2017 Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll

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

Dennis Ray Brockman, Sr.

Dennis BrockmanWashington High School, 1983

Other Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools Attended: Fairfax Elementary, Dwight D. Eisenhower Middle

Dennis Ray Brockman, Sr. lives by these powerful words his mother spoke to him years ago: “Regardless of where you come from, you can be whatever you want to be as long as you are committed, dedicated and a hard worker.”

Those words resonated strongly with him as the youngest of seven children growing up and attending school in Kansas City, Kansas, as much as it does today as the regional vice president of operations for the Midwest Region of Starbucks Coffee Company living in Naperville, Illinois. He has served in this leadership capacity at Starbucks for the last two of his nine years with the company.

Among his responsibilities are oversight for 14,000 partners (or employees) and 630 sites located in Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and parts of Ohio. Prior to this, he was the district manager and regional director for Starbucks in the Kansas City, Chicago and Washington, D.C. areas. 

His friends refer to him as a natural born leader who has served in leadership roles most of his life from his college years at Emporia (Kansas) State University to his church.  He is thankful to God for the support he received as a young child from the Bethel Baptist Church, under theleadership of the late Pastor R.C. Higgs.

Whenever Brockman has an opportunity, he shares personal and professional wisdom with his children, colleagues and youth in the community. He is known for giving his best and motivating others to do so. As an exceptional orator, he is often called upon to speak at seminars and Black History Month presentations. 

He is recognized for several achievements by Starbucks, including the District Manager of the Year in 2001; the Spirit Award, creating the drive-through certification program, and becoming the first in the nation to achieve the legendary drive-thru service ranking. 

Brockman has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Emporia State University.

He and his wife, Evonna, are the proud parents of Dennis Brockman, Jr., and DeVonna Brockman.

What is his advice to students? “Take advantage of being a student by enjoying the experience, make sure you are at your best every day and show appreciation to those supporting you – parents, teachers, staff and administrators,” he said.

This is important to him because he knows the profound impact these individuals had on his life and confidence as a youth. “KCKPS gave me a solid foundation about being inclusive and the importance of diversity. The compassion that everyone showed toward us from the bus driver, the cafeteria worker, the custodians, the teachers and administrators was a part of that foundation. I graduated from school knowing I could do whatever I wanted to do and could compete with anyone.”

2017 Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll

Reasons to Believe logo

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

Dr. Latorua J. Chinn

Latorua ChinnWyandotte High School, 1974

Other Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools Attended: Abbott Elementary, Northwest Junior High

Dr. Latorua “Torrie” Chinn is known for taking care of business. This label is fine with the details-oriented person who spends her days reading and reviewing contracts for understandability and to make sure all parties are following the agreements. 

Chinn began working in government contract compliance in 2000 at the Kansas Speedway, where she reviews multi-million dollar contacts.  Her work in the field of government compliance has led to great opportunities in Kansas City, Kansas. 

In 2009, she was appointed the first chairperson of the Unified Government - Wyandotte County, Kansas City, Kansas Contract Fairness Board. Among the responsibilities of the board were to make sure there were locally-owned minority and women business enterprises receiving contracts by the city.

In 2010, she became the principal and founder of Trini-Con-Thel & Beck, LLC, a government contract compliance results company with accounts in the United States and abroad. The company, named in honor of her three sisters, Connie, Thelma and Becky, was started at the urging of her colleagues at the Kansas Speedway. 

Although she has her own company, she still works with the Kansas Speedway on contracts, such as the hotel that will soon connect to the casino in western Wyandotte County.  She is a former director of Career Planning and Job Placement and adjunct professor at Donnelly College and student teacher at Sumner Academy of Arts and Science. 

“It has been a long road to get to where I am today and the pathway there has been filled with meeting a lot of people who have helped me on this incredible journey, she said. A resident of Kansas City, Kansas for her entire life, she encourages others to find their niche and stay in the community. “Make the spot where you are glow,” she is often heard saying to others.

She has served on numerous boards and committees in the Kansas City metropolitan area for more than 40 years. Among those memberships: the Kansas City, Kansas Mayor’s Google Bi-State Playbook Development Team, an ambassador for the Kansas City, Kansas Chamber of Commerce, and the State Avenue Corridor Transit Improvements Advisory Committee. 

