Thursday, February 16, 2017

Facebook Rant Leads to Results

Community steps up to solve perceived trash problem

by Mary Wilson,

The Grandview Litter Gitters, as they’ve aptly named themselves, formed after a recent post on a social media website expressed concerns regarding trash at the redeveloped Truman’s Marketplace shopping center. A handful of community members decided to take action, and formed a small group of like-minded citizens to tackle the trash problem.

“It all started because of a rant on the Grandview/Martin City Rant and Rave page on Facebook the Friday before last,” said organizer Janet Dupuis, a 20-year resident of Grandview. “I commented on the post and told people that Grandview has a program called the Trash Busters Program, and they will pay $5 per bag of litter picked up from designated areas. When my kids were younger, we did this for Girl and Boy Scout activities. I also organized a group of kids from my neighborhood to pick up litter along Blue Ridge Road.”

From there, the conversation grew, and before long, a group of organizers scheduled a meeting place, garnered supplies from Grandview Public Works and JobOne, and got to work. On Saturday, February 11, nearly 40 people donned orange vests and carried bright yellow trash bags up and down Grandview’s outer roads in search of treasure…or trash.

“This was very short notice so we really didn't expect a huge group our first day,” said Dupuis. “We worked from 9 a.m. to noon and collected 72 bags of trash. We had already agreed that the money Grandview Public Works paid us would be donated to the Grandview Assistance Program.”

McAlister’s Deli provided a voucher for a free cookie to each worker and several students from Grandview High School’s cross country team and the A+ program joined in to earn service hours. According to Dupuis, the students even remarked that this was the most fun they've had volunteering yet.

On Monday, Dupuis turned the gear back into Public Works and a check in the amount of $360 will be donated directly to Grandview Assistance Program, all because a group of Grandview residents decided to come out from behind their computer screens and solve a problem they determined needed fixed.

“How cool is that? Look for another clean-up event sometime in May,” said Dupuis. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Ruskin students qualify for national competition thanks to teacher's push

by Mary Wilson,

Tucked in the halls of Ruskin High School, in between ordinary and required classes, Robert Nellis’s students are nothing short of extraordinary. The dual-credit social studies teacher is known in the school as somewhat of a beast, with high expectations of his students.

“The district has afforded me the greatest opportunity in the world,” said Nellis. “I have an incredible wealth of talent in my classroom every hour.”

Some students, according to Nellis, find the level of curriculum and the rigidity of expectations to be too much. He considers it his calling to prepare his students for success in college, and life beyond.

“I want them to be well-prepared to succeed at the next level,” Nellis said. Former students have thanked Nellis for pushing them beyond what they considered their academic limits.

Over the last several years, Nellis has incorporated personal finance into his curriculum, including the Future Business Leaders of America’s (FBLA) competition conferences. Students have qualified to attend the national conference and competition, including two seniors this year who have the opportunity to go to Anaheim. Luis Jiminez and Shelby Woodroof took the online assessment together and earned the top score for students in Missouri. 

During class time, the students spend time learning different subjects such as personal finance, consumer rights, technology, environment and health and safety. Jiminez and Woodroof completed the 180-question LifeSmarts FBLA Challenge and scored ninth in the nation.

“Everybody took the test, but I knew they’d be exceptional,” said Nellis. “I knew that they would score high. These two were chosen because of their skills and their talents, and the fact that they are really good kids.”

Last school year, Woodroof’s sister took the test and won the opportunity to go to nationals, but couldn’t make it due to the cost and timing of the event. This year, with time on their side, Jiminez and Woodroof plan to raise the funds for their trip.

“Once again, the district does not have the financial resources this year to send them to California,” said Nellis. He said he remains hopeful with the Cerner expansion in South Kansas City and the new intermodal facility out south, the district will begin to see further investment into its students in the future.

At the convention, the two will attend the National Leadership Conference and will include a competition portion and go through leadership-building activities and seminars.

Woodroof plans to attend Missouri University Science and Technology and study geological engineering, while Jiminez isn’t sold on a four-year school yet, but knows he’d like to study music therapy. They both agreed, though, that their teacher has pushed them to be better in school.

“He’s really motivated me. He doesn’t accept anything that’s not your best and he recognizes in each student what their best is,” said Woodroof.

“I thought I was doing my best until I got in his class and realized I have a lot of room to improve,” added Jiminez. “He pushed me way beyond any teacher would have.”

In order to make the trip, the two have setup an online GoFundMe page. Their very first donor, according to Nellis, is a former student and alum of Ruskin High School. Donations can be made at

“We are both just really excited to represent our school,” said Woodroof. “We have really great kids here and we do really great things. It makes me mad when people look at us a certain way and demean what we are and what we are capable of doing.”

