Kyle McKenzie serves as lead muralist for East Town project
The bright, vivid colors of the mural stretch from one end to the other of the former Earl Smith market on Langston Hughes/Broadway in Joplin’s East Town.
Named “Belonging to All the Hands Who Build,” the mural depicts important figures from the community’s history, while paying tribute to the storytelling that keeps their contributions alive.
“One of the main themes during the creation of this mural was the idea of storytelling,” says Kyle McKenzie, an art instructor at Missouri Southern who served as lead artist for the project. “I was struck not just by the history that was shared with us, but by the way they told the stories. The hummingbird on the mural is sort of a symbolic reference to the coming and going of information as it is passed along with grace and efficiency.”
Among those depicted in the mural is Betty Smith, a longtime resident who is passionate about East Town’s history; and Melissa Cuther, a schoolteacher who helped bring big-name musicians such as the Duke Ellington Orchestra to Joplin and house them at a time when they were unable to get a hotel room due to the color of their skin.
Joplin’s Cultural Affairs Committee received a grant from the Missouri Arts Council to create the mural. McKenzie was tabbed for the role after serving as an apprentice to Lawrence, Kan.-based muralist Dave Loewenstein for “The Butterfly Effect” mural at 15th and Main streets.
A series of community meetings were held to discuss the project and come up with a design, and painting began in August. A dedication ceremony was held on Oct. 2, with the MSSU Jazz Band, under the direction of Freddie Green, performing during the event. McKenzie said the entire process was a valuable learning experience. “I learned a lot about Joplin’s black history, and particularly about people in this community who really broke ground,” he said.
Gathered near several cars and trucks parked off to the side, the students break off into two groups – one group carrying nets, the other bottles of a pink liquid – and set off by foot into one of the most endangered ecosystems in North America.
“It’s unique because there aren’t a lot of universities that have what we call ‘remnant’ prairies – land that hasn’t been plowed or modified,” said Jason Willand, professor of biology and environmental health. “Less than one percent of the original prairies remain.”
“We do some mowing to keep down the vegetation, but these 40 acres are unique to this part of Missouri.”
‘It’s so valuable’
The unplowed, native tall grass prairie is part of only about 75,000 acres of such land still in existence in Missouri.
Such prairies are dominated by a unique assemblage of specially adapted grasses, Mima mounds, and herbaceous flowering plants. These prairies also provide a home to a wide variety of animals, insects and bird species for students to observe and research, as well as a small area of wetland.
The acreage was not part of the original Mission Hills estate that was purchased by the Jasper County Junior College District from owners Frank and Juanita Wallower in 1964. Juanita Wallower Carter and her then-husband, Proctor Carter, gifted half of the acreage to Missouri Southern in August 1978.The other half of the land was purchased by the college.
In February 2015, the Missouri Southern Board of Governors unanimously voted to permanently set aside 14 of the 40 acres for student use as a natural laboratory. An adjacent piece of land is also available for student use.
While students studying biology and environmental health have used the prairie land for their studies, it has also been utilized by other departments – including a plein air painting class.
“The features are undisturbed and it hasn’t been plowed. I don’t know if people grasp the concept that this land has been evolving and progressing over 10,000 years,” says Randy Haase, who spent more than 30 years with the Missouri Department of Conservation and now serves as the manager of Webb City’s habitation restoration project.
“The end result of this long period is that less than half of 1 per – cent of native prairie is left in Missouri and it’s one of the most endangered areas in North America. That’s what makes the land at Missouri Southern so valuable.”
Haase has spent time on Southern’s prairie to document the plants found there in order to gain a basic idea of their diversity.
“Missouri has developed a system where every plant has an assigned conservation number, ranging from 0 to 10,” he says. “A 0 can be found anywhere there’s soil, all the way up to a 10, which aren’t necessarily rare but are specific to where they’re found at. Between 4 and 6 is pretty common, but I found a few 7s and 8s out there.”
‘A great learning experience’
On this day, students are on a bug hunt, sweeping with nets and checking traps. Several mesh intercept traps are also set up, looking somewhat like abandoned tents but designed to draw in flying insects.
