2021 Founder's Day

Honorees Exemplify the Mission and Ministry of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth
Posted on 11/12/2021
Founder's Day Honorees - 2021Each November, the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth mark their arrival in 1858 on the banks of the Missouri River in Leavenworth, Kansas. This is a day to celebrate their lived example of 'doing whatever they can with whatever they have to fulfill their calling to serve those living on the margins of society.'

To establish their ministries on the frontier, they walked into smoky saloons to solicit contributions from cowboys and miners. They carried rocks from the riverbanks to build hospital foundations. So, it was very fitting that, in 2005, when urban education was in crisis, they said, “Yes,” to sponsoring Cristo Rey Kansas City, a school exclusively dedicated to serving families who could not afford private school education.

At an annual Founder’s Day celebration, Cristo Rey honors people who have partnered with the Sisters and the school to ensure the existence of a private, Catholic, college- and career-prep school for students from Kansas City’s urban neighborhoods. 

Founder's Day 2021 spotlighted the gifts of honorees who exemplify the 163-year mission of the sisters.
Asurion - Compassion Forward
The Cigar Stars ~ Tom Frits, Pete McCuskey, Ken Mellard and Kevin Ryan
Jaquinta Hammons Nelson
Jim Lee
Dr. Michael Padow

Companies are no longer content to just do well. Today, many companies find meaning in doing well by doing good.  Asurion’s Compassion Forward team celebrates and encourages community involvement, promotes educational opportunity, and supports Asurion team members during times of need. 

Invaluable.  One word that sums up Cristo Rey’s partnership with Asurion. Over the years, Asurion created a path to high-quality, college preparatory education for students and opened countless doors of opportunity. ASURION’S Compassion Forward  
Provides students real-world work experience in a corporate environment  
Offers dignity to student workers with grants for school uniforms  
Delivers school supplies to get students back to the books   
Offers hope to families at Christmas with groceries and gifts  
Encourages young alumni on college campuses to go the distance with gift cards for gas and food.  

Almost every successful person begins with two beliefs: 
1.  The future can be better than the present.
2.  I have the power to make it so.  

To advance the mission of Cristo Rey, four distinguished gentlemen – Tom Fritts, Pete McCluskey, Ken Mellard and Kevin Ryan – laced up his dancing shoes, to raise friends and funds to secure the opportunity of a Cristo Rey education for future students through Dancing with the Kansas City Stars.  

Today, these four ALUMNI STARS continue to make impact on the students of Cristo Rey. Ten years ago, a group of Ken Mellard’s friends threw a Cigar Party to inspire people to support Ken and his debut on the Cristo Rey stage.  Ken, in turn, hosted a Cigar Party to help a Star the next year. Over time, Kevin Ryan, Pete McCluskey and Tom Fritts joined the tradition of Stars helping later Stars.
Through the efforts of these men, more than 500 people have been introduced to Cristo Rey through the tradition of the Cigar Night.   

Jacquinta Hammons Nelson is no stranger to Cristo Rey. She graduated from Cristo Rey in 2012 and from William Jewell College in 2016. Jacquinta has solely dedicated her life to empowering youth – whether by teaching at KIPP Academy or through the movement that she imagined, created and toiled over.  

In the summer of 2018, Jacquinta launched STEP – Supporting Them Expressing Their Passions – Movement. She authored a curriculum for children from five to 19-years-old that builds upon the art of stepping to teach creativity, community and collaboration. This comprehensive program incorporates academic support, opportunities to serve others and mentoring. During the pandemic, STEP pivoted to help meet member’s needs by hosting learning labs that produced high academic results.  

Jacquinta is proof that we may not always build a rosy future for our youth.  Committed, caring adults, however, can build our youth for the future. 

Our next honoree found his way to Cristo Rey all on his own. As retirement from a career in mechanical engineering loomed, Jim Lee knew that he needed another purpose in life.  He researched tutoring opportunities in the area and settled on Cristo Rey.  

Over the past five years, Jim has faithfully arrived to tutor students in Math. He has played a significant role in motivating students to ask questions and to get the help that they need.  

Recently, Jim told one of his students, “I found that the best thing I learned in school was ‘how to learn.’ By adjusting my mind, I could handle whatever was thrown at me and put forth whatever effort was needed. I struggled in several classes during my school years but learned a lot about myself in getting through them.”  

Michael Padow joined the staff of Cristo Rey before the doors opened for the very first time. Originally, Dr. Padow formed the beginning of the social studies department. Over the next four years, he taught Geography, World Cultures, World History and American History, helping to build out the program as the school added grades.  

By the 2010-11 school year, he was dividing his time in the classroom with administrative work and served as Cristo Rey’s first Dean of Students. Michael recently shared, “Cristo Rey was exactly where I wanted to as an educator. No other high school in Kansas City offered anything remotely similar.”  

As the school's principal from 2018 through 2021, Michael witnessed and inspired the positive impact that dedicated adults have on young people – teachers who believe in the capacity of students to learn and their own ability to teach; an academic coach or mentor who adds their voice to the chorus of support; and, the work-study supervisor who takes the time to listen to the needs and the background of a student. These caring adults create a success formula that impacts young people long after their high school experiences are over. 
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