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KCPS is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with profiles of Latinos who have made a difference in our community. Today, we remember Yvonne Vazquez Rangel, an education advocate who lobbied for access to bilingual education. 

John Fierro Kansas City Notable Latino

KCPS is celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month featuring notable Latino community members who have made a difference in the city and/or the nation. Today, we honor John Fierro, President/CEO of Mattie Rhodes Center and a long-time public figure in Kansas City.

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KCPS is continuing our celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month with a spotlight on Rebecca Jaramillo, an advocate for equal rights and a founder of Fiesta Hispana, one of the first celebrations of Hispanic Heritage Month in Kansas City.

Local Kansas City Hero Primitivo Garcia

Primitivo Garcia is often referred to as Kansas City's first local Hispanic hero. One KCPS elementary school is named after this hero after he gave his life to save his English teacher in 1967.

Through Project Lead The Way Launch, KCPS Students Develop Critical Thinking Skills

Two young women in school uniforms stand in front of their science fair project on volcanos.

Students at Wendell Phillips Elementary show off their Project Lead The Way Launch projects at their school's science fair.

When Wendell Phillips hosted its first science fair this spring, then-third grader Zion Johnson was ready. His project on air pollution was incredibly detailed, with hand-made models of plants whose growth had been stunted. It took him nine days to test, record results and analyze his hypothesis.

“There was a lot of research involved,” Zion said, excited to share his results at the science fair.

Kansas City Public Schools introduced Project Lead The Way Launch to elementary students during the 2017-18 school year. PLTW is an innovative, hands-on curriculum that introduces students to science, technology, engineering and math. They develop in-demand, transportable skills as they solve real-world challenges — just like Zion and his classmates.

A young Black boy in a mask stands in front of his science fair project on pollution.

“They see evidence of the design; they have questions then can answer them,” Ericka Mabion, KCPS iSpark Class Coordinator, said. “There is an extension that they didn’t consider, but they learned from their PLTW classes, like the research component. They want to show off their learning, and it’s amazing to see how they can articulate that.”

In April, PLTW Interim President and CEO and Chief Impact Officer Dr. David Dimmett presented former Superintendent Dr. Mark Bedell with a framed copy of KCPS’ Impact Profile measuring the program’s success. PLTW now reaches more than 9,000 KCPS students each year.

Takeisha Brown, principal at Wendall Phillips Elementary, said her visual, tactile and auditory learners are thriving in their PLTW classes.

“Everyone isn’t a paper and pencil type of person,” Ms. Brown said. “(PLTW) allows innovation and allows students to show their strengths.”

Hale Cook Principal Julie Lynch said PLTW Launch has helped her students develop critical thinking skills. According to PLTW, more than 60% of KCPS students can now solve real-world, interdisciplinary problems.

A girl in a tie-dye sweatshirt shows off a small plant she grew for her science fair project.

“If we are looking down the road to when students are leaving the K-12 system, whether that’s going into the workforce immediately, … going to a trade school (or) going to college, all those things encompass needing the skills of being able to analyze, build something or create,” Ms. Lynch said. “When our first graders can design a shoe that will be best suited for a certain part of the world, they are putting those skills into action.”

As part of Blueprint 2030, KCPS will be making academic and programmatic enhancements at all schools, adding opportunities for project-based learning across the district.

“Project Lead The Way has been an important partner for KCPS,” said Dr. Jennifer Collier, 2022-23 Interim Superintendent. “We know students thrive when they have access to science, technology, engineering, arts and math classes. Blueprint 2030 will help us build strong STEAM programs accessible to all students.”

KCPS started with PLTW Launch during the 2017-2018 school year, and today it is in 21 of our elementary schools.

Special thanks to PLTW Director of Public Relations Jackie Yanchocik for her help with the Wendell Phillips science fair and this story.