“Transportation is the Future” COMTO Kansas City hosts its 5th Annual Scholarship Banquet

For the past five years, COMTO Kansas City has offered a Scholarship Program which helps promote, strengthen and expand the roles of young minorities and women in all aspects of transportation. In order to provide these opportunities and meet our goals, we rely primarily on funds raised through fundraising efforts, donations and partner sponsorships. Our scholarship program is targeted toward High School Seniors who have participated in Kansas City Summer Transportation Institute (KCSTI), Kansas National Summer Transportation Institute (KS-NSTI), or our Annual Garrett A. Morgan Shadow Day in the past or will be participating this summer.

This year’s event was held at the Kansas City Power & Light Energy Center in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. We hosted over 125 guests and were honored to give out over $4,000.00 to our two scholarship recipients: Damon Harrell Jr. and Naquib Nassir.


Naguib Nassir is a 2019 graduate from Ruskin High School.  Naguib is currently playing soccer at Metropolitan Community College as his first step on the journey to receiving his Bachelor’s in Architectural Engineering.  Naguib’s largest motivation is his family who has always encouraged and supported any dream he has had. Naguib currently works for the Hickman Mills School District where he is an intern in the technology department.  This position will allow Naguib to work while attending his college classes during his first semester.


Damon Harrell Jr is a 2019 graduate from Lee Summit North High School. Damon is attending Drake University and will be studying health science in the major of pre-physical therapy. Damon’s biggest motivation is his parents and all the people in his life that has played a part in his upbringing. To him, these people not only showed him the path to success but have lead by example on how to live with purpose and a dream. All throughout high school Damon has shadowed his physical therapist and has experienced first hand the importance of the job which led to his decision to go into the career of physical therapy.


Greg Lever, Executive Director of the National Institute for Construction Excellence and longtime COMTO member, was pleased to honor Chris Kelly, who coordinates Metropolitan Community College’s Supplier Diversity Program as our “Small Business Champion.”  Chris Kelly, a native of Kansas City, has been a leader in supplier diversity for over 20 years. She joined Metropolitan Community College in June 2008 as the Program Coordinator for MCC’s Supplier Diversity Program. Her responsibilities include the implementation and coordination of program activities and working with representatives from the MCC five-campus system (Penn Valley, Longview, Blue River, Maple Woods and the Business & Technology) to ensure that minority and women-owned business (MWBE) requirements are clearly defined and monitored. Kelly coordinates interaction with diverse suppliers for the purpose of increasing procurement opportunities for community-wide impact. Through her efforts, MCC has been the recipient of the Minority Enterprise Development Week award for Corporation of the Year and most recently, the 2019 Public Sector Champion Award from the Kansas City Women’s Business Development Center.


The banquet was hosted by Michelle Word who manages the Supplier Diversity Program for Burns and McDonnell. Michelle has also been a longtime COMTO member and supporter. Robbie Makinen, CEO of the Kansas City Area Transit Authority, thanked all the organizations in the room for their commitment to the transportation industry and promoting diversity within it.


Robbie was pleased to introduce the Mayor of Kansas City and his good friend, Mayor Quinton Lucas. Mayor Lucas gave a riveting address on his upbringing, legal battles, lessons learned, and a call of action for all of those in attendance to put forth action to create the Kansas City we want to see. COMTO KC was honored for the Mayor to address the crowd and we look forward to helping his vision come to life for ALL of Kansas City.


Born and raised in Kansas City, Quinton Lucas grew up in the city’s urban core. As a child, he moved often and experienced homelessness, sometimes staying with family or friends, even residing in a motel, and taking the bus with his mother to school and work. Like his mother and sisters, he did not allow these setbacks to keep him from aspiring for more. Quinton learned as a young man the values of hard work, employment, and perseverance in building a stable and successful life. With those values, he earned academic scholarships to The Barstow School, Washington University, and Cornell Law School.

Following graduation, Quinton came home to Kansas City, first clerking for a federal judge, then representing Fortune 500 businesses as well as local start-ups. Inspired by his own teachers, Quinton joined the University of Kansas faculty at age 28, making him one of the youngest tenure-track law professors in the country. For years, Quinton has volunteered in area prisons, mentoring young men returning to Kansas City. He also works frequently in inner-city schools and organizations, such as Operation Breakthrough, and De LaSalle Academy. After serving on various committees on City Council, Quinton recently campaigned to become the next Mayor of Kansas City and won. Quinton’s guiding principle for his mayorship is to make sure everyone in KC has the opportunity to succeed, no matter their zip code.


Overall this was a spectacular event and we couldn’t have done it without Doria Watson and AJ Byrd our Scholarship Committee Chairs, Canesha Gravely, Denise Adams, Martina Derra, Maurice Gay,COMTO Kansas City members, Mayor Lucas, Robbie Makinen of KCATA, COMTO National, WSP (Platinum Sponsor), Dignified Digital, Michelle Word, Greg Lever, Rita Barrett, Valerie Coyazo of KCP&L, Pat Mosher and Kerri Geffert English of HNTB, Peachtree Catering Company, and all of our lovely partners who are listed below. Please take a look at the photos, share this great story with your social networks and we hope to see you at our 6th Annual Scholarship Banquet next year!

A special thank you to our sponsors:









One thought on ““Transportation is the Future” COMTO Kansas City hosts its 5th Annual Scholarship Banquet

  1. Transportation is certainly important. I’ve been to so many cities and definitely experience differences between those with adequate transportation infrastructure and those without. And I’ve seen them change over the years. What a difference adding a single interstate lane can make in the right areas.


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