UMKC Students Combine Volunteerism with Learning How to Ride the City Bus

Propel Bus Training Program Leader Kristal Perry
UMKC student Kristal Perry leads Propel’s bus training program

Every Wednesday afternoon, UMKC Propel Program VISTA Kristal Perry leads a four-hour bus training for small groups of Propel students. Kristal is an experienced KC transit rider, who, with an assistant, shows students how to read the online bus schedule at for both Troost MAX and Main MAX—routes where many Propel internships are located. The group starts by taking the Troost MAX south to Cleaver Family YMCA where several students volunteer. On their way south, they pass the Spay and Neuter Clinic, which is another internship site for Propel. Then the group rides the northbound Troost MAX to Operation Breakthrough at 31th and Troost, where they participate in a volunteer activity, eat lunch at Thelma’s Kitchen, and return to UMKC. The next week, they take the Main MAX to Union Station, where they learn about volunteer opportunities, tour the Hallmark museum, and eat lunch at Crown Center before returning to campus. Both Main MAX and Troost MAX buses are easily accessible to UMKC students, and the bus training program helps Propel students become as independent as possible getting around Kansas City using public transportation.

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

Propel Program Visit Days

The Propel Program hosts weekly visit times every Friday. 

Visit times are at 11:15 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.

We will discuss the Propel Program, the admission process, tour the campus and answer questions.

If you would like to schedule a visit, or need to schedule an alternate  visit day or time, please email:, 816-235-6340.

Propel Approved as Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary Program

The Propel Program recently received approval as a Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary (“CTP”) Program from the United States Department of Higher Education.   As an approved CTP Program, Propel students who qualify may receive funding from Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, and Federal Work-Study programs.  This approval paves the way for students who might otherwise not have access to a postsecondary program.  Since UMKC Propel Program does not charge any additional fees, besides those charged to any UMKC student, this approval allows students to pay a large portion of their tuition and fees through these federal programs.

MDHE Approves Certificate

The Missouri Department of Higher Education (“MDHE”) reviewed the proposal of the Leadership, Employment, and Community Engagement Certificate at their April 27, 2016 meeting.  They approved the proposed certificate enabling the Propel Program to grant the Leadership, Employment and Community Engagement Certificate to each student who completes the two-year program.

Why Propel Matters

In keeping with the Coordinating Board for Higher Education’s plan to increase the number of Missourians earning a college degree or certificate, UMKC’s Propel program provides intensive, wrap-around academic, mentoring and career services to ensure its students not only graduate from the two-year program but are also prepared to go immediately to work or complete the post-secondary education needed for their career goals.

In addition, we expect these instructional and support techniques – person-centered planning, peer mentoring, intrusive advising, academic-skill building, and career coaching — will make a significant research-to-practice contribution and can be shared with other Missouri institutions as strategies to raise retention and completion rates for all.

The recently released Coordinating Board’s 2016 “Preparing Missourians to Succeed: A Blueprint for Higher Education” stresses access to higher education for a greater share of Missouri residents as well as a reduction of disparities for students at the state’s colleges and universities. The strategy? Raise completion rates by race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender and disability by 50 percent by 2025. UMKC’s Propel can certainly help provide a blueprint for achieving this goal, with its emphasis on practical, learner-centered strategies for student success.

Students applying to Propel will go through a rigorous interview as well as provide references from teachers, counselors and others to show they can be successful at UMKC, that there’s a good person-environment fit. Other federal Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities (TPSID) programs have already demonstrated that students with intellectual/developmental disabilities can be successful in college, increasing their ability to find employment after leaving their program.

In just five years, the TPSID program has supported the creation or expansion of programs at 45 colleges and universities serving 1379 students. Over 70 percent of participating students were involved in career development activities and paid internships. Research has shown that these postsecondary programs for students with ID have had a positive impact on student rates of employment and wages, social networks, self-determination skills, and community living.

Missouri has set a goal for 60 percent of its adults age 24–65 to have a two- or four-year degree or career or technical certificate by 2025. This goal corresponds to the expectation that by 2018, 60 percent of jobs in the state will require a college degree or certificate. Given that in the past five years, college enrollment has decreased by 3.6 percent, something has to be done to open up higher education to more Missourians, including those with disabilities, Veteran status, and lower socioeconomic status.

Financially, the Propel program will pay for itself, covering its teaching and staff costs through the five-year grant. The students will be full-time, each taking 12 credit hours per semester and paying full tuition, for a total of $117,558 per year.  Propel is hiring 10 undergraduate and 2 graduate students in paid positions as mentors and academic coaches and will provide service-learning and internship opportunities for other UMKC students interested in careers working with people with disabilities.