“We’re sweep netting to take samples of bugs that live out here on the prairie,” said Teddy Pashia, junior conservation biology major. “We’ll take them back to the lab, freeze them and see what we’ve got.”
Rachel Denton, senior conservation biology major, says the prairie provides an ideal place to explore different kinds of wildlife.
“It’s a great learning experience, even if you’re not going into the entomology field,” she says. “And it definitely helps that you don’t have to travel somewhere to do a simple sweep net.” At the far end of the prairie, the second group of students uses the pink antifreeze solution to refill ground traps. “Ground insects walk across the pitfall trap, fall into the coolant and can’t get out,” says Lane Myers, a senior biology major who hopes to become a conservation biologist or game warden after finishing his degree. “This is really valuable for what I want to do.”
“Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve.” Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of a “heart full of grace” as the only requirement to serve others. Volunteer service is truly a calling. Over the next few pages, you’ll meet three Missouri Southern students who have answered that call. Beyond the expectations of the classroom, they’ve found ways to give their time in service to others. From working with children to delivering meals or sharing our region’s history … through smiles, hugs and tears … they know firsthand the difference a volunteer can make in someone’s life.
Jenson Maydew: ‘Fight Like Andrew’
“Letting kids with cancer be kids again.”
That’s the motto for Camp Quality – a program serving hundreds of children with cancer in 11 different states. And it’s a motto that Jenson Maydew had taken to heart before she even began volunteering there.
“During my senior year of high school, my best friend’s little brother passed away from cancer at age nine,” she says. “His name was Andrew, and he was in and out of hospitals. I spent a lot of time talking to him.”
It was during this time that she turned to Google to see how her lifelong love of art could be used to help children in Andrew’s situation. Through art therapy, Maydew says she hopes to work with children to help them express their emotions through words and pictures, and also help them through their hospital stay.
Today, Maydew – who plays basketball and throws shot put on the track and field team – sports a tattoo of the letters FLA on her bicep, for “Fight Like Andrew.” The junior art therapy major is a volunteer for Camp Quality locations in Kansas City and Neosho.
“I had just graduated from high school and I was here to help with basketball camp for kids before the start of my freshman year,” she said. “A little girl at the camp became super attached to me and asked me questions about what I wanted to do.
“I told her I wanted to work with kids with cancer, and she told me her mom works at Camp Quality.”
At Camp Quality, volunteer companions are paired up with campers to spend one-on-one time with them throughout the program. Activities include swimming, hiking, fishing and taking a ride on a zip line. While the camps are held in the summer, there are also reunions and family events that take place year round.
“At the camp in Kansas City, siblings can come too,” says Maydew. “Talking to them about it, it helped me understand where kids come from in these situations. She told me she sometimes didn’t know where she was going to sleep at night … at her grandparents’ house or with her neighbors … because her parents were always at the hospital. Cancer affects people in different ways.”
During her first year with Camp Quality, Maydew made the Top 5 list for “Best Companion,” selected from among hundreds of other volunteers in the U.S. Volunteering has also kept her close to her best friend, Dani – Andrew’s older sister. “She volunteers at the camp with me every year … we go through the hard emotions together.”
Josh Hadley: ‘It’s what I’m supposed to do’
Josh Hadley remembers how it felt as a youth playing football, when older athletes would come to work with him and other young teammates.
“It had a big impact on me,” he says. “It always inspired me to keep playing. Having those guys who were where I wanted to be come and show love, it made me want to keep playing and do better.”
Hadley, a senior public relations manager originally from Northern California, plays running back for the Lions. He hasn’t forgotten the positive impact those volunteers made on him and is paying it forward. He volunteers his time with the Joplin Junior Eagles, helping the fifth-grade boys learn the basics of game.
“I come in and show the kids drills to help them develop their skills, and the right way to do the fundamentals,” says Hadley. “It’s everything from the basics of football to ball security, how to redirect and how to catch a ball.”
Hadley has developed good relationships with the kids he has worked with.
“I see them around town or at church and they’ll run up to me,” he says. “It’s really cool.”
