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Elevate MetroKC

Empowering At-Risk Students to Reach Their Potential  

Area resident Chris Jehle believes it’s more important than ever to concentrate on our students, particularly those in less advantaged neighborhoods outside the suburbs. As Executive Director of Elevate MetroKC, Chris wants to spread the word on the great work being done there and to encourage likeminded residents to join the cause.

“Elevate focuses on empowering young people,” Chris says. “Students in concentrated poverty neighborhoods face immense challenges daily, so when they graduate high school, they are true heroes who have overcome more than we can imagine. To get that far, they have to develop important qualities such as grit and delayed gratification. Elevate's focus is to provide opportunities for students to identify and practice these skills. This daily repetition and a supportive environment provide fertile ground for growth.”  

Founded in Denver in 1982, Elevate has expanded to 14 cities, including Kansas City in 2019 where it operates at Southeast High on Meyer Blvd. Together with Site Director Tiffany Green, Chris believes the organization’s unique focus on a daily investment in students—both inside and outside school hours—makes it stand out.

Chris joined Elevate MetroKC at its inception two years ago. He grew up in the Johnson County area, with fond memories of playing soccer at Leawood City Park and frequenting the old Ranch Mart theater. After attending SM East, Chris pursued a career in the not-for-profit sector, focusing on those living in concentrated-poverty neighborhoods. 

“Our students live in neighborhoods where people will live up to 14 years less than nearby more affluent neighborhoods,” Chris says. “Essentially, your zip code is the best indicator of how long you will live. These students who have made it to their high school years have overcome immense daily challenges, but many lack the support system to do more than survive.”

Elevate’s goal is to equip students with the skills to endure challenging life situations and to prepare for a successful life after graduation. Elevate teacher-mentors teach accredited elective classes in character and life skills. They spend the other portion of their day mentoring students outside school hours.  

“The relational, engaging design of our classes facilitates transformative relationships,” Chris says. “We complement the school staff and community service agencies because a developmentally focused mentoring relationship encourages students to persist in school and to engage in various developmental experiences after school. Elevate students are on track to graduate at noticeably higher rates than the school average and demonstrate measurable growth in four important developmental areas—academic, social/emotional, community engagement, and character.”

Chris says that building a trusting relationship with a mentor is central. “Students light up when they realize they have trusting, capable adults who care about them and invest in them throughout their day. Students from high-poverty neighborhoods, like all young people, have aspirations and dreams, but most need extra support to realize them.”

As site director at Southeast High for the past two years, Tiffany brings years of working with youth development throughout her professional career, including Head Start, church youth ministries, and as a youth development specialist for Penn Valley and KU. 

“My role marries the two things I love to do—teaching and mentoring—the formal with the informal,” Tiffany says. “I love the design of the curriculum and teaching concepts that transcend into other subjects and into day-to-day life. This position and program are definitely passion-based. It will take it all out of you, but in return you get so much more than you ever thought possible!”

Both Tiffany and Chris point to an example of a young woman who has made the program especially meaningful this year. 

“This student wanted to graduate high school to make her incarcerated dad proud, but she was missing school frequently, had isolated from others, and was withdrawn and angry,” Chris says. “So Tiffany started small with her, challenging her to not just show up for Elevate classes but to attend a few additional classes. Tiffany stayed with her after she got into a fight and after she got fired from her job. This young woman realized Tiffany truly cared about her, believed in her, and was pushing her to live into her potential. By the end of last year, even with the pandemic's disruption, she graduated from high school. In her Elevate class she learned how to teach and mentor elementary students who responded well to her guidance, which opened her eyes to the difference she can make in the world.”

To help with donations, events sponsorships or hosting an awareness dinner, visit: elevatemetrokc.org.

“There's daily gratification every time a student tries a little harder than they did the day before. It’s so rewarding when I see the fight in the students—when the ‘lightbulb’ finally clicks—and I watch them work hard and go after their life’s potential.” — Tiffany Green, site director, Elevate MetroKC 

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