Thursday, June 21, 2018

#WeAreGrandview recognized for changing community conversation


by Mary Wilson

From congratulating state champions to building comradery between neighbors, a new social media campaign in Grandview has gained popularity, and is receiving regional recognition.

We Are Grandview has been seen on Facebook and Twitter (#WeAreGrandview), in newsletters and on mailers, in print and online, and was even used as the theme for the Harry’s Hay Days parade. What began as a strategic marketing campaign to try and put a positive spin on Grandview’s image has become a clear message of change and evolution in the community.

A few years ago, the Grandview C-4 School District began a communication audit, focusing on how the district is perceived in and out of the Grandview community.

“For the district, one of the biggest findings that came out of the audit is that we were missing out on branding,” said Public Relations Coordinator Sheba Clarke. “This was huge and something that we really needed to pay attention to.”

At that time, after a conversation with some City of Grandview staff, Clarke discovered that the city was also thinking of Grandview’s perception and how to change it. Meetings began to take place to figure out how the district and the city could work together to put a brand on Grandview.

“We were learning that the perception was not our reality,” said Clarke, “not necessarily from people in the community, but more from folks outside. We figured that one voice, one message, was stronger than just a school district brand or a city brand. While we all have our own distinction, we all want to push the same message of who we are.”

We Are Grandview was born out of a cheer. Clarke said that during a high school pep rally, varsity cheerleaders chanted “we are Grandview” to help students get excited about an upcoming game.

“It just seemed so prideful,” said Clarke. “That’s what started the hashtag and the We Are Grandview slogan.”

Clarke added that she often hears from people outside of the community who may have a negative view of Grandview based on untrue information. From a city standpoint, one of the biggest challenges that Communications Manager Valarie Poindexter has is surrounding that perception and image.

“This is such a proud community,” said Poindexter. “It’s a beautiful community, but we have to overcome that challenge. I was immediately on-board with this because something has to be done. We have to be able to take back that narrative and we will tell the story.”

The brand provides residents and the community an avenue to express pride in the Grandview community. Clarke said that she has seen the We Are Grandview social media conversation from people all over the country.

“It really touches your heart when you see all of these great things, one after the other, these great stories from Grandview when you search We Are Grandview on social media,” said Poindexter.

The two decided to enter their We Are Grandview campaign in the Social Media Club of Kansas City’s annual AMPS awards, which was established four years ago to recognize outstanding social campaigns from brands, nonprofits, governments and educational institutions in the region. With no budget, no social media campaign software, and with a brand just underway, Poindexter and Clarke weren’t sure they even had a shot for last year’s deadline, and thought they may have more material to enter for their 2018 campaign.

“It has already begun to change the conversation,” said Clarke. “We definitely know that there is still a lot of work to be done, but we’re happy with where it’s going.”

They say their next hurdle is continuing the momentum they have created, and maintaining a positive brand message in the community.

“We Are Grandview makes a statement,” said Clarke. “I’d like it to be a story. When I think of ‘We Are Grandview,’ I think of people like Jane Bryan, who grew up in Grandview, who gives back time and time again on committees, in our schools, taught our kids and still very much involved in who we are. I think of residents like her. I think of the normal, everyday person who truly loves our community and does whatever they can do to give back.”

"We Are Grandview" is a story. It is a collective voice that defines who Grandview is as a community. It puts a face on the people who live, work, and have fun in Grandview. It is redefining what makes Grandview unique, and creating a positive buzz surrounding the community.

“If you come to Grandview, our hope is that you have gotten a good glimpse into who we are by the time you leave,” said Clarke. “That’s what this is all about.”

The We Are Grandview social media campaign was recognized as a gold winner on Tuesday night at the AMPS Awards Ceremony, held at Boulevard Brewery in Kansas City.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Young entrepreneur creates her own future path

by Mary Wilson


With graduation now behind them, members of the class of 2018 are likely preparing to head off to college. Things like dorm room bedspreads, microwavable meals and PC versus Apple have taken priority as they set out to begin adulthood. However, one young graduate has her sights on things a little out of the ordinary for someone her age.

Kansas City native Arielle Nash, who spent the last four years at an elite private school, is ditching status quo and paving her way straight into entrepreneurship rather than heading off to a university for the next two, four or more years.

