2011 Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll

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

Wiley Wright

Wyandotte High School, 1974
Wiley Wright

Wiley Wright's personality and character have touched scores of young people and encouraged them to reach their "personal bests" as students, athletes and citizens.

He has spent 26 years as a teacher and 19 years as the coordinator of the mortuary science program at Kansas City, Kansas Community College. Wright has spent 26 years coaching swimming at Shawnee Mission East High School. His childhood experiences influenced his interests and prepared him for his dual career.

He was a competitive swimmer growing up and made the swim team in high school. He loved the team aspect of the sport and the challenges it provided. He was so talented that he was recruited by a team from another high school. When he took this news to his principal, Tom Rhone, he was told, "The decision is yours, but remember, you have a family here." That's all Wright needed to hear. Those words have stayed with him to this day.

When he wasn't swimming, he spent his time doing grounds work and odd jobs at a local funeral home. That exposure piqued his interest in the field.

After high school he attended the University of Kansas earning a degree in education. Then Wright went on to earn his mortuary science degree at Kansas City, Kansas Community College. Today he remains dedicated to both.

His swim teams have won 15 league championships and 6 state championships. He has been awarded Kansas Swim Coach of the Year three times. To honor his hard work and dedication to his students, the swimming pool at SM East was renamed "The Wiley Wright Pool."

Wright is proud to be able to teach and coach in the community where he grew up. He believes that every person has something important to contribute and he makes sure that all of his students' efforts are recognized.

A Question and Answer Video of Wiley Wright has been posted on SchoolTube (Time: 3:41).


2011 Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll

Reasons to Believe logo

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

Vernon Birmingham

F.L. Schlagle High School, 1995Vernon Birmingham

Whether he's coaching, mentoring, teaching or ministering, Vernon Birmingham is dedicated to the youth of Kansas City, Kansas.

Growing up in the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools, Birmingham was inspired by a number of teachers who challenged and mentored him, some who still keep in touch with him today. When he went off to college he knew he would return to give back to his community that had prepared him for his future — and he did.

After receiving his bachelor of arts in political science from Wartburg College, he returned home and volunteered his time to help coach football at his alma mater. Soon he became a part of the faculty, teaching business classes, while continuing to coach both football and baseball. While teaching, he founded Making It Plain Ministries and began organizing events to give youth a safe, positive and inexpensive outlet for fun.

Soon he was impacting students at the college level, as the assistant director of admissions at Midland Lutheran College, in Freemont, Neb. While there, he focused recruitment efforts on KCK students, exposing them to the opportunities available to them, and arranging scholarships for them.

Today, Birmingham works as a program manager for Youth Entrepreneurs of Kansas, an organization that focuses on teaching entrepreneurship skills to high school students. What he likes most about his work is helping students create value for themselves.

He also serves youth in the area today through his affiliation with The Urban Scholastic Center. He believes that ministry work is not only preaching, but rather about reaching out to show you care, and setting an example. With the Urban Scholastic Center, groups have been organized to read to students at Mark Twain Elementary, and athletic gear and meals have been provided for numerous high school athletic teams in the district.

His advice for today's students is: take advantage of those opportunities available to you.

A Question and Answer Video of Veron Birmingham has been posted on SchoolTube (Time: 6:27).


2011 Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll

Reasons to Believe logo

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

Robert Serda

J.C. Harmon High School, 1989

In 1997, Robert Serda left Kansas City, Kansas for Hollywood with aspirations of a career that most people can only dream of. Although his family and friends had high hopes for him, many were convinced he would be back. And he has come back — but only to visit.

Today, Serda is a highly respected and renowned Recording Engineer and Sound Mixer in the L.A. area. For the past 11 years, he has worked for Cartoon Network. In 2009, he received a Daytime Emmy Award for his work on the television series "Ben 10: Alien Force."

