Propel is Featured in UNews

by Ben Edwards

On Wednesday, February 26, 2020, the UMKC Propel Program was featured in UMKC’s independent student newspaper, University News. The article, “Propelled to excellence: UMKC program helps students to prepare for college” was written by UNews reporter Emma Lane. The article highlighted the many positive qualities and attributes of our program. Lane’s article also emphasized what makes Propel unique such as academic coaching, peer mentoring and work-based learning. Lane spotlighted how Propel students can earn up to 40 plus transferrable college credit hours and that currently three Propel graduates are now degree-seeking students at UMKC. Propel is proud to have been featured in the UNews article exemplifying what a valuable asset Propel is to UMKC and the Kansas City community. Read the full article in UNews here:

Propelled to excellence: UMKC program helps students prepare for college

Propel is Visited By the Department of Education

On September 17, 2019, the Propel Program was extremely proud to have been a stop on the U.S. Department of Education’s National Back to School Tour. We received honored guests Department of Education Assistant Secretary Johnny Collett, Gerren McHam of the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Mara Woody, E.D., who is the Assistant Commissioner for Postsecondary Policy at Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development. The Propel Program received support by the Department of the Psychology Chairwoman Dr. Joan McDowd, Interim Executive Associate Dean Dr. John Herron, Chancellor C. Mauli Agrawal and Provost Bichelmeyer who were also in attendance.

Our distinguished visitors heard from current Propel students about their experiences in the program while Propel staff were interviewed about the specific areas where they provide support for Propel students. The publicized visit was mentioned twice on local news station KSHB 41, and later mentioned in the Department of Education Review where Assistant Secretary Collett was quoted as saying, “The department is committed to ensuring that students and youth with disabilities are held with high expectations and have the resources and supports needed to expand their learning opportunities and prepare them for success in postsecondary education or careers.”
Additionally, Assistant Secretary Collett tweeted his entire UMKC visit, tagging both Propel and the University in his tweets, “I ended my day with a visit to @UMKC @UMKCPropel, which provides adults with intellectual developmental disabilities the opportunity to explore employment and education on a university campus. The TPSID grant enabled @UMKC to create and expand a high quality inclusive model comprehensive transition and postsecondary transition programs for adults with intellectual disabilities. #EducationFreedomTour #EducationFreedom #RethinkSchool @MODHEWD.”

The Propel faculty and staff would like to thank all our students, their supports and families for helping to make this visit possible. We love our students and we are proud to be providing this educational opportunity for them.

Propel Graduation Spring 2019

On Saturday, May 18, UMKC’s Propel Program saw its second graduating class. This year we had twelve students graduating. Before graduation, Propel hosted a small gathering for our graduates, their families and friends to award one of our graduates the Propel Program’s first Austin Turner Award. The award was created in honor of Propel graduate Austin Turner, who passed away last November due to health complications. The Austin Turner Award will now be given annually to a Propel student who most embodies the spirit of Austin. The first recipient of the award was Propel graduate Reggie Koger. Austin’s mother, Roslyn Turner, was present at the occasion to see Reggie accept the award.
Following the gathering, everyone in attendance escorted the students to Swinney Auditorium for the graduation ceremony. Propel students took their seats with the rest of the College of Arts and Sciences 2019 graduating class. First, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Wayne Vaught, addressed the graduates and then the commencement speaker Steven St. John, a sports announcer at KCUR, spoke to the graduating class. Propel founder Dr. Alexis Petri served as the Marshall of the graduation as students were called on stage to accept their diplomas. This second graduating class is testament to all our students’ hard work and perseverance as well as the dedication of the Propel Student families, friends and our amazing Propel staff.

Student Spotlight: Landon Cary

Landon is a second-year Propel student with a passion for art. His future plans include becoming a teacher and continuing to develop leadership skills. For our Student Spotlight this month, we are featuring Landon and his artistic skills. Be sure to follow him on Instagram at @not_crowhybrid.

Spotlight Questions

1. When did you start doing art?

“I started drawing 11 years ago back in the third grade.”

2. Do you have a favorite artist who you draw inspiration from?

“Yes, I am inspired by Manga Artist Hiro Mashima.

3. Has Propel helped you as an artist?

“Propel told me about an Autism Awareness art class at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art that I took monthly”.

4. What are you looking forward to as a second year Propel student?

“I am looking forward to my new classes and hopefully meet new people.”

#Landscape #NelsonAtkins

“This picture is part of the walkway at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art. This was made with Conte Landscape Crayons”

#Illustration #Nintendo #StarFox #StarWolf #Starlink #VideoGames

“This picture is Nintendo’s Star Wolf from the Star Fox Franchise. This was drawn with pencil and illustrated with Sharpie and colored pencils.”

#Illustration #Character #Anime

“This picture is a character I came up with and drew from my head. This was drawn with pencils and illustrated with Sharpie, pigma ink pens, and color pencils”

#Illustration #Fairy Tail #Anime #Character

“This picture is Jackal, one of the characters I drew back in 3rd grade all the way to now. I drew in pencil and illustrated with Sharpie and color pencils”

“This picture is a character from the anime Fairy Tail named Invel Yura. This was illustrated with Sharpies, pigma ink pens, and colored pencils”

#Nintendo #Mario #Comedy #SMG4

“This image is a Mario fun picture, I drew it based off YouTube Channel SMG4. This was drawn with pencil and illustrated with pigma ink pens and colored pencils”



EITAS Honors UMKC’s Propel Program Founder

On Tues, May 21, 2019, EITAS honored UMKC’s Alexis Petri, founder of the Propel program, with its 2019 Innovation/Excellence in Services Award. EITAS (Empowering Individuals through Advocacy and Support), is Jackson County’s agency providing support for residents with developmental disabilities such as autism and Down syndrome. Propel students and staff decided to surprise Alexis with our own photo. We appreciate you, Dr. Petri!

