2003 Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll

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

Richard Ruiz

 Rosedale High School — Class of 1968Richard Ruiz

A lifelong resident of Kansas City, Kan., Richard Ruiz has seen lots of changes in his hometown during the course of his life. In fact, he may even be directly responsible for some of those changes.

Richard, who graduated from Rosedale High School in 1968, believed in the early 1970s that a program was needed to serve Latinos exclusively. So, in 1976, he founded El Centro, Inc., with the purpose of providing support for Latino families, whom he felt were being neglected by other service providers.

In 1993, despite years of success, Richard led El Centro through a transformation that included a new mission, purpose, and identity. While Kansas City, Kan., was growing more and more diverse, he realized that not everyone who lived within the program's reach was Hispanic.

El Centro altered its focus to encompass the entire Kansas City, Kan., community working towards the creation of a comprehensive center that serves the total community. Under these new parameters, Richard's vision has been recognized by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation's Reach Awards for Organizational Excellence, as an effective nonprofit organization in the areas of entrepreneurialism, sustainability, and adaptability.

But Richard has found time for other successes outside of El Centro. In 1983, he won election to the City Council of Kansas City, Kan., and was re-elected in 1987. During these terms, he also served as deputy mayor.

In 1990, Richard was selected for the first scholarship for minority managers to the Executive Fellows program, which develops executive potential in middle- and upper-level managers, in the School of Management at Rockhurst College. In 1992, he received a master's degree in business administration. Richard is a Fannie Mae Fellow for Government Leadership at Harvard University and Center for Social Innovation Fellow for Leadership for Non-Profit Management at Stanford University.

Additionally, Richard served on the Governor's Consolidation Study Commission that set the stage for the merger of the Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan. governments in 1997. He serves under the present governor as a member of the Kansas State Education Policy Task Force. He served three years on the Unified Government's Board of Parks Commission. Richard is an advisory director for Berkel and Company and the Federal Home Loan Bank. He also serves as board member of Donnelly College, Heart of America Boy Scouts, and Brotherhood Bank and Trust. He is married to Rosalinda, is the father of three, and the grandfather of five.


2003 Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll

Reasons to Believe logo

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

Preston Holmes

Sumner High School — Class of 1967Preston Holmes

Although Preston Holmes' career led him far away from his Kansas City beginnings to the bright lights of Hollywood, his upbringing here has played an integral role in his rise to success.

Preston recalls starting with preschool, he always had a supportive group of people who pushed him to succeed. This group encompassed not only his family, but also those who lived in his community, as well as special teachers at school, such as Mr. Pitts, Preston's eighth-grade science teacher. "He made learning so much fun, and I remember his class being interesting and fascinating," says Preston, "I even thought I wanted to be a scientist for awhile."

Preston's career goals took a different path when he left home at the age of 17 bound for Yale University in Connecticut. "Even though I had never left home before, I had no anxiety about leaving Kansas City," he says. "I looked forward to it and relished the idea." This experience exemplifies Preston's life philosophy. "It is important to have a willingness to take chances, or a different road, with the risks that they entail without fear of failure."

At Yale, Preston participated in the Transitional Year Program (TYP), which targeted inner city youth and had the goal of giving them an intensive year of academic preparation before they attended college. After completing the yearlong program, Preston attended Princeton. Preston's adventurous spirit also guided his later career choice of venturing into film in New York City by participating in the prestigious Director's Guild East's Assistant Director Training Program, followed by admission to the Guild as an assistant director.

Moving from commercial production to features in New York, first as an assistant director and then as production manager, Preston joined Spike Lee's production team and helped turn out hits including, "Do The Right Thing," "Mo Betta Blues," and "Jungle Fever." He has since gone on to produce or co-produce films with some of today's outstanding African-American filmmakers: "Juice" with Ernest Dickerson, "Malcolm X" and "Crooklyn" with Spike Lee, and "New Jack City," "Posse," and "Panther" with Mario Van Peebles.

In 2000, Preston also produced the award-winning television movie, "Boycott," starring Jeffrey Wright and directed by Clark Johnson for HBO Films, with whom he is currently developing a film on the life of African-American movie pioneer, Oscar Micheaux. In addition, Preston is currently producing a feature documentary, "Tupac Resurrection," on the life of Tupac Shakur, for MTV Films.

Preston's wife of 30 years, Safiya Henderson-Holmes, passed away in 2002 after a decade-long battle with cancer. He has three children: Toure, Naimah, and Trenton and one grandson, Dal-Jeem.


2003 Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll

Reasons to Believe logo

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

John Coolidge

Sumner High School — Class of 1967John Coolidge 

When successful members of the community reach a certain level of achievement, some feel it is their obligation to "give something back." But what John Coolidge, the 31st postmaster in Kansas City, Mo., has given back to his community is definitely beyond the call of duty.

The list of programs and organizations that John, a 1967 graduate of Sumner High School, is involved in, fill up a sheet of paper as fast as it fills up the hearts of those whom he has helped. They include: Big Brothers / Big Sisters, Habitat for Humanity, National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Food Drive, YouthFriends, Day of Caring, and several others.

