CRKC Super Star Alumni
Henry Smith, We Salute You!
Henry Smith, a 2010 graduate, recently returned to campus for his Ten-Year Class Reunion.
Asked what it was like to come back, he said, “I felt nostalgic. Walking through familiar halls brought back many memories. I enjoyed seeing the many ways the school has ‘been transformed,’ from the painting on the walls to the “missing” assembly room on the third floor.”
Henry is an active duty Marine stationed at Ft. Lee, Virginia. He serves as a Military Occupational Specialty Instructor. When asked what he likes about his work, he replied, “I enjoy teaching, especially when the student has that ‘aha’ moment and finally understand a concept. I also like the challenge of developing different means and methods to ensure the information is being understood. The Marine Corps has taught me different styles of leadership and how to take care of others under my charge. I have learned better time and task management.”
When asked for advice to give a current Cristo Rey student or an alum attending college, he replied, “Invest in yourself. Take advantage of every opportunity. Network. Make a good impression on your teachers, at work and in school, and it will pay dividends in the future. Enjoy yourself and make friends but do not, I repeat, do not squander your studies. You might hear this all the time but take it from someone who had great potential and wasted it.”
Henry hopes to make the military his career, but he is also taking classes so he has something to fall back on if Plan A doesn’t work.
- Alexis Medina
- Mitzi Magana and Adavia Thornton
- Jonna Garcia
- Dallas Parker
- Ines Soto
- McBride and Medina
- Jasmine Beecham
- Sister Act
- Mone'kai and Adalberto
- Maureen Tanner
- This IS Happening
- For These Alumni, It's Time to Smile, Sparkle and Shine!
When Alexis Medina played baseball for Cristo Rey, he was the person you wanted behind the plate with a 3-2 count and a runner on third. He was all in and faced the pressure.
The pressure at Cristo Rey Kansas City's Class of 2019 Graduation was a littledifferent. As a newly-minted college graduate, Alexis was behind the podium delivering the commencement address. Steady and assured, he delivered.
"Cristo Rey Class of 2019, congratulations," said Alexis. "You made it!"
"Bear" Medina, of the Class of 2015, used the pacing of an athlete to explain to Cristo Rey's newest graduates how to get in the game in the college. "Things didn't really get going for me until the end of my sophomore year. I had a chance to go on retreat in Michigan."
A true sportsman, the lure of a "retreat" for this Rockhurst University student also came with camping, backpacking and canoeing. Medina told students that this decision was one of the best things that he had ever done and that it turned his college experience around, inspiring him to get more involved on campus.
Medina joined the Hispanic Honor Society, served as an officer in Voices for Justice, and engaged in many campus-sponsored service activities. His zeal for social justice led him to the Dominican Republic to plant coffee trees and work on a construction detail. Later, he traveled to El Paso, Texas to learn about immigration and to walk the immigrant experience.
Bear concluded his talk with this advice, "Keep your dreams big. . .celebrate this big achievement. . .greatness awaits."
Bear's road to greatness begins a new leg next fall. As an Alumni Service Corps volunteer at Arrupe Jesuit High School - our sister school in Denver - he will gain experience working in a school that could lead him to his ultimate goal in life: athletic director in a school, school administration or a youth development program.
Cheers for Alexis! In May 2019, Bear earned dual degrees from Rockhurst University in Sports Management and Spanish.
Mitzi Magana and Adavia Thornton
The Alumni Spotlight is shining on two Cristo Rey Kansas City alumnae who went the distance and achieved their dreams.
Mitzi Magaña graduated from Cristo Rey Kansas City in 2012 and, with the benefit of the Marie Curie Scholarship, immediately enrolled at College of Saint Mary in Omaha, Nebraska. By August 2017, she had achieved a degree in Human Biology and, within a year, a Master's. Today, she is working as as a Physician Assistant at One World Community Health Center in Omaha.
Mitzi hopes to be remembered around the halls of Cristo Rey as being a positive role model. Her strongest motivation is the hope that she can be the change in her community, someone who paved the way for others to follow and someone who never gave up on her dreams.
Adavia Thornton was a trendsetter and came to Cristo Rey Kansas City – a brand new school and new model of education - as a member of the very first class. She earned her diploma in 2010 and enrolled at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut. By 2014, Adavia earned a degree in English and Journalism. She is now working as the Assistant Director of Cooperate Work Study Instruction at Cristo Rey Dallas.