Propel Students Swear In as VISTA Summer Associates

May 28, 2019, was a historic day for the Kansas City community and the University of Missouri-Kansas City. A record 41UMKC Students were sworn in as AmeriCorps Summer VISTAs –the largest number in the country – at Miller Nichols Library on campus. UMKC Summer Bridge and Propel staff attended along with family members and state VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) staff.
During the Swearing in Ceremony, students became a part of VISTA, a federal agency within a branch of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). The organization has been thriving for fifty years. CNCS’s purpose is to alleviate poverty in the United States and is often described as the in-country version of the Peace Corps. VISTA members work at local sites across the U.S. to help various organizations such as UMKC Propel, Thelma’s Kitchen, and Operation Breakthrough accomplish their organizational goals. Literacy KC has partnered with the UMKC Propel Program to sponsor Summer Associate Student VISTAs’.
Literacy KC’s mission is to, “advance literacy within the Kansas City metropolitan area through direct services, advocacy, and collaboration”. Veronika Fournier of Literacy KC presented the duties, principles and requirements of being a VISTA Summer Associate. The new VISTAs then were sworn into the program, each taking the official VISTA oath to protect the Constitution of the United States from enemies both foreign and domestic. After the ceremony, those in attendance enjoyed a catered lunch from local favorite Waldo’s Pizza to celebrate being members of the one of the largest community organizations within United States.


Relating to Art: Monthly Art Lessons for People with Disabilities

As people with disabilities grow older, it becomes more and more of a challenge to find suitable recreational activities for them. Relating to Art is a monthly art class held on the second Thursday of every month by the Autism Society of the Heartland for the past few years. The class is held at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Participants learn as they are given tours by instructors who then take them back to the classroom where they do hands-on art activities. Activities range from sculpting to 3D-printing to collage-making.
Fortunately, there are no skill levels necessary for this art class. People can enjoy this class no matter what their skill or background in art is. The classes are taught by instructors who work at the Nelson and are a great way for people with disabilities to come and simply enjoy themselves. The classes are free, but participants must RSVP ahead of time to let instructors know they are coming because there is only a limited amount of space.

To enroll please contact Kate Duffy @ or 816-235-6415

Financial Aid Information Night

Financial Aid Information Night

We encourage all college bound students to complete the FAFSA application!

Where: UMKC, School of Law Library
500 E. 52nd Street, KCMO
When: Thursday, October 11, 2018
Time: 5:30 – 7:30PM

-Not sure how to pay for college? The FAFSA will help you determine your financial aid eligibility!
-Need additional help filing out the FAFSA? Come get on-site help from an expert!

What to Bring
• Social security number
• State issued ID or driver’s license
• Cell phone or personal device (fully charged)
• Alien registration number or permanent residence card if not a US citizen
• Taxable income from 2016 W-2 forms or copy of filed income tax returns
• Taxable income from 2017 W-2 forms or copy of filed income tax returns. Students (if you worked in 2017) AND parents must supply these forms
• Untaxed income, including workers’ compensation; child support; veterans benefits, etc.,

Please RSVP Carol Calhoun @ or 816-235-6816

Propel’s First Graduating Class of 2018

By Ben Edwards

This past Saturday, May 12, UMKC’s Propel Program graduated its first class of nine students, who started in Fall 16. The students graduated alongside their fellow UMKC College of Arts and Sciences students in a packed Swinney Recreation Center.

It’s not easy being the first at anything, but our Cohort 1 Propel students plugged away these past two years, learning how to balance full-time course loads, service-learning internships, their family’s needs, and in some cases, jobs. They also put up with us, the Propel staff, who were learning right alongside them about what makes for a successful transition from high school to college and then on in to the community. We miss you already but are glad you are moving toward your futures.

First Meeting of Midwest Inclusive Post-Secondary Alliance in St. Louis

By Ben Edwards

On Friday, April 20th, the first meeting of the Midwest Inclusive Post-Secondary Alliance (MIPSA) was held at the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) to discuss and advocate for post-secondary education programs for students with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

The meeting drew 64 people from Missouri, Kansas, Minnesota, Indiana, Ohio, and South Dakota, twenty-eight of them students. Universities and colleges in attendance included:

  • UMSL
  • University of Missouri at Kansas City
  • University of Central Missouri
  • Johnson County Community College
  • Missouri State University
  • Augustana University
  • University of Missouri-Columbia
  • Missouri Western State University

The meeting began with the attendees being welcomed by UMSL vice-provost Dr. Curt Coonrod. Afterwards the attendees heard from the staff of UMSL’s SUCCEED Program and residential life office. Participants toured Oak Hall dormitory, where SUCCEED students live on campus and listened to presentations and a Q&A with SUCCEED students on topics ranging from homework to laundry to independent living.



Afterwards there was a luncheon, and then some more presentations from Dr. Ann Taylor, the Dean of the UMSL’s College of Education and Dr. Clare Papay from Think College. These presentations talked about post-secondary education programs nationwide. There are currently 266 with four in Missouri.

Students at the conference brainstormed together about ways to improve the college programs, ranging from affordability to students having more freedom as adults on college campuses.

MIPSA’s goal is to promote access to quality inclusive postsecondary education for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the Midwest, by collaborating on program development, research, and public policy.