She is also the recipient of numerous awards including induction into the Outstanding Young Women of America; Top 50 Most Influential Black Women in Kansas City; Outstanding Women of Distinction Award from Santa Fe Trails Council of Girl Scouts in 1994; Distinguished Service Award from former state of Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius in 2005 and Corporation of the Year award from the Kansas Department of Commerce in 2012.

She has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Emporia (Kansas) State University, a master’s degree in divinity and doctor of ministry degree from Western Baptist Bible College, Kansas City, Missouri. 

What is her advice to students: “Don’t be afraid to spread your wings; learn to listen; learn to do more than is expected and learn patience.”

2017 Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll

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

Hon. Stephanie Dawkins Davis

Stephanie Dawkins DavisF. L. Schlagle High School, 1985

Other Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools Attended: Lindbergh Elementary, Dwight D. Eisenhower Middle

Magistrate Judge Stephanie Dawkins Davis has a picture of her inspiration for becoming a lawyer in her office. It is a photo of the first African-American to serve on the highest court in the land – former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.  “The arc of his career and the substance of his work are impressive from his years with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (as director of the Legal Defense Fund) to his landmark cases, such as Brown vs. the Topeka Board of Education,” she said.

Like Marshall, she is carving an impressive path in the judicial arena. On January 4, 2016, she was appointed as a United States Magistrate Judge for the Eastern District of Michigan. In this position, she is responsible for civil and criminal cases. Prior to being appointed to her current position, she was a federal prosecutor for 18 years in the United States Attorney’s Office – first serving for three years in the office’s civil division before transferring to the criminal division. 

As a criminal prosecutor, Magistrate Judge Stephanie Dawkins Davis practiced in both the general crimes unit and the controlled substances unit, where she served as the deputy chief and high intensity drug trafficking area liaison.  She prosecuted cases at both the trial and appellate levels, including those involving money laundering, fraud, violent crime and public corruption. 

When she is not working, she is often found mentoring law students to prepare them for their journey in the profession. “She along with fellow law professionals engage in role play activities to expose students to the skills they will need as a lawyer.” 

With her impressive background, it is hard to believe she almost did not become a lawyer. She had changed her mind about a career in the field of law and was pursuing a career in the medical field through her studies at Wichita (Kansas) State University.  However, her college advisor convinced her to take the LSAT to see how well she would do. Once she had taken the test and was satisfied with her score, he told her she should apply to law school to see what happens. She applied to three law schools and was accepted by them all. 

She chose to study law at Washington University in St. Louis, which offered her a full tuition scholarship. She graduated with her juris doctorate from Washington University in 1992.  She also has an associate’s degree in math and natural sciences and a bachelor’s degree in health care administration from Wichita State University received in 1988 and 1989, respectively.

Magistrate Judge Stephanie Dawkins Davis is a member of the State Bar of Michigan, the Federal Bar Association and has held memberships with the Wolverine Bar Association and the American Bar Association. 

She is the recipient of several recognitions for her work including the United States Attorney’s Award for Outstanding Service, the Bridget Vance Vision of Service Award for her work with youth violence prevention, the State Bar of Michigan Champion of Justice Award, and the Executive Office for United States Attorney Director’s Award. 

She is married to Grant Davis and they are the proud parents of three children, all young adults now. 

Her advice to students: “The principal thing is to be well-read because it will allow you to develop critical thinking and analysis. There are no short cuts, particularly when it comes to the legal profession.”

2017 Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll

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

Joanne Collins

Joanne CollinsSumner High School, 1953

Other Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools Attended: Attucks Elementary, Northeast Junior High

Joanne Collins, a community leader and former Kansas City, Missouri Councilmember, has spent most of her life in service to others. In fact, she would not have it any other way because she loves people. 

She has held presidential, gubernatorial, regional, county and local appointments, and served as a member at-large of the Kansas City, Missouri City Council for 17 years. She ran for Congress twice and seconded the nomination of President George H.W. Bush.  During her tenure on the city council, she served as Finance and Audit Committee chair, mayor pro tempore and acting mayor. She recalls some of her fondest council memories involved using her greatest communication skill – listening. 

