March 15, 2017
KANSAS CITY, Missouri – A new hero has been named at Gladstone Elementary.
Mattie Rhodes Center Art Director Jenny Mendez was selected as the 2016-2017 School Hero and celebrated during a Friday, March 10 production in the school auditorium. Mendez marks the 15th Gladstone School Hero.
Dozens of student performers collaborated to celebrate Mendez, beginning with a large, black light jigsaw puzzle that was pieced together to make a floating, glow in the dark calavera. Further performances included synchronized dance routines, music videos, testimonials from admirers, and live musical performances from Gladstone students.
Mendez, who has been following the School Hero program for years, said she was honored to be selected for the award in 2016-2017.
“My son went to Primitivo Garcia when it was started over there, so I’ve seen the program and think it’s been an amazing thing,” said Mendez after the ceremony. “I’m overwhelmed; they did such an excellent job.”
Mattie Rhodes Executive Director John Fierro, also a Kansas City Public Schools Board of Education member, spoke about what makes Mendez special during the ceremony. Fierro told attendees that he’s known and respected Mendez for roughly 20 years.
“In over 20 years she has maintained what has made the Mattie Rhodes Art Center special,” said Fierro. “And that is, when children and adults come to the Mattie Rhodes Art Center, they are welcomed with a smile, they’re given an opportunity to be creative without any judgment, and everybody walks away feeling very special.”
Without Jenny Mendez, Fierro added, none of that would be possible. He also noted that she has inspired young artists even into adulthood. It was Mendez, he said, who founded the Mattie Rhodes Art Gallery.
“It’s a place where people can come in and enjoy art that is produced by local Hispanic artists; many who Jenny recruited, and many who Jenny has served as mentor to,” Fierro said.
Though aware of her role in the community, Mendez remained borderline speechless at the honor, which she never anticipated.
“You know the work that you do and you’re passionate about, and it’s really nice to hear people talk about that, but never in my wildest dreams,” she said.