Both are exceptional students outside of Nellis’s classroom, as well. They’ve both attended the gifted program since elementary school, and have been involved in student council, National Honor Society, and are inherently competitive with each other. Jiminez is also a member of the Federal Reserve Student Board of Directors.

“I love the kids I have,” said Nellis. “They are a tremendous resource. If we can get more of them to get their degrees and come back then my job is done. There’s this great little band of talent that I have that we can go do things that other districts and other buildings can’t do.”

Nellis’ students will be competing at the LifeSmarts statewide challenge in Jefferson City later this month. He says the students will do well.

“I’m not bashful about pushing our kids out in these competitions,” said Nellis. “Even if they come in fourth, I have no problem being proud of those kids. The fact that they can even go out there and compete makes these truly great kids.”

Nellis is retiring at the end of the school year due to his wife’s health problems. His students from the last eleven years are his legacy. With students like Jiminez and Woodroof, it’s a legacy that will last well into the future. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Legend of Bob Boyd

By Brent Kalwei,

Bob Boyd had the reputation for being the tough guy at Ruskin High School, but when the odds stacked up against him on the wrestling mat, it was determination that allowed this Eagle to soar to great heights.

Boyd finished his high school wrestling career 136-6, placing fourth at state as a sophomore and third as a junior. But perhaps what makes Boyd’s story legendary are the challenges he overcame during his 1972 senior season and after high school.

Prior to Boyd’s senior season, he wed and began working at a gas station.

“Of course being married, I had to work. I had to be at work at 6 p.m. and did not get off until 2 o’clock in the morning,” he said. “It started wearing me down and my grades suffered. They suspended me for the first half of the wrestling season, so I worked hard to resurrect my grades and eventually did.”

With the difficult task of having zero season matches under his belt, Boyd competed in the Suburban Nine Conference tournament on January 29, 1972. He knocked off his first two opponents to set up a conference championship showdown with No. 1 seed and rival Rod Gravitt, Raytown South. Gravitt came into the match undefeated with 20-plus wins.

Earlier in the evening, Boyd’s wife and Gravitt’s girlfriend met in the hallway and began talking trash to one another.

“My wife said, ‘Come here, Bobby.’ I said what? She said, ‘Rod told his girlfriend that he was going to kick your butt.’ I said, ‘Oh really. Go get Rod and bring him here,”’ Boyd said.

Boyd met Gravitt before the match and said, “Here’s what’s going to happen. I’m not going to pin you, but I’m going to torture you. Then I’m going to beat you. Then I’m going to beat you next week and the week after that.”

Boyd backed up his words, winning the conference title, and then beating Gravitt again in both district and regional championship matches. Oddly enough, Boyd and Gravitt became friends after the conference showdown.

“I’m not so sure if he really said a lot of that stuff,” Boyd said.

Boyd wrestled in the 145-pound class all four years of high school despite naturally weighing about 175 pounds his senior season.

“As soon as each tournament was over, I would eat like a pig to gain calories back because I would starve myself to make weight,” he said. “I would gain anywhere between 12 and 14 pounds in between tournaments, then have to turn around and cut weight again.”

The process of cutting so much weight led to Boyd catching the flu about five days prior to competing in the 1972 state wrestling meet at Lee’s Summit High School. To make matters worse, he realized he forgot his wrestling shoes when the Ruskin team reached Lee’s Summit High School the day of the opening-round matches.

“Coach Bill Allen had to drive me all the way back to Ruskin,” he said. “By the time I got back, it was time to dress out and warm up.”

Boyd, not feeling well, fell 8-2 in the opening round to eventual state champion Mike Clark, Northwest, who was an honorable mention high school All-American the following season. Boyd managed to battle his way back through wrestlebacks to claim second.

“I was dog sick during the tournament. I don’t want to make excuses, but it is what it is,” Boyd said. “I always felt that championship belonged to me. If I could have wrestled him 10 times being healthy, I think I could have beaten him 10 times and probably pinned him five. I think if I would have went up a weight class or two, I probably would have been a two-year state champion.”

In addition to Boyd’s second-place finish, teammates Rick Gonzales, 119 pounds, and Mike Drescher, 138, each placed third. Ruskin, as a team, placed third.

Boyd has a great amount of respect for the teammates he wrestled with during his time as a Ruskin Eagle.

“They’re unselfish human beings,” he said. “Even if someone had been beaten out at conference or districts, they would show up for the workouts, and bring you water and cheer you on.”

A coach in the conference dubbed the 1972 Eagles “The Dirty Dozen” out of respect for the team’s toughness.

