Getting Perspective, Gaining Strength and Giving Back

  • Northeast High School senior Francisco Nunez isn’t letting COVID-19 stop him from learning how to change the world.

    COVID-19 is one of the worst pandemics in a century and has disrupted life for billions of people. But thousands of Kansas City Public Schools students continue to learn and thrive thanks to their own internal fortitude and the support of families, staff and community members.

    Francisco is one of those resilient students. COVID-19 is just latest in a series of rocks that Francisco has pushed aside on the road to achieving his goals, including immigrating from Mexico and working two jobs to help support his mother and siblings. Every challenge only makes him stronger and smarter, better equipped to handle the next thing life throws at him.

    Like every other barrier that he has overcome in his life, Francisco is using the current crisis to get perspective, gain strength and give back.

    “I got a grasp on distance learning really quickly,” Francisco said, reflecting on the switch to fully digital classes in KCPS following the closure of school buildings in March. “I think that’s true for most of my classmates, too. Look, we’re used to making the best of difficult situations. That’s our strength.”

    In Francisco’s case, the distance of his learning is about 2,600 miles. Francisco Nunez

    The pandemic hit right when Francisco was preparing to travel to a conference at the United Nations headquarters in New York City as part of the UN Association of Greater Kansas City. He joined the organization after developing an interest in helping refugees and pursuing a career in international finance and business.

    With coronavirus cases spiking on the east coast, Francisco canceled his trip to NYC and convinced his mom that the best thing for their family would be to relocate temporarily to Uriangato, Mexico, northwest of Mexico City. This would allow them to tap into the resources of his father’s extended family.

    Francisco is a stellar scholar and has been keeping up with his classes throughout the crisis and his family’s move to Mexico. He credits his teachers at Northeast for keeping the schoolwork engaging during this shift.

    “The internet has really opened up education. One of the positive things about all of this is that teachers are able to focus more on having us do research and be creative,” Francisco said. “Teachers are adapting and making classes more engaging and fun. In general, it seems like we’re actually more connected with our teachers.”

    Francisco embraces opportunities to actively engage in the educational process. He became a charter member of the new KCPS Student District Advisory Committee (SDAC) when it was launched in the fall of 2019. SDAC includes dozens of student-leaders from across the school system who meet once a month to provide their perspective on how KCPS operates and to make sure that the needs of students are always being considered.

    That commitment to community engagement and leadership came with Francisco to Mexico. Uriangato is in the state of Guanajuato, which is a center of fabrics manufacturing and exports. Spotting an opportunity to combine his expertise in business and finance with this passion of community service, Francisco started helping local garment shops convert to making medical-grade masks and shipping the masks back to Kansas City and other places where demand is high.

    “There is a lot of prime material in stock around here, and the equipment and expertise,” Francisco said. “A lot of folks are starting to make masks and I’m helping them make connections to export them to the U.S. I’m also helping with their financial planning and investments. I see a lot of opportunities in this economy.”

    Connections are the key to life for Francisco Nunez. Where others might see a wall, he creates doorways that helps people reach their goals and thrive. COVID-19 is one more chance to improve.

    “We need to find hope in staying healthy and staying united,” Francisco said. “If we stay connected, we will stay strong.”