Inaugural ‘A Taste of KCK’ benefits Resurrection School
by Jessica Langdon
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A sold-out evening drew 250 people to Resurrection Catholic School at the Cathedral here to taste international cuisine and support the school.
But it was two eighth-graders who brought everyone to their feet.
The students received standing ovations when they shared their experiences at the first “A Taste of KCK” on Jan. 26.
Eighth-grader Maria Goreti Chapa asked the crowd to imagine moving not only to a different school in a different neighborhood in another state, but also into a new country with a new language.
“I did that — and trust me, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” said Goreti, recalling the mixed emotions she felt starting fifth grade.
Her family had just moved from Mexico, seeking a safer life.
Her fears that kids would judge her and that she would be the only one who didn’t speak English quickly faded into friendships and acceptance at Resurrection.
There, she quickly seized new educational opportunities and grew in her faith.
“At RCS, they treated me like I had attended from the time the school opened,” she said.
While the building has served as a school since the 1950s, Resurrection only opened as a consolidated school in 2007, combining three Catholic schools: All Saints, Cathedral of St. Peter and St. John the Baptist/Holy Family and serving children of five parishes.
Since then, it has won the Catholic Education Foundation School of Excellence Award twice.
“In our school, about 60 percent of our kids are English-language learners,” said principal Lynda Higgins.
The fundraiser planning committee took its cue from that.
The fundraiser would celebrate the rich diversity of cultures and backgrounds within the school’s Kansas City, Kan., neighborhood.
Food and family
The theme chosen for “A Taste of KCK” was a bow to both the faith tradition of the school and the ethnic tradition of the neighborhood: “One faith; many traditions. One meal; many cuisines. Come hungry; leave blessed.”
Local restaurants, home cooks and Resurrection families put on a veritable feast.
Greeted by accordion music, a mariachi band and a jazz ensemble, diners sampled Polish sausage, golamki (cabbage rolls), sauerkraut, Croatian potato salad, Italian sausage, meatballs in marinara, pasta, enchiladas and more.
Everyone at Cathedral parishioner Julie Johnson’s table savored the pork tamales, which volunteers prepared at the school.
Johnson attended St. Peter Cathedral School and her daughter Maggie graduated from there in 2004, so the building tour, dinner and program felt like a homecoming.
“It’s with family, and that includes all the new families that are here,” said Johnson.
“The families, they all have the same values. They’re all very family-oriented. They all care about their faith. And really what binds us together is that common belief and that common faith and community.”
Susanne Mahoney cherishes the diversity this school and community offer her daughters, fifth-grader Molly and third-grader Meg.
Like the fact that one of Meg’s favorite foods is now the Croatian meat-and-cabbage dish, sarma. Meg tasted it at a social at St. John the Baptist last fall, which she attended thanks to her Croatian friend.
“And this is coming from a very Irish family,” Johnson interjected with a smile.
Resurrection eighth-grader Lidija Begic was born in Bosnia and soon moved to Croatia.
Her parents knew they could give her a better life outside the war-devastated region, however, she told the crowd.
Her family settled in Kansas City, Kan., where Lidija first attended St. John the Baptist School.
“School was tough on me because I didn’t really understand English. I only spoke Croatian to my parents,” she said. “But I gradually learned English and taught my parents some words.”
She was devastated when she learned her beloved small school was closing.
But then her family toured Resurrection.
“Resurrection has opened so many doors for me in the past six years,” Lidija said. “I got to experience going to food kitchens, spelling bees, band, speeches, helping city hall, sports and so much more.”
It has strengthened her faith and helped her discover her true self, she said.
Many great leaders have emerged from Catholic schools, said guest speaker Mayor Joe Reardon of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas.
Reardon, a Bishop Ward High School graduate, said Catholic education develops critical thinkers.
“They don’t only learn the fundamentals of what it means to be educated, but they learn about their place in the world through their faith,” he said.
Connor’s legacy honored
As archdiocesan associate superintendent of schools and principal of Bishop Ward High School in Kansas City Kan., Ann Connor no longer spends every day at Resurrection School, where she served as principal for four years.
But as the first principal of the combined school, her influence remains.
“There is no part of Resurrection that has not been touched by Ann’s passion for quality faith-based education, and the faculty remains grateful for her continued involvement in supporting our students and teachers,” read the program for “A Taste of KCK.”
Connor was honored at the event as the inaugural recipient of the Resurrection Legacy Award, celebrating people who have made significant contributions to the school’s mission.
Connor, a longtime teacher and administrator in Catholic schools, became Resurrection’s first principal in 2007.
“In this position, she gracefully patched together the stories of three KCK Catholic schools in a consolidation process and consistently exhibited superior organization, visionary thinking, and servant leadership,” the program continued.
Connor points to teachers, students, families, pastors and many others who were instrumental in bringing this school to life.
She hopes continued support will allow many children to receive a Catholic education.
“Great things are happening at Resurrection,” she said.