Thursday, October 18, 2012

20/20 Leadership into Education Hall of Fame on Nov. 3


If proof is indeed in the pudding, 20/20 Leadership has a whale of a product.

Now in its 20th year, there are graduates in the Navy Seals and Air Force special forces; airline pilots, physicians, financial advisors – and at least 14 teachers within local school districts.

Both presidential candidates have 20/20 alums on their key staffs and one graduate wrote the succession plan for the CEO and president of the Kansas City, Mo. Chamber of Commerce. Even the chairman of the 20/20 Leadership Board is a graduate.

“Our oldest student now is 37 and it’s wonderful to see and watch our students go on to bigger and better things,” says Executive Director Marilyn Alstrom.

As for 20/20 Leadership, it is receiving the ultimate in honors – induction into the Mid-America Education Hall of Fame Saturday, Nov. 3, at Kansas City Kansas Community College.

A fund-raiser for the KCKCC Endowment Association, the dinner and induction ceremonies are open to the public and reservations can be made by calling 913-288-7166 or by e-mail to

Founded in 1993 with 36 students and a budget of $3,500 for a 9-month junior program, 20/20 Leadership this year is reaching out to more than 350 junior and seniors in 23 high schools in the greater Kansas City area – all because the Class VII of Leadership 2000 wanted to make a difference.

“We felt time was being wasted if we didn’t create a youth leadership program,” says Alstrom.

Other members of Class VII included Cindy Ferguson with the YMCA, Dr. Sandy Terrell, the Superintendent of Schools at Piper; Sara Gillespie, Loretta Morton, Maureen Mahoney, J.D. Rios, Ben Blagg, Marge Eckard, Kathleen Collins, Jim King, Bob Young, Debra Durham, Amy Falk, Nancy Guess and Rick Kaminski. The YMCA and KVC Health Care stepped forward as sponsors during the early years.

Today, students go through a 17-month program – high school juniors for 10 months; seniors for seven months.

“We have so many students we have to divide them into pools and once a month they are taken out of school and transported to the Kauffman Conference Center or depending on the program, sites throughout the metropolitan area,” says Alstrom, who oversees the program with Sally Dannov, Program Administrator.

Juniors are given instruction in education, personal and leadership development, writing resumes, developing business card and mock interviews.

They also take part in College and Business Expos where they meet more than 60 colleges and businesses; go through True Colors personality training to learn about themselves and teams skills; and go on field trips where they visit social service agencies and meet elected officials.

“The senior focus is on college and careers, writing skills, college essays, college applications and deadlines and tours of college,” says Alstrom.

Two $500 scholarships and a $500 Gene Denton Memorial scholarship are awarded Senior Leaders who successfully the program.

Membership is open to any interested student regardless of race, religion, creed or financial capabilities. All that is required is a grade point average of 2.00 or better and approval from their respective school. However, there are responsibilities that each student must assume.

They must attend school every day; focus on their grade point averages, actively participate in the program by attending monthly meetings, sit with someone they don’t know, RSVP and have fun.

“If a student has two unexcused absences, they are dismissed from the program,” says Alstron. “Learning to RSVP teaches personal responsibility and an RSVP made by a parent will not be accepted.”

Once through the program, many of the more than 3,000 graduates return to volunteer as trainers, mentors, board members and advisory and committee members. The first alum, James DeWitt, BS and MBA, became Chairman of the Board of Directors in 2010 and is now serving a second term.

In 2002 thanks to Alstrom’s applications, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and Garth Brooks “Teammates for Kids” provided grants to expand the program from Wyandotte County into Johnson County and Jackson County, Mo, and in 2003, 20/20 filed for and received 501 (c3) status six weeks after submission.

Since then, the Sprint Foundation has joined in supporting program development and growth in both Kansas and Missouri and promoting the development of the 20/20 Olympics.

The Board of Public Utilities is largely responsible for the development of, a website for teens created by students at F.L Schlagle High School.

This month Curtis Smart and his team of KCK and KCMO students will receive the Kansas Department of Commerce’s Young Entrepreneur Award and the Missouri Department of Transportation Minority Enterprise of the Award for Youth.

Sprint’s support continues along with YAHOO!, State Street and R.A .Long Foundations and other foundations and businesses along with the Kanas City Royals, who awarded 20/20 the State Farm Insurance Good Neighborhood Award in 2010, the State Farm Go to Bat Award in 2012 and helped create five $2,500 MLB-KC Royals scholarships that are renewable annually in 2012.

“$250,000 raised from the All-Star Game has been set aside for students who successfully complete the 17-month program,” says Alstrom.

“The 20/20 leadership program is phenomenal and should be considered necessary to the development of young people across the U.S.,” says Pamela Smart, the mother of two 20/20 students. “I am amazed by all the experiences and opportunities made available to our young people. 20/20 Leadership provides teachings on professionalism that could never be taught in a class room or sitting around the dinner table.”

Expelled from Lincoln Academy, Julius Powell is now a sophomore at one of the top universities in the nation.

“I give credit to 20/20 for where I am today because I almost became another product of my environment,” said Powell. “Without 20/20, I would have never realized my full potential.” 

“The 20/20 Leadership program allowed me to have real world experiences that challenged me to be a better person and to give back to the community,” added Lauren Hays, a Licensed Specialist Clinical Social Worker. “20/20 always told us to reach for our dreams and never let anyone tell you no or that you are not good enough. Education gives you power to prove to yourself that you can do anything you set your mind to do.”