College of Arts & Sciences awards honorary degree
The awarding of an honorary doctorate degree by a university is a distinction not taken lightly. This December, the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s College of Arts and Sciences will bestow this prestigious honor on Luis Cristobal (Cris) Medina. Medina’s devotion to higher education preparation and creating opportunity for youth led to his nomination by faculty and selection by the University of Missouri System.
When Medina was named CEO of the Guadalupe Center in 1980, he says he was excited by the prospect of directing such a worthwhile organization. After all, Guadalupe Center and Medina shared the same mission – to improve the quality of life for Kansas City’s Latino communities. At the same time, he was enough of a realist to understand that there would be challenges ahead.
In those days, Guadalupe Center consisted of two buildings, a handful of employees and an annual budget of $335,000. With these assets, the agency was tasked to fill a growing need for education, health information, cultural activities and social events for the local Hispanic community. Because he knew the value of what Guadalupe Center was already providing, Medina worked hard to expand and develop the agency.
Today, Guadalupe Centers, Inc. (GCI) occupies 17 locations around Kansas City, has a staff of almost 300 people and an annual budget in excess of $18 million. GCI provides basic health services, emergency assistance, professional job training and counseling. And just as Medina hoped, the benefits to the Hispanic community are beyond measure.
“Improving the quality of life for our community has been my passion. Fortunately my career has allowed me to work towards this goal,” Medina said.
For Medina and many GCI families, the heart of all GCI programs is the broad array of educational services. Beginning with the youngest children in early childhood classrooms, and on to secondary, preparatory, and adult students, everyone has the chance to grow and flourish intellectually and academically.
GCI and Medina’s successes have achieved an esteem that few community organizations can claim. Since that modest beginning, GCI has been recognized by La Raza, the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in America, as the outstanding affiliate of the year. GCI has also been designated one of the ten most effective community organizations in the U.S.
One way Medina keeps tuned in to community needs is through his family’s businesses. He is actively involved in El Taquito, Inc., a tortilla-manufacturing company, and his family’s restaurant, La Fonda El Taquito. But it’s the looks on the faces of learners, whether they belong to preschoolers moving up or graduating seniors moving on, that tell Medina he’s right where he was meant to be.
An honorary Doctor of Philosophy degree from UMKC’s College of Arts and Sciences will be conferred on Luis Cristobal Medina during the mid-year commencement ceremony, at 5 p.m. on Dec. 19, in Swinney Recreation Center on the UMKC campus.