“We wore it like a badge of honor. We were known all over the city as tough kids, but we were not hoodlums,” Boyd said. “Whether it be athletics or band, we were proud of everybody. There was a lot of pride in being at Ruskin High. We were like a family.”

Boyd enjoyed hanging out with his teammates at places such as Paul’s Drive-In, getting Big-Boys and sodas.

“We had a very unique team,” he said. “We were really like a family. We did everything together during wrestling season. We worked out, went to matches, went to each other’s homes and had parties with families.”

In addition to having a close relationship with his father, Boyd said head coach Jim Clark and assistant coach Bill Allen were like father figures or extended family. Both coaches made sure he was well-disciplined.

“They went above and beyond the call of duty of being a coach,” he said. “They both profoundly touched my life.”

Allen, who has coached wrestling for 50 years, said Boyd brought a good tone to the room.

“I talk to kids about it all the time. Wrestling is about the individual once you get to the mat and you are wrestling that opponent,” Allen said. “But Boyd brought a lot to the room to help teammates and make them better.”

Boyd joined the United States Marine Corps in July of 1972 and continued his wrestling career.

“In my family, it was always a tradition to serve in the military,” he said. “I had some scholarships to wrestle, but I was married. I knew that the only way I could wrestle, make money and be married was to do it through military services.”

Boyd, who began wrestling in the seventh grade, achieved what he considers his proudest wrestling feat in 1974 – winning the All-Marine national championship at 163 pounds.

Boyd said not placing first at state in high school may have been a blessing in disguise.

“I may have never been as driven to be an All-Marine national champion,” he said.

The accomplishment did not sink in with Boyd until about two years later when he went back to visit Ruskin.

“Coach Clark and I were talking and he said, ‘Man, I can’t believe we had someone that was an All-Marine national champion,’” Boyd said. “As soon as he said that, it just kind of struck me. I look back on it now and it’s almost like a dream.”

Boyd had a fear of failure that drove him during his wrestling career.

“If I decided to do something, I couldn’t imagine not accomplishing it,” he said. “Any time I lost a match, I wasn’t the kind of guy that would get mad and throw my headgear. But it affected me. I went home and wasn’t able to sleep or eat at night. I didn’t want to let myself down, my coaches down, my teammates down, my school down and my Marine Corps down.”

Winning the national championship made Boyd a member of the All-Marine Team that wrestled against other military branches, colleges and teams outside the country. Beginning in January of 1974, Boyd became a five-day-per-week workout partner with Lloyd “Butch” Keaser, who won gold at the 1973 World Championships and silver at the 1976 Olympics.

Dan Gable, with a resume that includes a 181-1 record in college while winning two NCAA championships, and taking gold medals at the 1971 World Championships and 1972 Olympics, made a visit to where Boyd was stationed.

“Dan came to one of our workouts for a couple of days. I got to wrestle him, and it was like wrestling a gorilla that was a meat grinder,” he said. “I think I only took him down three times, but that is more than most did.”

After making the All-Marine Team, Boyd had his sights set on competing in the 1976 Olympics.

“I knew the only way to get there was to be a member of a high-powered Freestyle/Greco-Roman team like the All-Marine Team,” he said.

A neck injury at a National AAU camp ended Boyd’s wrestling career and a shot at the Olympics.

“If I had not gotten hurt, it’s hard to tell if I could have really done something or not,” he said. “It’s another one of those things like the state championship. You never know.”

After Boyd left the Marines in 1976, he spent many years working at car dealerships, including his current position as a sub-contractor for Midwest Auto Group.

Forty-five years have passed since Boyd last wrestled at Ruskin, but the memories of growing up near Truman Corners have not left him. There was a special trust his family shared with fellow citizens of the community.

“I remember in the summers going to Branson a lot and we wouldn’t even lock our doors,” Boyd said. “I know a lot of guys who lived around Ruskin High School back in those days did the same thing. If they knew I was coming over, they would say, ‘Bob if you come on over, the door is unlocked. Just come on in.’ The worst thing that would happen was some little prankster kids might take your bikes out of your front yard and ride them around for the night. But they would return them before the sun came up.”

Boyd said growing up in the 1960s and early 1970s was an honorable time in the community if a disagreement arose.

“We would go out in the parking lot and do what we had to do,” he said. “But there were no knives or guns. People had disagreements, but we held them like men. When it was over with, we shook hands and it was done. In this day in age, I don’t think that would happen.”

Rick Alford, former track and cross country coach volunteered time to wrestle with members on the Ruskin team from 1970-82. He also had Boyd as a student. Alford described Boyd as someone who stood up for classmates who were bullied.

“Bob never really went out and caused a fight,” Alford said. “If somebody needed help, Boyd was there. Boyd was a loyal type of kid. You never heard him cuss and you didn’t hear him belittle anybody.”