Adavia’s message to the class of 2010, “Who is in charge of the playlist for our reunion? We have so much to catch up on and I can’t wait to spend time with you all again.”
A Different Kind Of Homecoming
Jonna Garcia’s first round of summer work training was in 2010. She did it a second time in 2018.
After searching for ‘just the right fit’ for high school, Jonna Garcia’s parents enrolled her at Cristo Rey Kansas City. The mandatory work-study training started in July 2010. There were two weeks of drilling on soft skills, filing, computer applications and, of course, nervous jitters. By September, she was faithfully performing her work study in the call center at UMB. To this day, she maintains contact with her job supervisor at UMB, Kimba Wiggins.
Little did Jonna know that eight years later, she would be back at Cristo Rey for another round of job training. This time, however, she was in orientation for all new faculty and staff at Cristo Rey. This school year, Jonna celebrates a new first – first Cristo Rey Kansas City Registrar in the College Counseling Department. In this role, she’s responsible for preparing and sending official transcripts and supporting the work of the two full-time college counselors.
Armed with a degree in psychology from Avila University, Jonna’s long-term goal is to pursue a graduate degree in counseling. She’s interested in community mental health and hopes to use that passion to help families and people in crisis. This all means, more school. She is aiming to start graduate school next fall.
“When I was offered a position at Cristo Rey, I knew that I had grown up,” said Jonna. “My undergraduate degree and interest in counseling constantly impressed upon me the need for confidentiality,” she said. “The work I am doing now requires confidentiality and a lot of attention to detail.”
Jonna is the eldest of Regina and Todd Garcia’s five children. She attended Primitivo Garcia for elementary school, graduated from Cristo Rey in 2014, Avila in 2018, and plans to add more letters behind her name.
The words “Dallas Parker” may not be a household word, yet. Odds are good that they will. Confident and well-spoken, Dallas Parker entered Cristo Rey as a fourteen-year-old and graduated as the class Valedictorian with a ticket to the prestigious University of Missouri – School of Journalism. Over the last four years at Mizzou, Dallas has honed her skills as a broadcast journalist on television and radio and graduates this May.
Dallas was a natural choice to speak to the more than 1,000 guests at Cristo Rey’s Dancing with the Kansas City Stars in April. As a first-generation college graduate, she had more than something to say.
Parker told event guests, “My dream is to become a television reporter or radio personality. Cristo Rey gave me the drive and motivation to push through. And, although I’m almost crawling to the finish line as we speak --- I know that Cristo Rey is rooting for me,” she said.
“Attending Cristo Rey was my choice, and I am proud to say, that I made one of the best decisions of my life,” said Parker.
While Dallas Parker would never be in the ‘failure to launch’ category, she observed, “There are many schools in Kansas City that don’t inspire growth. On top of that, many kids don’t even have a stable home. The last thing a student should have to worry about is whether or not they’re going to have a productive school day,” she said.
Parker commended the dedication of her teachers, “The staff at Cristo Rey Kansas City do whatever it takes so that students can focus solely on education. As an alum, I know that they still care about me and my future and have gone to great lengths to maintain a strong relationship,” she said.
“I met some amazing people during my high school years,” said Parker. “I had some awesome teachers too! People that pushed me. Folks that would never take it easy on me, even when I may have had every mediocre excuse in the world. At Cristo Rey I became a better student, but most importantly, a better person,” she said.
Reflecting on her path to and through college, Parker pointed to her high school experience as a time of exploration. She stated that the school environment allowed her explore her path in life – academically, professionally and spiritually. She observed that the atmosphere incubates youth into the leaders and professionals of tomorrow.
Some of our young alumni are living proof to the old adage, "There's no place like home." Cristo Rey alumni and college grad Ines Soto learned to 'look forward' and work for the good that was yet to be.
With degree in hand from the University of Missouri - Kansas City, Soto figured out that looking forward gave her the skills and abilities to look back on her own journey. Today, she mentors, cheer leads, and problem solves with young Cristo Rey alumni who are in college at Penn Valley Community College and UMKC. Soto is evaluating the next step in her educational journey, so stay tuned!
McBride and Medina from the Great Class of 2017, College That Is!
In keeping with the Cristo Rey tradition of elevating the profile of its alumni, two former students were selected to be speakers for Cristo Rey Kansas City’s 2017 Commencement. As the voice of experience, Cristo Rey’s - Class of 2013 and recent college graduates - Will Medina and Aliyah McBride returned to their alma mater to inspire students.
