2004 Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll

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

V. Cheryl Womack

Wyandotte High School, 1969V. Cheryl Womack

As a young child growing up in Kansas City, Kan., Cheryl Womack spent more time in the hospital than at school and was often told she would most likely not live to see adulthood. But she learned to be a fighter and knew at that moment that if she could fight her way through the illnesses, she could grow up to do almost anything she wanted in her life. That determination has stayed with her and made her the success she is today.

This businesswoman has not only built her own enterprise, but has given back to her community by mentoring, serving on national and international entrepreneurial boards and providing support to many charitable organizations.

Womack manages multiple business interests, including directing the efforts of VCW Holding Company, an entity she founded to partner with and provide consulting and administrative services for a variety mid-sized growth companies. She also leads The Star Group team in program and partnership development for annual events recognizing and honoring The Leading Women Entrepreneurs of the World.

A member of the class of 1969 at Wyandotte High School, Womack said her father, a Panamanian immigrant, was the "single most important person" in her life because he daily demonstrated his love and care for his family and never complained. A high school English teacher who taught students to "think outside the box" was also a major influence, as well as her husband, Dean, who has taught her how to find pleasure in celebrating her successes.

Womack's civic and business affiliations are diverse and endless as she continues to share her knowledge and help inspire others. She serves on the steering committee for the Kansas City Symphony and is a former Board member for the Metropolitan Organization Combating Sexual Abuse. She serves on the KU Business School Advisory Board and on the Board of the Lyric Opera Circle.

Womack wants students to realize that they will live long enough to have at least two careers in their lifetime and should spend their first career learning what makes them happy and, at the very least, the second one should be something that inspires them.


2004 Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll

Reasons to Believe logo

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

Rev. Dr. Selwyn Q. Bachus

Sumner Academy of Arts and Science, 1985Rev. Dr. Selwyn Q. Bachus

High standards were both a blessing and a challenge for Selwyn Bachus while growing up in the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools. He said there were times when he felt he could not achieve at the level expected of him. But through the support of his parents and a number of teachers, he met these standards and began to believe in himself.

Perhaps his proudest moment came when he tested well enough to be invited to attend Sumner Academy of Arts and Science. It gave him a sense of his abilities and encouraged him.

Today the pastor and former teacher in the district, looks back on those days with a sense of gratitude. "They never let me achieve less than I was able to," he said.

Currently the pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church, Dayton, Ohio, Bachus accepted his "call to ministry" when he was a freshman in college at Emporia State University. He said he decided to continue his teaching degree and perhaps work part-time in the ministry.

After graduating and teaching at Douglas and M.E. Pearson elementary schools, the calling grew stronger and he knew ministry work was where he needed to be. He enrolled in the School of Theology at Virginia Union University in Richmond, earning his master of divinity, magna cum laude, in 1995. In 2001, he received his doctor of ministry from United Theological Seminary, Dayton.

He believes that the combination of a commitment to education and a strong intimate relationship with God has helped him to achieve success in his life and he recommends this to today's students.

"When you have those two things working together for you, there is nothing you can't do," he said.


2004 Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll

Reasons to Believe logo

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

Ralph Brightwell

Argentine High School, 1953Ralph Brightwell

Educators give endless amounts of time and energy to their students and Ralph Brightwell is certainly no exception. He has made a difference in the lives of hundreds of students over the years.

Brightwell retired from the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools in 1995 after 38 years of service. He taught social studies and coached football and basketball at Rosedale High School (now Rosedale Middle School) for nine years. From 1966-82 he was a guidance counselor at Argentine Middle School, before "moving up with his students" to J.C. Harmon High School.

He taught, coached, and counseled students on getting along with their peers and their parents. He gave them scholarship assistance and bought lunch for those who couldn't afford it. He said he doesn't have any idea how many students he impacted over the years, but his "door was always open." He gave them reasons to believe in themselves.

"If you don't believe in students, then they won't believe in themselves," he said.

The 1953 graduate of Argentine High School said his biggest challenge growing up was staying in school because his parents didn't have a lot of money. But through the support of many good teachers whom he looked up to, he became the first person in his family to go to college.

He earned his bachelor's degree in education, his master's degree in history and his counselor certification from Pittsburg State Teachers College. Then he came back to Kansas City, Kansas to teach and inspire others.

He is a life member of the PTA, and served on the Board of Directors of Associated Youth Services for 25 years, and the Kansas National Educators Association. Among his numerous awards are Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools' Employee of the Month and Kaw Valley Junior Chamber of Commerce's Outstanding Young Educator Award.


2004 Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll

Reasons to Believe logo

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

Randall Fears

F. L. Schlagle High School, 1981Randall Fears

"Success is being the best you can be." These are words that Randall Fears lives by.

And there is no doubt that he has achieved success. With a dual career, he helps to meet the creative, spiritual, and financial needs of children and adults in the Kansas City community.

As the founder and president of Randall Fears & Associates, Inc. he serves as an insurance and financial advisor with more than 600 clients. And as the organist and minister of music for Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Kansas City, Kansas, he shares his deep faith and musical talent by directing the adult, children, and men's choirs. He is also an accomplished composer and arranger, and conducts music workshops throughout the country.

He credits the support of his parents, his former teachers, and his pastor for all he has achieved.

Fears is a 1981 graduate of F.L. Schlagle High School. He spent his high school years balancing activities, such as varsity basketball, cross country, and newspaper staff, with academics. He was the valedictorian of his class.

Randall completed most of his undergraduate work at the University of Kansas but eventually earned his degree in 1988 at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He believes in the power of education. He earned a business degree but also spent a year studying at the UMKC Conservatory of Music. Recently, he took classes to become a certified senior advisor and is currently working toward his certified financial planner designation. "Education should never stop," he said.

His advice for today's students is to take advantage of all the opportunities available to them, and to not be afraid to try new things.


2004 Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll

Reasons to Believe logo

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

Melissa L. Redway

Sumner Academy of Arts and Science, 1994Melissa L. Redway

Sometimes just one interaction or one word can make a difference in people's lives. This is what keeps Melissa Redway going.

An assistant district attorney in Grant and Garfield counties in Oklahoma, she is challenged by prosecuting criminals, counseling individuals, and helping to prevent others from becoming a part of the court system. Her most difficult cases are those involving domestic violence.

"Through my work, I feel like I am able to help a lot of people in a number of ways and to make a difference in their lives," she said.

A 1994 graduate of Sumner Academy of Arts and Sciences, law wasn't always something she aspired toward, although she certainly qualified academically. She graduated from Sumner cum laude with an international baccalaureate degree, and as an accomplished swimmer who competed and earned a number of titles, including NCAA All-American Swimmer. She said the challenges taught her discipline and perseverance.

She earned her bachelor's degree in English and French from Drury College, Springfield, Mo., and went on to law school at the University of Tulsa on the recommendation of one of her professors, graduating in 2000.

Redway serves on the Garfield County Domestic Violence Task Force and is a member of the Community Service Sentencing Program Committee. When she's not working in her field, she is helping to inspire youth. She is a youth sponsor at Oakwood Christian Church and a junior high girls' Sunday school teacher.

Her advice to today's students is to "be the best example you can be to others."