Alford said Boyd would help discipline students in class.

“You didn’t have any trouble in class if Boyd was there,” he said. “If you had trouble with somebody, all you would have to do is look over at Bobby and he kind of nodded, and that ended that problem.”

Boyd, who began showing off his strength as a child by getting on the ground and bench-pressing his father’s 25-pound crowbar, still lifts weights and does cardiovascular work now at 63 years of age.

Boyd’s wrestling career was filled with questions. What if he never missed the first part of his senior season? What if he had wrestled in a class closer to his natural weight? What if he had never gotten sick? What if he had never had the career-ending neck injury?

But through his challenges, Boyd found triumph. No one can ever take away his All-Marine national championship, the relationships he gained, his reputation of being the tough guy at Ruskin High School, or the memories he created for himself and others.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Building Tomorrow’s Community: State of the City

by Mary Wilson,

Within the last year, the City of Grandview unveiled a new tagline. With new developments, growth, and opportunities, city officials decided it was time to give the city’s slogan a new sense of pride. “Building Tomorrow’s Community” was selected, and in his State of the City address last Thursday, January 26, Grandview Mayor Leonard Jones relied heavily on those three words.

“2016 will go down as one of the best years of growth and development Grandview has seen in decades,” said Jones. “In 2016, we have seen a record number of ribbon cuttings and grand openings, a groundbreaking ceremony for the nearly $300 million soccer development and national honors for our revitalized Main Street.”

He added that the transformations seen in Grandview have received attention from other municipalities across the metro.

“People are saying good things are happening in Grandview,” said Jones. “I say there are more than ‘good’ things happening in Grandview because we are building tomorrow’s community.”

According to his address, in 2016, Grandview’s department directors had a lot on their plates. A goal was set with City Administrator Cory Smith and each department head to complete each project on-time in 2016 and begin 2017 with those accomplishments finished.

These accomplishments included: Truman’s Marketplace redevelopment, the groundbreaking for Gateway Sports Village, the Blue Ridge Shopping Center is under new ownership and updates are underway, the opening of the new Grandview Amphitheater, and 5,500 building permits have been issued within the last six years generating $1.3 million and $137 million of new construction.
Upcoming projects could include additional developments along the 150-Highway corridor, the former K-Mart site along I-49, 300 new apartments at Grand Summit, Gateway Village developments taking shape, a Jack-in-the-Box restaurant added in Truman’s Marketplace, and Waffle House on Main Street will be rebuilt in its same location.

The Grandview fire department in the last year has refurbished a ladder truck, purchased a new pumper truck, remodeled two fire stations and expanded fire prevention efforts in the city. Public Works completed phase four of Main Street improvements and the interconnection of the Frontage Road at the I-49 and 150 interchange. The city also received a grant to extend public bus service to Main Street in Grandview and funding to replace the Kansas City Southern Railroad bridge over Blue Ridge Boulevard.

“All together, over the past seven years, our grant work has brought about $24 million into the city,” said Public Works Director Dennis Randolph. “When we have completed all the projects involved, we will see over $34 million in infrastructure improvements for Grandview.” 

Construction is underway at City Hall for the police department’s storage facility. The department also purchased new AEDs and overdose medical kits for every patrol vehicle. Since 2010, major crime in Grandview has been reduced by 17%. Police Chief Charles Iseman continues to press community outreach as a priority, and encourages his officers to get out of their vehicles and engage and interact with kids.

“We want kids to feel comfortable and move toward the badge, not away from it,” said Iseman.
Mayor Jones ended by saying 2016 was a full year. He said that in 2017, the community will see increased safety for residents and families, good schools, quality places to work, shop, eat and play.

“In 2017, as we work toward building tomorrow’s community, we are mindful of what that means,” said Jones. “A true community creates a sense of belonging. Together, we solve problems and we celebrate accomplishments.”

He added that progress will continue into the next year, with Missouri Department of Transportation beginning work on the Main Street bridge replacement. The 155th Street widening project begins this week, and the Presidential Trail will be under construction. In August, the City will once again ask Grandview residents to renew the capital improvement sales tax, previously approved by voters in 1998 and in 2008.

“Building tomorrow’s community is about us. It’s all about people and the awesome connections we make to each other and to a city we can take pride in,” said Jones. “Grandview is a grateful city with appreciative people. Help us build something you want to be a part of today and tomorrow. Get to know and get involved with your local businesses, your neighbors, your school district, your churches, your water district, your chamber, your Grandview employees, your Grandview Board of Aldermen, and yes, even your mayor.”

“Grandview is known for its thriving, customer-focused businesses and community-minded residents,” he added. “I am honored to serve as your mayor. Together, we are truly building tomorrow’s community.”