Aliyah McBride recalled that, “As a 2013 Cristo Rey graduate, I had been given the opportunity to apply to numerous colleges, gain valuable work experience and strengthen my knowledge of my faith.” She reflected that this gave her the courage to pursue higher education.
McBride earned a degree in communications from the University of Missouri – Kansas City and currently works at St. Luke's Hospital as a Family Engagement Specialist. In her address, she admitted that the road was hard and that she, “struggled day in and day out.” When she would get tired or discouraged, she would remember how hard her ancestors worked to ensure her this opportunity. She had access. She owed them perseverance.
In addition to working, McBride’s next step is to pursue a graduate level degree.
Will Medina pointed to karma when he shared that his path in college led him to a degree in education. “Teachers, I just want to apologize,” he said. “I may have placed my attention on social justice and advocacy more than on my studies. I appreciate you so much more now.”
When Medina arrived on campus at Benedictine College, he quickly noted that he was a minority and confessed to contemplating a transfer. He messaged Sister Suzanne Fitzmaurice with his concerns. She came to campus, they went to Dairy Queen and talked about life. Will persevered.
By his sophomore year of college, Will was known as the student that would not back down from any challenge. Will sought out tutors and mentors on campus and, as only he can do, he built a strong network of supportive people.
Medina’s advice to Cristo Rey’s newest grads included, “Life is hard. You gotta be harder. Temptation is real. You can easily lose yourself. You must be resilient.”
This fall, Medina takes another important step as a student teacher in music education. He told us that, “I decided to become a teacher so than I could help mold the minds of tomorrow so that they solve tomorrow’s problems.”
Jasmine Beecham's Climb
The starting point didn't limit how far she reached
The enduring presence of a caring adult in a young person’s life is a difference maker. Stay in school or drop out? Choose a healthy habit or risky behavior? Realize potential or detour from a dream?
“I grew up in Kansas City,” said Cristo Rey alumna Jasmine Beecham. “In elementary school, I started falling behind.”
Beecham could have given in to the ‘school is not cool’ mentality, but she didn’t.
“In an after school tutoring program, I met Pattie Kettler,” said Beecham. “She became my first mentor.”
Kettler helped Jasmine accurately evaluate her skills, see her blind spots, and determine a plan to improve her grades. Through this relationship, she learned that when you encounter a curve, “You lean in,” said Jasmine
“A switch flipped in the fifth and sixth grades. I caught up and got engaged,” said Jasmine. “My relationship with my mentor, made me recognize the value of strong role models. Throughout my life, I have been blessed with amazing and special adults who have inspired me.”
“By the end of eighth grade, I was Valedictorian of my class at Wendell Phillips Elementary School,” Beecham recalled.
When Beecham was ready for high school, she was encouraged to apply to Cristo Rey Kansas City. She entered in the first class of freshmen, when Cristo Rey was a mere dream.
“I really was attracted to the work component and having a day that was all about individual responsibility on the job,” said Jasmine.
Through the Corporate Work Study Program, Beecham went to work one day a week at Seton Center her freshman year. Each fall brought a new assignment, from Andrews McMeel to Security Bank, and finally as a senior at Kansas City Life Insurance. At each workplace, Jasmine picked up more mentoring and more confidence.
Reflecting on the classroom experience at Cristo Rey, Beecham said, “I found teachers who believed in me and believed that I could accomplish college-prep courses.”
A litany of teachers’ names tumbled out, “Ms. Halley, Mrs. Plowman, Mrs. Organ, oh and Mrs. Ligon, who made me feel that I could do chemistry!” said Jasmine.
In high school, Beecham learned to look for mentors in the classroom, on the job, and those that were in plain sight. Along the way, she discovered that she wanted to be a nurse. And, the close at hand mentor was her grandmother, Jessie Coleman, who had spent 63 years in the nursing profession.
“First, I learned that all of those science and math courses required at Cristo Rey were absolutely essential to my success in college,” said Jasmine. “I also realized that work study could help me understand my career goals. So, I worked at KCP&L in the Occupational Health Department one summer.”
At graduation from high school in 2010, she left designated as a Bloch Scholar. The program covers full tuition for qualified students who maintain GPA and full-time status. Armed with additional scholarships, Beecham graduated from the University of Missouri – Kansas City School of Nursing - debt free.