“My mom went to law school, and she has massive amounts of student loans that she is still paying,” said Nash. “I’ve always been sort of an outlier. Growing up the way I did, being exposed to different things, I always had this entrepreneurial spirit thanks to my dad. I’ve always wanted to do my own thing, be my own boss.”

Nash’s father, former Kansas City Councilman-turned real estate developer and economic development consultant Troy Nash, has been  a major influence in his daughter’s life and ambition, exposing her to city government and the world of corporations at a young age.

She has heard a lot of skepticism about her decision to forgo college, but she is determined to be taken seriously in the corporate world. One of the factors in Nash’s decision was the debt associated with a traditional four-year degree.

“I went to Pembroke Hill, and it is assumed that everybody goes to college right after graduation,” said Nash. “It’s a well-established feeder school for the Ivy Leagues. But, doing my research and knowing the things that my parents went through, I found there is nearly $1 trillion of student debt in my generation. I would be a part of that, and I didn’t want to start out my life at a financial disadvantage. I didn’t want the stress of making such a big financial decision when I’m so young.”

“You don’t know what you want to do when you’re 16, 17, 18 years old, that’s why people change their majors all the time,” said Nash. “I don’t want to spend money, time, effort and energy on something that may change.”

Spending her childhood seeing women in power has inspired Nash from the beginning. Women like former Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes, Ellen Darling, who runs the company her dad works for, and Janice Howroyd, the first African-American woman with a $1 billion business, have impacted and motivated Nash to pursue her dreams.

“I spent some time with Janice a few weeks ago in Detroit,” said Nash. “Being around her and seeing her entrepreneurial spirit, I thought, ‘why can’t I do something like this?’ I can do this too. These are ordinary women who have led extraordinary lives through their work ethic and dedication.”

Her company, Arielle Marie Nash Enterprises, serves as a consultant to corporations, nonprofits and other organizations to reach the millennial population. She works with companies to help employers attract and retain workforce, and then helping with branding, marketing and selling their goods to the younger generation.

“I am a millennial, and I know what millennials want,” said Nash. “What I’ve found is that others who are doing consulting with businesses are not millennials themselves, which is pretty funny to me. So I saw there was a gap, along with the generational gap in the workforce, and I can help people in management positions talk to and relate to the millennial population.”

Through the influence of her father, Nash is also interested in real estate development. Most recently, however, she published a book, Mixed Signals: Lessons Learned Outside the Classroom, which focuses on things teenage girls struggle with like social pressures and self-esteem issues.

“Nobody is really bold enough to talk about the real issues,” said Nash. “So, I wanted to write my book and tell my stories to help girls navigate this really vulnerable time in their lives.”
In the book, Nash addresses drugs and alcohol, self-harm, depression, and an array of subjects that a typical teenager may experience. Despite the social pressures and stigmas, Nash said there is a “light at the end of the tunnel and you can be successful.”

She will be taking a trip to China to help cultivate a worldwide consulting brand. She also hopes to break the millennial stereotype and prove that innovation and change can be positive. Nash said that she has received support from both of her parents, and gives credit to her father for showing her the ropes and providing real-world education.

“My dad has been one-hundred percent behind me doing this,” said Nash. “I spend every day all day with him, we’re business partners, really. Our relationship has morphed into this really cool partnership. I feel like school would be a waste of time and money for me, because four years from now, I’m going to be pretty well-established, while my classmates will just be starting out.”

She said, down the road, if she feels the need she will go to college, but that right now this was the best option for her. She’d like to continue to study Chinese, and will likely take classes here and there for different things, as necessary.

“I’d rather take risks now, while I’m still young,” said Nash. “I have the time, and I can always go back to school later. I don’t want to look back and wish I had done this or that.”

Nash’s book is available on Amazon, and her business can be found at ariellemnash.com. 

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Volunteers plant community garden in Terrace Lake



by Mary Wilson

Neighbors in one South Kansas City community are sharing their love of gardening and homegrown nourishment through their collective green thumbs.

