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Grassroots support needed to get “GPA-9” to Paris, France Facing a March 2024 deadline
By Wilma Moore-Black

By Wilma Moore-Black

Jan 9, 2024

Grassroots support needed to get “GPA-9” to Paris, France

If you need a tax deduction and want to help a worthy cause, donate to ARISE.  Earmark that donation to make a once in a lifetime dream come true. The dream is for the Gordon Parks Academy (GPA) students, whom I’m calling the GPA-9, to sleep carefree about financing their 7-day trip to Paris, France in May of 2024.

GPA-9 students and staff have been invited to Paris to help produce a book and documentary while following in Gordon Parks’ footsteps. The students will be representing Kansas, and the legacy of Gordon Parks’ fight to end inequality with his nonviolent use of a camera.


Dr. Michael Cheers, a San Jose State University professor who knew Parks, is creating a coffee table book called “Why I Needed Paris.” He’ll showcase Gordon Parks’ photography when he was on a LIFE magazine assignment in Paris back in the 1950s. Dr. Cheers is the brainchild behind the idea, and the GPA-9 will be like his junior pro photographers.


      As a bonus, you can be part of the grassroots effort to get the Wichita delegation to Paris. There will be 20 others traveling with the GPA-9 students. The Wichita group departs May 27 and returns June 2. The Gordon Parks Trailblazers Foundation, with the help of ARISE, the GPA-9 and their families are spearheading the goal to raise $35,000 for the students. It costs about $4,000 per student to cover their flight and hotel expenses. Final payments for all travelers must be made by March 4.


“All donations are welcome,” says Mary Del Vecchio-Floro, the GPA yearbook teacher and trip co-organizer. “Cash will be deposited directly into our 501C bank account through our underwriter ARISE. All check donations would need to be written to ARISE.”

ARISE stands for African Americans Renewing Interest in Spirituals Ensemble, Inc., a group of Kansas talented singers and storytellers who strives to educate all cultures about the significance of spirituals. They partner with the Gordon Parks Trailblazers Foundation, an organization started back when the K-8 school opened its doors.

Donations can be made directly into portals of students who have not met the goal. In addition, here is a social media link-


My dream will become real because I’m publicist for David Michael Parks, the son of Gordon, who was born in Fort Scott, Kansas. David Parks, who is a consultant for the Paris project, wants the students both empowered and dedicated while they have some fun abroad. David Parks knew first-hand because he was in the 5th grade while with his dad in Paris.

            I’m a dreamer like Gordon Parks. I’ve been dreaming about this grassroots approach for weeks. What if we start a movement practicing the CL-formula—H1B1 = Help One, Bring One along the way.  

Simply put, every little cent supports this big project.  

      Help is needed from neighborhood associations, churches, sorority, and fraternity organizations, Mom and Pop shops, businesses, and all types of individual and group backing.

Each community could challenge organizations across the state. That could help all the students go abroad.  Only three of the nine students had their trip fully funded in late December. Some of the parents and teachers could use some help too.

Dream on. Let’s just go nationwide with a social media platform telling everybody what change-makers we are in the sunflower state of Kansas.

What about sending a letter to Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s office in Topeka for her help? 

Dream on. Think about how you can live through their eyes and camera lens while they’re in Paris. Share your ideas with the GPA principal LaTonia Kennedy, who has been working nonstop since she got the invitation to the Gordon Parks Academy STEM Leaders in Applied and Media Arts

Kennedy, her staff, students, and other Gordon Parks supporters need your support. Log on to the school’s Facebook account   

“We're Going to Paris,” says Floro who along with the principal Kennedy and three other GPA staffers Erik Stone, Sara Puertz and Terryl White will be chaperones. Dr. Cheers and his San Jose folks, some ARISE members, other GPA supporters and family members will be traveling too.  

Dreams can come true for the GPA-9 students. I believe we – a united Kansas -- can make their dream, your dream and my dream come true.  Donate as quickly as you can.

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