In college, Jasmine survived clinical rotations at St. Luke’s, Truman, KU Med, and Shawnee Mission Medical Center. On one rotation, Beecham recognized, responded to and initiated a Code Blue for a patient in cardiac distress.
In true form, Beecham recalled, “My nursing supervisor, an amazing woman, praised me for carefully monitoring the patient and recognizing that he had an abnormal asystole.”
With the support of her family, teachers and mentors, Jasmine passed her nursing boards on the first try. Today, she is nurse at Truman Medical Center working on a medical-surgical unit.
Like countless others, Jasmine Beecham is proof of the wisdom, where a child starts in life cannot determine how far he or she climbs.
Beecham's circle of support also includes her mom, Tawana Beecham, who modeled for her how to give and get support. Jasmine's younger sister, Kiesha Beecham, was inspired by her and is set to graduate this spring. Keisha is headed to college in the fall!
For the Beltran sisters – Yesenia, CRKC ’12, and Vanessa , CRKC ’14 – Cristo Rey Kansas City was the launch pad that inspired them to pursue careers in nursing.
While still in high school, Yesenia initially thought she wanted to pursue a college degree in graphic art. Science Power©, an extra-curricular program for high school students, hooked her on a career path in health care. After graduation, she attended Avila University, graduating from its School of Nursing in 2016 with a BSN.
“I took and passed my boards in 2016,” said Yesenia, who now is employed as a pediatric nurse at Children’s Mercy Clinics on Broadway.
On the job, Yesenia works in the Chico Clinic, where staff must understand many languages, cultures and values. The Qualified Bilingual Staff (QBS) certification measured her ability to communicate directly with Spanish-speaking patients and families and to interpret medical terminology and tasks.
“On the job, being bi-lingual is an asset,” said Yesenia. “I support well-child visits, explain and administer immunizations, and help parents and children with routine lab work.”
For Yesenia, being a nurse incorporates all of the things that she loves, “science, people and critical thinking.”
No surprise that younger sister followed Yesenia to Cristo Rey Kansas City
“It was a combination of factors that brought me to Cristo Rey: my sister, my friends, and the work study program,” said Vanessa Beltran. “Even though I was only 14, performing work-study at Commerce Bank taught me how to conduct myself professionally, to talk to adults, and to have confidence in myself.”
“As high school graduation approached, I was stunned – and cried! – when I learned that I received scholarships from the Fendler Family Fund and the Hispanic Development Fund,” said Vanessa. “This support allowed me to go to Rockhurst University.”
“When I entered college, I was prepared,” said Vanessa. “Being able to manage my time has helped me in class and through the clinical program at Research College of Nursing.”
As a senior in high school, Vanessa studied for and received certification as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). Through networking with the National Association for Hispanic Nurses, she got her first job in health care. Currently, Vanessa goes to school and works through clinical rotations at Research. She also works part-time at Maddie Rhodes as a medical assistant in the outpatient clinics and at Children’s Mercy Hospital as a nurse technician. She is on track to graduate in 2018.
Yesenia and Vanessa Beltran are proof of Benjamin Franklin’s wise words, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” As first generation college students, they know that hope and opportunity drove their parents to leave everything they knew behind and immigrate to the United States.
To Jose and Eva Beltran, Cristo Rey shares your pride. Your daughters worked hard, kept hope, and seized every opportunity in their path.
Mone'kai Shannon Thornton and Adalberto Arroyo Cross the Finish Line
Cristo Rey alumni and recent college graduates, Mone'kai Shannon-Thornton and Adalberto Arroyo, returned to their alma mater to share their wisdom. As Commencement speakers, they were proof that you can go home again.
A recent graduate of the College of Saint Benedict, in Minnesota, Mone'kai offered three pieces of advice to the Class of 2016.Using the metaphor of the road, she encouraged graduates to stay on their own path, eyes fixed on the goal, and, "Always, stay in your own lane."
- "Always, always say yes to new things."
- "You have been given the chance to start over. Your life is now a blank canvas."
- "Keep your eyes on your own path. . .don't compare yourself."
Berto, who recently earned a degree in film and media studies from the University of Kansas, told the grads, "Your future is in your hands. You can be whatever you want to be. . .as long as you are willing to fight and work hard for it."
If you can read this, you have something in common with Maureen Tanner. With the ink barely dry on her degree from the University of Missouri in biochemistry, Maureen already has her eyes on a graduate degree and, ultimately, medical school.