Along undeveloped park land in the Terrace Lake Gardens neighborhood, resident Eilene Myers had visions of a way to utilize the unused space and bring neighbors together. The community garden has been established as a way homeowners and residents of Terrace Lake can connect with others in the association through planting.

“Last year, I wanted to do this project,” said Myers. “We had the garden shed in one of the four parks that our association maintains, and just ran out of time to get the garden going then.”

The association learned that, according to city ordinances, the shed on the park ground could not be there unless it was adjacent to a home or an established community garden.

“It was something we already wanted to do, so it worked out really well,” said Myers. “I want it to be something that everyone can get involved in, including renters and everyone who lives over here. I hope that it fosters some ownership of the neighborhood and gets people out and talking to one another.”

Myers, with funding help from the homeowner’s association and a few committed gardeners, rented a truck and purchased the supplies, including two full loads of dirt.

“All of these people came out to help,” said Myers. “Wonderful people showed up with wheelbarrows and shovels, too. I’ve had other people volunteer to come help water and weed throughout the season.”

Homeowners or residents of Terrace Lake Gardens can rent space in the garden on an annual basis. They are then responsible for their plot, tending to it for the season, then winterizing it and keeping it for the next year or releasing the plot for another resident. The garden is still a work in progress, and Myers hopes to expand the available plots as interest in the community grows.

“If it wasn’t for Eilene, we wouldn’t have this,” said resident and community garden volunteer John Dell. “She got the dirt here and unloaded all the boards herself. We had community members out here hauling dirt and helping build who aren’t planting, but just wanted to chip in and help.”

Myers said the response from neighbors in her community has been positive. Any resident of Terrace Lake interested in becoming involved with the community garden can contact Myers by emailing eilenemyers@hotmail.com.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Seventh-grade student receives surprise scholarship through Starlight





by Mary Wilson

A stunned seventh-grader from Grandview learned last week that her dream of singing and acting professionally are coming true, thanks to Starlight Theatre and the Vincent Legacy Scholarship.

Since 2006, Starlight Theatre in Kansas City has awarded Vincent Legacy Scholarships to qualified and deserving middle school students throughout the metropolitan area. The needs-based scholarship was established with a generous donation from former Starlight board member and longtime supporters Greg and Rebecca Reid. It provides ethnically-diverse youth in Kansas City the opportunity to pursue professional training in the performing arts.

During a special surprise assembly in front of her peers, Erica Brown discovered her hard work had paid off to the tune of a $2,500 scholarship. Brown has been performing since she was a young girl, and has made her mark at Grandview Middle School by not only landing the lead role in Annie, Jr. this year, but also entertaining her fellow students by singing in the cafeteria on Tuesdays.

“Scholarship winners are selected not only because they exhibit passion in the arts, but they also have to be excellent students, have strong school attendance record, and give back to others through community service,” said Richard Baker, President and CEO of Starlight Theatre. “Erica’s level of singing and performing made her a perfect choice for our scholarship.”

According to Assistant Principal Tim Moore, Brown is respected by her teachers because she is an active participant in class and is very involved in many school activities. Moore said Brown will likely achieve much success in her future endeavors. She aspires to one day be an instructor in the arts.

“Thank you all so very much,” said Brown. “I’m really excited, and I just want to thank you.”
To qualify, students in grades 6, 7 and 8 must also be nominated by a current instructor, have strong grades, and audition for Starlight’s scholarship committee.

Each $2,500 Vincent Legacy Scholarship, funded in memory of Greg Reid’s infant son Vincent, is administered by the Starlight Education Department, and funds are applied to the scholarship recipients’ performing arts training during their middle and high school years.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Education Foundation celebrates two decades





by Mary Wilson

The Grandview Education Foundation is celebrating 20 years of service and dedication to the students and faculty of the Grandview C-4 School District. On Thursday, April 26, current Foundation supporters and founding members gathered to celebrate the beginnings of the organization.

Former Grandview Superintendent Dr. Jerry Thornsberry was instrumental in the start of the Grandview Education Foundation (GEF), which was officially established in 1997. He shared how GEF began, and applauded the volunteers whom over the last 20 years have made the Foundation successful.

“I certainly want to begin my comments by congratulating those of you who have taken the Foundation and made it a success over the years,” said Thornsberry. “It is certainly reflective of the interest and the hard work that many of you have done. Really, it’s the work you’ve done and your efforts, rather than the idea and the concept, which should be celebrated.”

