2015 Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll

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Role models who give us Reasons to Believe in the power of education

Mrs. Lucy Saunders

Mrs. Lucy Saunders Sumner High School, 1939

Other Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools Attended: Douglass Elementary, Stowe Elementary, Northeast Junior High.

Some say she was a natural-born educator. But Lucy Saunders didn’t set her sights on being a teacher; it happened by necessity.

The mother of 12, Saunders was happy raising her kids and being a wife and homemaker. But at the age of five, her son, Howard, was having trouble with his speech. When he was taken to the doctor for testing, he was deemed “uneducable.” It was a time period when there were no formal education programs for special needs children in Wyandotte County. So Saunders set out on a mission to get her son the help he needed, and began tutoring him at home.

In the process of educating herself about special needs children, Saunders became a great resource and developed a passion for helping other children with special needs. During the mid 1970s she was one of seven people appointed to serve on the first Mental Retardation Governing Board in Wyandotte County. This Board established a sheltered workshop, transportation for clients and built a group home.

In 1982, at the “young” age of 61, Saunders earned her bachelor’s degree in general studies from the University of Kansas. She worked as a special education substitute teacher in the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools for 40 years, until she was 90. Many who worked with her talked about her natural skills as an educator. She was well respected because she was a disciplinarian, but also was kind and compassionate.

Saunders has many fond memories of her years growing up in the KCK Public Schools. In fact, she said she would cry when school let out for the summer. It was a different world from what we live in today; schools and communities were segregated. Sumner was an all-Black high school.

Saunders became a part of history when she was among the first group of African-Americans to work at the North American Bomber Plant in Fairfax in the 1940s. She was hired as an assembly aircraft worker.

A devout Christian, she has been a member of New Seasons Christian Church for more than 70 years.

She wants the public to know that special needs children should be judged on what they CAN do, instead of what they cannot.