment,” Hackett said. “It is the children whose lives will be forever changed by tomorrow’s professional educators – people who are today’s UMKC School of Education students.”

Mitchell, a sophomore in the Institute for Urban Education studying to be a Middle School science teacher, is the recipient of this year’s Aquila Endowed Scholarship. He described a life that reached a harrowing crossroad at a very early age, and the intervention of professionals who taught him knowledge and skills that enabled him to turn his life in the right direction – and away from the path that had him sitting in a jail cell at the age of 13.

 “Your scholarship has unknowingly helped relieve me of my struggles during my college career …  my father lost his job and is ill, my brother recently went to jail, our house has been threatened by foreclosure many times, we’ve gone without utilities, food, and in some cases happiness. I am not the only one who has been in these unfortunate predicaments, nor do I want pity because I have these things in my life,” Mitchell said. “I believe that it is important for you to know a little bit more about whom you’ve made an investment in, and how you’ve changed my life. 

“I wasn’t a bad kid; I was mouthy, curious, and full of myself, but bad I wasn’t. There was one person who realized that:  my parole officer, Ms. Rademacher. Every time she saw me, she told me I was her star. I wasn’t like the other parolees; I wasn’t skipping school and failing. I was trying my best to be respected.”

Over time, other teachers and professionals helped him learn, not just academics, but also coping skills and true self-respect.

“The main thing is, I wasn’t alone. I’ve learned a very simple and powerful lesson from all of this and that is: you can’t do any better than what you are doing, until you know better. I didn’t know how to manage my anger, and I had reasons to be angry but didn’t know how to redirect it. I was taught how to manage my anger and that’s when it hit me: I thought, I can use this to help someone else.

“I decided that I wanted to be a teacher.”

Clark, a candidate for an M. A. in Educational Administration - Higher Education, is the recipient of the Hugh W. Speer Fellowship Fund Scholarship, named after the first dean of the School of Education.

She, too, overcame significant obstacles to become the first member of her family to attend college, including balancing her course load with a full-time job and her responsibilities as a single mother. And she, too, credited a team of influencers and supporters for making it possible. 

“I did not have the courage to ask my instructors for help, or my classmates, feeling as though they may not understand my circumstances.  With the thought of quitting school on my mind, I went to a UMKC academic advisor to ask for assistance,” she recalled. “After speaking with an advisor, I was able to get on the right track. I received the resources and confidence I needed to ask for help.

“Many individuals played a key role in helping me overcome my obstacles as an undergraduate. They demonstrated a compassionate attitude, were knowledgeable about my needs as a student, directed me to scholarship opportunities and other financial resources, and helped me to succeed,” Clark continued. “I recognize the baton has now been passed to me and it’s my turn to aid in students’ success.”

Addressing the scholarship donors in attendance, she concluded, “You show all of us what giving back and helping others succeed means, and I speak for all scholarship students in this room when I say, “we won’t let you down; we will make a difference; we will make you proud.”

Hackett also addressed the donors, telling them they had invested not just in superb students, but in a state-of-the-art program.

“I’d like to mention a crowning achievement for the School of Education. It is one more reason you can take special pride in your investment and enrollment. The School passed all six standards reviewed by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. Even more impressively, the council noted no areas for improvement – a rare achievement,” Hackett said. 

“To top it off, the school was recognized in the area of diversity as having exceeded national standards in curriculum, faculty, and candidate experiences with diverse learners.  The School of Education’s reaccreditation is significant, because of the 1,400 teacher preparation programs in the United States, only about one-third are meeting NCATE standards. Students in the UMKC School of Education are part of one of the nation’s leading teacher preparation programs.”

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“I recognize the baton has now been passed to me and it’s my turn to aid in students’ success.”

Shawnta Clark
M.A. candidate in Educational Administration - Higher Education