More than 700 urban Kansas City children come to Operation Breakthrough each weekday for nutritious food, lively learning, health and dental care, therapy and TLC, while their parents work or attend school.
The children range from infants to age 14. About 20% are homeless. More than 70% of families live on annual earnings of less than $12000, 65% of our children witness violence by the age 5. More than 90% of our 5 year-olds test “school ready” each year, as compared with few than 50% of children in poverty nationally.
We start STEM early
Our current MakerSpace and MakerCity STEM spaces promote hands-on collaborative learning in the arts, electrical, robotics, construction, culinary arts, multimedia, automotive and engineering, maker and green tech for children age 5 to 14.
We are set to expand opportunities for high school students in 2021
By the time students enter high school, most have self-identified as not interested in STEM subjects.
The new Ignition Lab is the natural next step for students, ages 14 to 18 who have aged out of Operation Breakthrough’s Maker City program with basic skills in coding, circuitry, culinary arts, construction and design, digital media, robotics, visual art and more. It’s also a powerful springboard for teens who live in economically depressed, often violent neighborhoods.
Building market value assets
The Ignition Lab opportunities are aligned to Kansas City’s Real World Learning initiative sponsored by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation: to prepare learners for work, school and life after high school. Students will acquire:
- Work experiences: internships and
- Client-connected projects
- College credit: at least three classes
- Industry recognized credentials
We will meet students where they are…
Participants can enter into the experiences at a beginner level and work through experiences that build proficiency.
When they are ready, experiences are available for mastery development, including when appropriate industry recognized certifications.
The Ignition Lab will give new life to an old muffler shop.
Where smart is cool
The labs will offer many opportunities to engage teens in conversation about their individual goals and help them prepare early for post-high school job training programs or college admission.
Our children use the word “my” when they talk about Travis Kelce. “My favorite player...” “My guy on the Chiefs...” “My friend Travis ...” That’s the bond they feel with him after five seasons of the NFL star’s attention. Now he’s giving them a whole new building to call their own.
“The Operation Breakthrough kids won me over the first time I walked in the building six years ago. The little ones loved to hear stories. The bigger kids tried to teach me to dance. They heard that I hadn’t had time to buy a Christmas tree, so they gave me one they made with LED lights and plastic cups. You could just see how excited they are about learning, connecting – life!
I was fortunate to be able to sponsor the OB Robotics team, through my foundation, 87 & Running, and I got to compete with the kids in a mock robotics competition. They even let me win a round! We’ve gone shopping together, shared meals, ruled the runway at my annual Walk the Walk fashion show and chatted over Zoom.
In signing on for six more years with the Chiefs, I’m recommitting myself to the work I have left to do off the field as well. Kids I danced and ate pizza with at OB a few years ago are now teenagers navigating a world that doesn’t always have their back.
The vision is to give them a safe haven where they can continue to find role models, discover interests and develop skills once they age out of OB’s after-school program. I’m so excited to be purchasing a building adjacent to OB’s MakerCity that will be the future home of “The Ignition Lab, powered by 87 & Running.” Together with OB’s staff and supporters, we’ll create a co-working space where teens will have the support, resources and opportunity to explore careers in STEM, launch their own entrepreneurial ventures and gain real-world experience.
I’m profoundly aware of the difference in opportunity, exposure and privilege I grew up with compared to others. Where you live, the situation you were born into or the color of your skin should have no impact on the dreams you can dream. Please join me in bridging that opportunity gap and igniting the potential in hundreds of teens in our community. If these kids could light up my life with a Christmas tree they made out of disposable cups, just imagine what they can do when we band together to open their Ignition Lab! --Travis Kelce