For years, president of the Hickman Mills C-1 School District Daron McGee dreamed of bringing a Boys & Girls Club to the Hickman Mills neighborhood to give kids in the district a place to participate in after-school activities, where they can learn healthy lifestyles, computer skills and have access to a safe place to have fun.
Last weekend, that dream became a reality when the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Kansas City held a ribbon cutting, opening a 4,000 sq. ft. unit at the Smith-Hale Middle School, 9010A Old Santa Fe Rd, named after former state Senator Shalonn “Kiki” Curls.
Curls served in the Missouri House and as a Missouri State Senator. She is also the first African-American woman appointed by Gov. Mike Parson to be a commissioner for the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.
“When it came to naming this unit, I thought long and hard about who that person should be,” McGee said. “I wanted to ensure since this was the first club in Hickman Mills, it should be historic.”
Curls is known for her years of dedication on issues like improving access to quality education, healthcare, affordable housing and economic development in Kansas City. She served in the Missouri House from 2007 to 2011 and then the 9th Senatorial District until 2020.
One of her biggest accomplishments was securing funding for the University of Missouri-Kansas City Center for Neighborhoods – a program designed to meet the needs of the city’s neighborhoods through neighborhood planning services, legal aid and technical assistance.
“(Curls) has been adaptive to realize that this community, when we were little children, was not a community that was predominantly African American,” said State Sen. Barbara Anne Washington (D-9). “And as it became that way, our adaptive leader realized the needs out here and took that voice and made things work. She is attentive and she addressed the needs of this community.”
“(Curls) can get anything done for the people, particularly the boys and girls of Kansas City,” said Mayor Quinton Lucas. “Her name up here doesn’t just mean a community center, it honors somebody who has broken a glass ceiling in Kansas City and was a mentor for so many.”
The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Kansas City, S. “Kiki” Curls Unit is the organization’s 12th location and the first location named after a Black woman.
CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Kansas City Dred Scott said the hope is that the Curls location will be the first of many expansion opportunities, particularly in South Kansas City.
“I hope this space becomes a village for young people who pass through these doors,” Curls said at the ribbon cutting event. “I hope they feel loved and supported and they are made to feel that they can accomplish anything that they set their minds to.”
The S. Kiki Curls Unit at Smith-Hale Middle School is open Monday through Friday 3:30-7 p.m. Find out how to enroll here: https://bgc-gkc.org/.