Prior to 1997, the late Roy Meyers, of Meyers Real Estate in Grandview, would drop by Thornsberry’s office to talk. According to Thornsberry, Meyers was one of a group of historically significant Grandview residents who were passionate about the community and the school district.

“Why Roy selected me and would visit with me, I don’t know,” said Thornsberry. “He was not visible in a lot of community activities or offices, but he was vitally interested in the image of the school district and the image of the community and how they fit together.”

Over time, the two talked about different ideas to help improve that image, and that’s when the idea of an education foundation surfaced. At the time, Thornsberry says there may have been only one other school foundation in the area. After discussions with other community leaders, it became apparent that the idea would be supported.

“I retired in 1997, right as this was getting started,” said Thornsberry. “A lot of the organization’s beginnings and board actions probably happened after I left. I do remember that everybody that we mentioned the idea to were very positive about it and would support it going forward.”

In the last 20 years, approximately $1,077,567 has been contributed to enhance the educational opportunities for students in the Grandview C-4 School District. Grandview Education has awarded more than 157 teacher and staff grants, and administered over $300,000 in student scholarships.

“There’s several people who deserve a lot of credit for the beginning, or the idea of the foundation,” said Thornsberry. “This is the first school activity that I’ve attended in 21 years of retirement. I’m really proud of our school district. I’m proud of this community, and I congratulate each of you who have worked to make the foundation a success.”

Current Grandview Superintendent Dr. Kenny Rodrequez has been active in support of the Grandview Education Foundation during his time in the district, according to GEF President Cindy Bastian.

“I don’t think that we can accomplish the things in this district that we need to without an active foundation,” said Rodrequez. “This one, in particular, has proven that on many occasions. We can’t accomplish our ultimate mission of educating every one of our kids without the support of the Foundation.”

Rodrequez said that the foundation is much more than providing scholarships for Grandview’s students and teacher grants; GEF is active in the community and provides support in the schools.

“We are still reaping the benefits of the creation of this foundation,” said Rodrequez. “But, ultimately, our kids are seeing the benefits. On behalf of the school district, thank you for everything that each of you have had to do with this.”

Bastian announced a new GEF scholarship, in honor of founding and current member Kathy Meyers, who has dedicated many years to the Grandview C-4 School District. She served as a Board of Education member and former president, currently works for the district, and is a Grandview alum.

“Certainly there are many people in this room who deserve this,” said Meyers. “Thank you, Dr. Thornsberry, for giving my dad an ear, and thanks to everyone all the way to the current Board, because it takes a lot of people, a lot of time and energy and a lot of dedication, and that’s what we have here. I can guarantee that my father would be very proud of what GEF has done over the last 20 years.”

Grandview Education Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit organization with a mission to partner with the Grandview C-4 School District and the community to enhance educational opportunities for students and staff in the district. For more information, visit www.grandviewedfoundation.org.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Area volunteers aim to breathe new life into forgotten cemetery






by Mary Wilson

Leaves, sticks and debris from a south Kansas City cemetery were stuffed into 297 bags on a recent Saturday morning. The cemetery, tucked inside the Timber Hill Estates subdivision at 125th and Wornall, is an old community burial ground, holding generations-old memories that have long since been forgotten.

Mount Pleasant Cemetery was the final resting place for around 45 known people. Once known as the one-acre King Burial Ground, it has been overgrown and seen significant damage since the last known clean-up event took place in 2012. Local historian and teacher, Diane Euston, discovered the cemetery several years ago. After conducting her own research with the city and trying to gather information from the subdivision that now surrounds the grounds, she came up with more questions than answers.

“I knew the subdivision didn’t own it, and the City of Kansas City and Jackson County have little, if any, records on it, too,” said Euston. “I decided that we needed to work together, the subdivision and my volunteers, and get a group together including some of those who have family members buried there and work toward a common goal.”

After gaining permission for the clean-up from Timber Hill Estates, Euston called on area Boy Scouts, students from Avila University, and descendants of those buried at Mount Pleasant for whom she had contact information. According to Euston, a fence was installed by the subdivision developer around three-fourths of the cemetery, while shrubbery was planted along the northern side.