“I always knew that I had a science aptitude,” said Maureen. “Not only did I understand the concepts, I knew that there was a good forecast for employment and work that made a difference in people’s lives.”
Made from strong timber, Maureen wasn’t afraid to sign on to become a pioneer at Cristo Rey. As an eighth grade student at Lee A. Tolbert Community Academy, Maureen put her hand up to join Cristo Rey’s first class of freshmen. In addition to working one day per week in a corporate setting, Maureen grabbed a hold of every conceivable opportunity the school offered.
Reflecting on her time at Cristo Rey, Maureen said, “The health profession summit that I attended every summer at MU made becoming a doctor seem possible. I met with medical students, doctors, residents, and people in every stage of reaching their goal.”
Demonstrating the she understood the networking lesson learned through the Cristo Rey Corporate Work Study Program, Maureen added, “I stayed in touch with Dr. Ellis Ingram, a Dean at the University of Missouri School of Medicine.”
Dr. Ingram became a mentor to Maureen and ultimately hired her to work as a coordinator of a precollege program for middle and high school students. While in college, Maureen worked part time for the CALEB Science Club, which provided students with mentors and exposure to science and health care professions.
“I planned events for the club, which grew to 50 to 60 students and was proud to see our students graduate from high school and enter college programs in the sciences,” said Maureen.
Currently, Maureen works at Marrillac Center, an in-patient treatment facility for youth and adolescents with psychiatric disorders. “The job has taught me patience and allowed me to be thankful for what I had growing up in my family.”
In all of her spare time, Maureen keeps her eyes on the prize: being back in school in a graduate program by the fall of 2015.
As parting advice to the students of Cristo Rey, Maureen said, “Don’t be afraid of detours. There is always an alternate route to your destination. And, know your math! Mathematics affects your understanding of so many life situations - from interest rates to recognizing a substantial savings on a purchase. Know your math!”
Lorena Llano Ramos, Cristo Rey Kansas City Class of 2011, has entered the boardroom. Lorena is a newly-appointed member of the Board of Directors for Samuel U. Rodgers Health Clinics.
Lorena reflected on serving the community and said, "I've learned how important the role of a board member is for the nonprofit and to the community, more than I could have imagined when I first accepted the position. In my first meeting, we voted to explore the possibility of opening up a new clinic location. It was very exciting!"
Influential friends of Cristo Rey reached out to school staff and asked them to identify next generation talent for this important community resource. Lorena's skillset immediately came to mind.
By day, you can find Lorena on the job at CBIZ. one of the nation's leading providers of professional advisory services, focused on accounting, benefits and insurance, HR and payroll solutions. As an accountant, Lorena's wheelhouse is auditing 401k benefit plans for large companies.
Way to go, Lorena!
When Ameche Foster graduated in 2010, he moved on to the University of Central Missouri. By 2016, he had earned a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management. On the job at the University of Kansas, he reflected, "Finally, my career is taking off!"
So what is this dream job? Ameche is the Kitchen Manager and Cook for KU sporting events. "I prep and provide meals for visiting teams and also for the equipment room staff, which handles all team equipment and does the laundry needed at Allen Field House. During sporting events, I serve as a kitchen manager - making sure that the concession stands are following health standards and procedures as they prep food and serve the guests of KU. It's a fun job because of all of the people I meet." Rock Chalk!
Although Lanese Washington (Collier), Class of 2011, has a full-time job as an administrative assistant, her passion is dance. Lanese graduated from Webster University in 2015, earning a Fine Arts degree in classical ballet.
After working with the Dance Theatre of Harlem and Alvin Ailey, she now dances with the Storling Dance Theater. She enjoys working with this Christian-based company because it aligns with her values.
"God has blessed me with talent, and I dance to give praise to God," said Lanese.
After being dubbed one of the top ten performances of the decade by The Kansas City Star, Storling Dance Theater's Underground will be at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, January 30-31, 2020. Lanese will have a principal role in this story which is a visual tapestry based on true stories of the Underground Railroad.
Last fall, Cristo Rey Kansas City's 2016 Valedictorian, Mikayla Bridgewater, was honored with the STEMMy Student Achiever Award through the Central Exchange, a women's empowerment organization here in Kansas City.
Mikayla is currently a Chemical Engineering student at the University of Kansas and is President of the KU Student Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers.