Dr. Jim Sanders ’84 wants to give back to his alma mater by helping current students. Sanders, assistant athletic director for the Kansas City Public Schools, organized fellow alumni last year to form the Black Alumni Network. The new group has two goals: help black alumni reconnect and help current black students. He chairs the committee that has members from across the United States.

“I see today’s students and remember what it was like to be in college,” said Sanders, who lives in Parkville, Missouri.

He said the network wants to mentor black students and help them find connections in their career fields when they get ready to graduate.

“We can give them tips and tell them who they need to talk to,” he said. “We want to help them achieve their goals.”

The network is collaborating with the Center for Multicultural Education and its coordinator, Latoya Fitzpatrick. She first connected with Sanders when she asked him to speak at the multicultural graduate reception in May 2015.

“I saw such promise in these students,” he said. “I told them, ‘Missouri Western gives you opportunities a lot of schools won’t. They don’t care where you came from or what color you are.”

“The Black Alumni Network provides great role models for current students,” Fitzpatrick said. “They can come back to their alma mater, see old friends and connect with current students. They (alumni) can show current students the end goal of graduating and getting a good job.”

The network plans to host an event over Homecoming weekend in an effort to recruit new members. The historically black fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha, is holding a reunion that weekend, and the network plans to coordinate its gathering with that group. Lai-Monte Hunter ’99, a member of the fraternity and a member of the network, is serving as a liaison between the two organizations.

Along with Sanders and Hunter, who lives in New Hampshire, committee members include Chemia Woods ’08, in Arkansas, and Rev. Robert ’95 and Kimberly ’92 Warren, in St. Joseph, Missouri. (An article about the Warrens is on p. 30-31.)

Fitzpatrick said she appreciates that alumni want to help current students. “Seeing where they (students) can be is really impactful for students,” she said. “It’s great to see mentors outside of the University.”

Sanders said he is looking forward to becoming more connected with both students and alumni. “To me, Missouri Western is not just a college, it’s a family. It always is and always will be.”