“From what I understand, when things fall inside the fence boundaries or the fence itself needs repaired, the subdivision is repairing it,” said Euston. “But when it comes to the contents of the actual cemetery, nothing is being done.”

Euston said there are several missing headstones, and most of those which are visible are in pieces. Some of the larger gravestones have gone missing within the last six years.  The last records that Euston has found of those buried at Mount Pleasant is from the Daughters of American Revolution’s 1934 history book. Family names include the Bargers, Holmeses, Hayses, Kings, Lees, McCraws, McPhersons, Sheltons and Sharps, along with several other individuals.

“The first burial, at least in 1934, that was on record according to the DAR is a Shelton, a five-year-old,” said Euston.

During the recent cleanup, Euston and the volunteers unearthed pieces of headstones, and uncovered pits where the ground has sunken into a burial site. Some of those sites have no markers or just fragments of a headstone near them.

With the nearly 300 bags of debris collected, there is still work to be done. Euston is organizing another cleanup effort at Mount Pleasant Cemetery for this Saturday, April 28, beginning at 9 a.m. Those interested in helping are encouraged to bring gloves, rakes and lawn bags. Euston would also like to reset the headstones. Hundreds of flags were placed where volunteers thought a grave might exist.

“We need a better report. We’re an operation of volunteers and no money,” Euston. “We would rather donate time and services and, eventually, maintenance of the cemetery, but we need help to get to that point.”

Euston would like to find someone willing to donate ground-penetrating radar services to determine where each grave is located in the cemetery. She also believes there may be an old slave burial ground on the site that she’d like to confirm. At Saturday’s cleanup, Grade A Tree Care has volunteered to help with the trimming and removal of large branches on the property.

With no ownership on file, it has been suggested to Euston that a cemetery board be incorporated, which would include descendants of those who are buried there to provide maintenance and upkeep of Mount Pleasant going forward.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Sheriff resigns amid sexual misconduct allegations


by Mary Wilson

Jackson County Sheriff Mike Sharp resigns this week after allegations of sexual misconduct were brought to light following a recent deposition held earlier this month. A former employee of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office sued the county in 2016, indicating that she was sexually harassed by two female and one male employee of the department.

In his letter of resignation addressed to Jackson County Executive Frank White, Sharp said that “due to a pending legal matter, and in order to avoid further disruption to the important work of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, I have reached the conclusion that I will resign the office of Sheriff of Jackson County, Missouri, effective Thursday, April 19, 2018.”

According to a statement released by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, Sharp takes full responsibility for his actions.

“I allowed my judgment as Sheriff and my obligations to Jackson County be clouded because of my feelings for someone I cared very deeply for in the past,” said Sharp in the statement. “I am accountable for my actions. This was a personal failing and is entirely my responsibility.”
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker’s office was first made aware of the misconduct and Sharp’s involvement in a civil case against the county last year.

“My office was notified in late 2017 by the county counselor of concerns regarding a pending civil action involving the Sheriff,” Peters Baker said in a statement issued this afternoon. “We contacted a law enforcement agency and began our own investigation into the matter. We also closely monitored the on-going civil litigation involving Jackson County. While the allegations that have come to light are extremely troubling, today’s resignation satisfies the state’s interest regarding a potential ‘quo warranto’ action to remove the Sheriff from office. We will continue to monitor this matter and take any appropriate action in the future.”

Sharp indicated in a deposition on April 4 that he had an ongoing relationship with a former employee of the Sheriff’s Department, sometimes of a sexual nature involving Sharp, the employee and his wife. Sharp also went on several different trips with the employee where he paid for hotel rooms, food and drink and other items. During the deposition, Sharp said that he personally put the down payment down on a house for the employee and has supplemented her income since 2013.

Sharp leaves with two years remaining on his term as Sheriff. White will have to appoint someone until the November 2018 election.

“Based upon the serious allegations made public today, the Sheriff has taken the appropriate action to step down," said White in a statement released this afternoon. "Under the authority of the Jackson County Charter, I have the responsibility to name an interim. I will be making an announcement regarding my appointment in the coming days.”