But service doesn’t stop once he’s off the field. Hadley has worked with the United Way for the Play 60 program – encouraging kids to be active for at least 60 minutes a day. He’s volunteered at food banks, delivering meals to those in need. And last spring, he traveled to Denver, Colo., with a group from College Heights Christian Church to work on a variety of community service projects, from picking up trash to building shelters.
His view of the importance of volunteer service is a simple one: It’s a calling. “I’m not doing anyone a favor (by volunteering),” says Hadley. “It’s what I’m called to do … leaders serve. I’m just doing what I’m supposed to do.”
Ashley Burns: ‘Volunteering is a way of life’
Ashley Burns, a junior biology major from Granby, “knows” volunteering.
Some of her earliest efforts took place after her family moved to the Granby area from California when she was 9 years old.
“We visited the George Washington Carver National Monument near Diamond and thought it was beautiful,” she remembers. “My dad and I went there every Sunday, primarily doing trail and stream maintenance and composting with watercress.”
She says her father and mother, Jerry Burns and Jennifer Ames, have been her greatest inspirations.
“They’ve made it not something I have to do but something I want to do,” she says.
She spoke to groups that came to the monument about Dr. Carver’s development of milk and other products out of peanuts.
“That gave me experience speaking to groups and helped get me out of my shell,” she says.
In 2014, Burns competed with volunteers from over 400 national parks to win the national George B. Hartzog Outstanding Youth Volunteer Award. It was the first time anyone from the park had received that recognition. The prize included a trip to Washington, D.C.
As a senior at East Newton High School, she was the winner of a $5,000 Golden Lion Award scholarship at Missouri Southern for her work there.
She volunteered at the Carver National Monument until the age of 18.
“Then I got an opportunity to be hired as a paid employee for National Park Service and I took it,” the effervescent 20-year-old says with a smile.
Burns, an Honors Program and Project Stay student at Missouri Southern, is a member of the Campus Activities Board, the Lion Ambassadors and Southern Ambassadors. As a Southern Ambassador, she conducts tours of the Missouri Southern campus for potential students and parents.
“Volunteering is a way of life and important to me,” she says. “I love it. Just about wherever I go I find a way to volunteer. Because of the impact it has had on me, I want to pass it on.”
Burns says she would like to pursue a career in the National Park Service, ultimately becoming a park superintendent or holding an even higher position in the Interior Department.
“I encourage people to volunteer, no matter what,” she says. “If you love animals, volunteer at an animal shelter. If you want to help people, work in a soup kitchen. If you love the outdoors, help clean up a park. It could really change the course of your life, like it did mine.”
That sound you’re hearing? That’s the roar of more than 6,200 Lions.
Efforts to grow the number of students at Missouri Southern resulted in an unprecedented 7.7-percent increase in students for the Fall 2016 semester – and a historic high enrollment for the university.
Total university enrollment for the semester reached 6,229. The previous high, set in 1990, was 6,012. The record enrollment follows the growth seen in the Fall 2015 semester.
Missouri Southern students are enrolled in 72,809 credit hours, up 6.9 percent from last year’s 68,101. The number of new freshmen choosing to come to MSSU grew from 925 in 2015 to 1,063 this year – an increase of 14.9 percent.
“It’s all part of a plan put into place a few years ago that is now coming to fruition,” said Derek Skaggs, dean of admissions. “We’ve stepped up our admission recruitment and marketing efforts, as well as our international and athletics recruiting.”
Significant factors cited in the university’s enrollment growth include the expansion of the Lion Pride Tuition area; the development of new graduate programs; an increase in the number of dual-credit students from area high schools; changes to the university’s scholarship programs; new international recruitment efforts; and the development of the Yours to Lose Advanced Medical School Acceptance Program.
“Having the deans and department heads add and expand sections to meet course demand was also huge,” said Skaggs. “This was intentional – everyone has been working together to grow enrollment and serve our students.”
Dr. Alan Marble, president of Missouri Southern, said the numbers are reflective of the university’s work to broaden its reach and provide more opportunities for students.
“Enrollment growth like this comes from the collective efforts of our faculty and staff,” he said. “It shows what we’ve known for a long time – that Missouri Southern is a destination of choice for students taking the next big step in their academic and professional development.”