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Students of color in Olathe School District set sights on future through mentorship program

Olathe TEAM program
Posted at 6:31 AM, Feb 20, 2024

OLATHE, Kan. — This Black History Month, Olathe Public Schools is making an effort to celebrate diversity.

Established in 2019, the district's TEAM program is helping students connect with community leaders while showcasing the power diversity and representation holds.

"I really think that [TEAM] helps us out and teaches us why you don't want to be the stereotype to everyone else," said 15-year-old Emery Edwards, a student taking part in Olathe East High School's TEAM program. "You just want to show them that you're better than what they think you are."

The goal is to teach, educate, achieve and mentor select students of color through monthly mentorship meetings. The meetings are led by Olathe staff members, community leaders and guest speakers. Students are encouraged to engage conversations about the future and what they can do now to prepare for what’s next.

"I think it's important that they see a lots of different aspects of their own community, not just what happens during the school day or on the weekends with athletics. Seeing the guy that cuts hair or the guy that owns the gym, someone who is also a member of this community and understands the importance of building relationships throughout the community," Olathe East head football coach Courtney Porter said.

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The program has been part of the district's fabric for years and continues to grow, helping students look forward to a better future for themselves and show the world what they’re capable of.

"We do have a lot of diversity in Olathe, which is cool, but not at every single school building and so for them to be able to get together with other groups of diverse individuals throughout the district, not only do they get to see coaches in different lines, they also get to see students in different lines," Olathe Northwest head football coach Lorne Clark said.

Former Chiefs players, including Shawn Barber, have been invited by the district to come talk to these students about current events and career opportunities after high school. Participating students must be in eighth grade or high school and attend an Olathe high school.

"I've seen that guys that look like me and you that have succeeded, so if they can do it and they've put in the work then I know that I can do it and I can put in the work to do it," Edwards said.