Her ability to listen has been advantageous over the years, especially when working with individuals in need of a resolution to an issue. While most would shy away from these situations, Collins ran toward them; oftentimes, meeting in person with disgruntled individuals one-on-one. Why did she do this? “I knew then, what I know now; most people calling with problems already have the answers or solutions, but they do not know how to navigate the system and get things done.”   

Understanding the system is how she and others were instrumental in bringing in housing for low income individuals on 12th and Paseo streets in Kansas City, Missouri.  This experience made it possible for her to work on a multi-development project in Illinois as a community builder fellow through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.  She retired from this program in the year 2000. She has also worked in the banking, insurance, real estate sales, and postal service industries. 

As you can see, getting things done is another quality of Collins. It was instilled in her as a young child growing up in the Rosedale section of Kansas City, Kansas by her mother who told her to always follow through and do the best. 

That teaching has carried over into all that she does. It’s no wonder she has been busy serving on more than 50 organizations up until two years ago. These days she dedicates her time to serving on about 12 organizations, including the Salvation Army, YMCA, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Kansas City Missouri Retirement Fund Board and the advisory boards for Truman Medical Center, the Central Exchange and the Women’s Foundation. 

Collins received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Stephens College and a master’s degree in business administration from Baker University.

She is a widow with two children, three step-children, six grandchildren, nine step-grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. 

Her advice to students: “Get involved; community service makes the difference.”

2017 Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll

Reasons to Believe logo

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

District Attorney Mark A. Dupree, Sr.

Mark DupreeWyandotte High School, 2000

Other Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools Attended: Vance Elementary, Coronado Middle

During his sophomore year at Wyandotte High School, Mark A. Dupree, Sr. was given an opportunity to job shadow someone at the Wyandotte County Courthouse.  He went into the courtroom that day not knowing what to expect. Describing that day, he said, “The bailiff asked everyone to rise. It was then that I saw walking through the doors an African-American man with a short afro and a black robe.” Dupree had never seen an African-American judge or lawyer before. In fact, because he was so stunned by what he was seeing for the first time, he did not hear the bailiff tell everyone to be seated. 

That day was a life-changing moment for him. “That day changed the trajectory of where my career was going,” he said. 

The person presiding over court that day who had Dupree speechless and staring in amazement was the late Honorable District Court Judge Cordell Meeks, Jr. That day marked another first for a young Dupree. It was the beginning of a mentor-mentee relationship that would last seven years, only to be cut short by the death of Judge Meeks. 

Today, Dupree is the first African-American elected district attorney in the state of Kansas, a position he has held since 2017. He is also the third person to ever serve as the district attorney in Wyandotte County since the inception of the position in 1971.

He and his staff of 62 attorneys, trial assistants, investigators and victim advocates are located in the District Courthouse of Wyandotte County. They are responsible for the safety and protection of the citizens of the Wyandotte County community. 

Prior to serving as the district attorney, he worked in private practice at Dupree & Dupree Attorneys at Law, a firm he owned with his wife, Shanelle.  Since he became the district attorney, his wife handles the law firm, which has been renamed Dupree Family Law.   

Dupree, the youngest of six, has lived most of his life in Kansas City, Kansas, where he is an associate pastor at Grace Tabernacle Family Life Outreach Center.  His parents were pastor and co-pastor of the church. One of his most rewarding ministries in the church is feeding the hungry and driving the church bus to pick up the homeless to attend services at the church. 

Dupree credits his mother and father, Linda and Alvin Dupree, with his spiritual upbringing and strong work ethic. One of his favorite sayings is from his mother: “Wherever you go and no matter how hard it gets; remember you are too blessed to be stressed.”

He is a graduate of the University of Kansas with a bachelor’s degree in political science, a minor in leadership studies, and a juris doctorate degree from Washburn University School of Law. 

Dupree and his wife, Shanelle, are the proud parents of eight-year-old Layla; seven-year-old Mark Dupree II; six-year-old Lilly; and four-year-old Micah. 

The best advice he would give to a student: “Be persistent; stay prayerful and never let anyone stop you from pursuing your dream.”