Serda confesses he wasn't a model student in high school. He was a bit of a procrastinator. But some lessons he learned in his psychology class stuck with him. They focused on self-actualization and getting the most out of yourself. It made him realize that he shouldn't put limitations on himself.

He played the saxophone in the high school band and aspired to have a career in music. But he wasn't thinking about performing with a band. He was interested in studio work. So he attended the University of Southern California, and then went on to Full Sail University in Florida where he was a student in the Recording Engineering program.

He spent the next three years working on corporate videos and commercials in Kansas City. He moved to the L.A. area in 1997 when a friend told him of a job opening there. He landed at a Hollywood studio, where he began working on commercials, television shows, and movies. Three years later he went to work for Cartoon Network.

Many would say that Serda is lucky to be living out his dream, but he doesn't really believe in luck.

"You get lucky because you put yourself in position for luck," he said. "And you have to be prepared and believe in yourself when an opportunity arises."


2011 Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll

Reasons to Believe logo

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

Tina Medina, Ph.D.

J.C. Harmon High School, 1984Tina Medina, Ph.D.

She describes herself as a minister and author, but Tina Medina is that and so much more.

With a background in communications and business management, she has built an impressive career that has included television writing and producing, public relations and marketing, career coaching, grant writing and entrepreneurship.

In 2006, she founded Wise Writers and Speakers, a company that specializes in public relations, writing and project management for area not-for-profit agencies and small businesses. She also works as a grant writer/PR specialist for Comprehensive Mental Health Services.

Growing up, writing was something that came naturally to her. She came to Argentine Junior High in the 9th grade, too late to serve on the newspaper staff. So when she started high school the following year at J.C. Harmon, she went with a determination to make her mark in the field. She worked her way up to become editor-in-chief of the school paper. She credits her journalism teacher for giving her reasons to believe in herself by providing support, guidance and inspiration.

The determination she had at an early age has served her well. In March of 2008 she had a kidney transplant that gave her a second chance at life. Since that time she has continued to set and achieve goals, impacting organizations and changing lives.

She has authored several books including, "Hola! Academic Success Student Case Management," and "Why Me? A Children's Guide to Spiritual Restoration from Sexual Abuse."

Medina is also proud to say she is a "Dotte." She grew up in the Argentine community and still lives in her father's house today. She loves the diversity of the neighborhood and the supportive and caring neighbors around her.

She believes it is important for students to set goals for themselves at an early age because once they attain those goals, a pattern of achievement will be established.


2011 Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll

Reasons to Believe logo

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

Richard Gleichman

Washington High School, 1959Richard Gleichman

Richard Gleichman has dedicated his life to the youth of Kansas City, Kansas. It has become his life-long mission to educate, inspire and motivate young people both on and off the field.

As a teacher and coach, he has lifted up countless students in the classroom and through his football program. He believes that athletics brings out the best in youth and teaches them to work hard and be responsible. He derives great satisfaction from watching students grow athletically and intellectually.

He began his teaching and coaching career in the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools at Argentine High School. In 1972, he transferred to J.C. Harmon where he remained until 1980 when he transferred to Sumner Academy of Arts and Science. He retired from full-time teaching and coaching in 2005. Today, he serves as a substitute teacher for the district, and is an assistant football coach at Sumner.

He calls himself a "Wyandotte County" boy and takes pride in his community.

Throughout the years, he has provided support for area students in a number of ways. Each fall he led the effort to provide new shoes and backpacks to any student who might need them. At Halloween, he made sure the neighborhood children who visited the Sumner fieldhouse had costumes and candy. And as winter set in, trips were made to local department stores to buy coats for students and their siblings.

The importance he places on education and his strong moral code are values that originated from his own education in the KCK Public Schools. He has fond memories of growing up in the district. He feels indebted to many of his teachers and coaches who helped feed his passion for learning and athletics.

His advice for today's students is: Put your schoolwork first, and be prepared to work hard for your education.

A Question and Answer Video of Richard Gleichman has been posted on SchoolTube (Time: 7:19).