Long time educator Rita Pierson said during her 2013 TED talk that, “Every child deserves a champion—an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.”
On October 3, 2015 KCPT and PBS stations across the country will celebrate champions and others making a difference in education during American Graduate Day.
The live, seven-hour multiplatform broadcast is part of the American Graduate initiative, public media’s long-term commitment to supporting community-based solutions to the dropout crisis.
KCPT profiled three local champions of the education as part of the initiative, and asked community members to nominate teachers and leaders making a difference.
From 20 nominations we selected Winnie Ayers, who has not only taught at Sumner Academy for the last 45 years, but also spent her summers at the YMCA teaching kids in the urban core of Kansas City, Missouri how to swim.
Bryan and Nicole Williams, who are now both educators in Texas, nominated Ayers, because the impact she had on them over 30 years ago.
“Even though my family couldn’t afford to pay for swim lessons, Winnie ensured that our financial situation didn’t become a barrier for us learning how to swim,” Bryan Williams wrote as part of his nomination. “I, along with thousands of other urban youth (this is not an exaggeration) learned how to swim under Winnie’s leadership. This was not only my story, but the story of many youth who grew up in poverty.”
This kind of commitment to students was evident in many of the nominations we received.
For example, Oak Park high school student Gabby Stanley nominated her band director, Adam Farley.
“He volunteers every ounce of free time to us students to help us get better,” Stanley wrote. “He attends every event, tryout, and honor band concert a student is in. If you want to get better, he will do everything in his power to get you there.”
Foreign Language Academy second grader Stella Rand nominated her principal Joell Ramsdell, and even wrote a poem expounding on how he makes her school a great place to be.
Rand read her poem at the recognition event for Kansas City champions held at KCPT on October 1, 2015.
Kansas City, Missouri Mayor Sly James, who was one of KCPT’s 2014 American Graduate Champions, spoke at the event and emphasized the importance of investing in education.
“Education is the great equalizer and I can’t think of a better area to devote our time, our treasure and our talent,” Mayor James said.