In addition to these charities, he also has recently taken a missionary trip to Uganda, Africa, where he helped build housing for orphans.

A huge Reason to Believe for John while growing up was his teachers, who kept him excited and wanting to learn. This desire for education was apparently unquenchable, as he went on to earn an Associate of Arts degree from Kansas City, Kansas Community College, a bachelor's degree from Ottawa University, and a master's degree from Friends University.

John took his education and expertise with him when he served as master instructor at the Bolger Academy in Potomac, Md., and in Los Angeles. But John's heart has always been in Kansas City, where his junior high and high school teachers helped form the foundation of his life.

John was so grateful to these mentors that he invited many of them to his swearing-in ceremony as postmaster. These teachers tried to implant in him the idea that the desire to do your best comes from within. John truly believes that "His teachers," made all the difference in his success.


2003 Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll

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

Kathy Davis

Wyandotte High School — Class of 1970Kathy Davis

For all practical purposes, Kathy Davis is a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse, providing education to a variety of students at all different grade levels. But the schoolhouse is actually located in the pediatric department of the University of Kansas Medical Center, and her lessons are not limited to reading, writing and arithmetic, but also include enhancing the quality of life of patients, support for parents and siblings, education and consultation for school staff and peers, and end-of-life care, among other subjects.

As the director of education and child life at University of Kansas Medical Center, the real services Kathy provides, and the way she touches the lives of many, go far beyond homework and class work. She is always willing to go above and beyond what is expected of her. An example of this is when she was able to help a terminally ill student fulfill his one wish of graduating before he passed away. He fell beyond the normal parameters, but Kathy worked hard to help the principal understand that providing some flexibility in policy could grant this wish and not damage the school's standards. Due to Kathy's persistence and dedication, the young man was able to graduate one week before he died. On another occasion, Kathy arranged to have a tea party for a young girl who was longing for the tea parties she had at home. Many of these situations must fall after school hours or on the weekend, but her schedule always seems to accommodate them.

It was Kathy's geography teacher at Northwest Middle School, Mr. Christopher, who inspired her to go into the field of teaching. After graduating from Wyandotte High School in 1970, Kathy earned a bachelor's degree in elementary and special education from the University of Kansas. She then taught at the R.J. Delano School in Kansas City, Mo., where she worked with students with physical and orthopedic impairments. In 1983, she started a program at the University of Kansas Medical Center that provides educational support and school re-entry services for children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses and injuries. She continues to work there today. She is also currently working on a Ph.D. in therapeutic science at the University of Kansas.

Although Kathy must overcome challenges that are not present in a normal school setting, she finds that she is able to learn from these situations. "The families and children I work with have taught me that diligence, dedication, and desire can pave the road to unbelievable success," she says. "I am awed by the constant reminder life is such a gift, and we have complete control over how we choose to use that gift. Our choices must be made wisely, and in doing so, we can hope to continue to learn and grow personally, while offering the products of our efforts to others in an attempt to continue the cycle of inspiration and Reasons to Believe."

Kathy has two grown children who are a constant source of pride and love. Her daughter, Meagan, is an early-childhood special educator in the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools and her son, Tyler, is in the Air Force studying satellite communications.


2003 Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll

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

James Jenkins

Argentine Junior/Senior High School — Class of 1962James Jenkins

For James Jenkins, Kansas City, Kan., and specifically the Armordale area, is not only a community where he was born and raised, worked and volunteered, but also it is his passion. He proudly says he has only moved 17 feet his whole life, living today in the same house where he grew up. It is no surprise then, that when Jenkins is out in the community, he is frequently greeted with bear hugs. This response brings with it much satisfaction.

I have always loved this community and I am happy to be here," says James. "There is a lot of satisfaction in walking down the street and meeting with kids who will come up and talk to me. I also like being able to see former students become lawyers, teachers, and productive citizens of the community."

After graduating from Argentine Junior/Senior High School, Jenkins attended Emporia State Teachers College, where he earned a bachelor's degree. He then returned to the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools to teach at Central Junior High, then Rosedale Junior/Senior High School, and finally at Harmon High School, where he taught from its opening in 1973 until his retirement in 1999.

During his years of teaching, he engaged students in American history by telling them stories and making the material relevant to their lives. James's goals as a teacher were simple. "I told my students that I wanted them to walk out the door every day with a little more knowledge than they had come in with."

Since retiring, James has devoted more time to his community activities, volunteering, and speaking engagements. He spends much of his time working at the Kaw Valley Drainage Board and was recently elected to serve his fourth four-year term on the Drainage Board. He is chairman of the board of the Armordale Renewal Association and is involved in the Armordale American Legion Post, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Wyandotte County Library Board. He volunteers at the Eisenhower Medical Center at Leavenworth and can be found on Friday nights calling bingo for the American Legion. In addition, James earned two bronze stars in his one-year tour in Vietnam. With his commitment to the Armordale community, calling James "Amordale's Favorite Son," is very fitting.

James has been married to his wife, Alice, for over 30 years. The couple has two daughters, Elizabeth and Susan, who both continue to work in the community, as their father does at the University of Kansas Medical Center and the main library of Kansas City, Kan., respectively.