2015 COMBAT Awards


Albert Riederer Excellence In Public Service Award: Kansas City Councilwoman Jolie Justus 
Start Right Stay Right Award: Blue Springs DARE Officer Charles Waites and Blue Springs elementary teacher Gina Oles (not pictured)
New Beginnings Award: Becky Cooley
Influential Youth Award: Brianna Jackson
Step Up Award: Lee's Summit CARES (L-R) Jan Nelson, Rachel Nelson-Segobia, Susan Coffman and Monica Meeks.
Parenting Award: Yolonda Carson, Niles Home For Children Vice President of Treatment

Through the programs it supports, the COMBAT program has helped transform neighborhoods and save lives.

"COMBAT works!" declared Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders as he opened the 2015 COMBAT Awards ceremony, held October 8 in Truman Forum Auditorium at the Plaza Library.

Officials from all around the world, he stressed, have traveled to Jackson County to learn about COMBAT's anti-drug and anti-violence initiatives. Their hope is to replicate COMBAT's success in their own communities.

"Tonight we are honoring the people behind the program," Sanders said. "Ultimately, they are the ones who are writing COMBAT's success story."


Sanders and Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker co-hosted the awards ceremony. 

"Tonight shows some of the many ways that COMBAT helps and cares for our community," Peters Baker said. "It's been doing so for so long that it's easy to take it for granted. Let's not do that."

New Beginnings Award
Becky Cooley

Cooley's struggles -- being expelled from school, repeated trips in and out of drug treatment, losing custody of her son while pregnant with her second child -- reminded Sanders of a Japanese proverb: "Fall seven times, stand up eight."

After entering the COMBAT-supported program at Amethyst Place, Cooley is now standing tall. She earned a GED, learned parenting skills and is now in her fifth semester at Penn Valley Community College. She has earned a full-ride Bloch scholarship to attend Penn Valley and the University of Missouri-Kansas City. (There were more than 200 applicants.)

Furthermore, she regained custody of her son. This November 2 she will celebrate three years of sobriety with both of her children.

Parenting Award
Yolanda Carson
Niles Home For Children

As the Vice President of Treatment at the Niles Home, Carson has developed the Parent Empowerment Program. The eight-week course concentrates on educating parents about child-rearing techniques and approximately 60 parents per year graduate from the program.

Many of the parents participating in the Empowerment Program have children in the Niles Home treatment program. These parents are taught about mental, emotional and behavioral issues. Carson addresses many of the underlying causes of child abuse in her teachings.

Step Up Award
Lee's Summit CARES

Lee's Summit CARES, a non-profit organization formed to "combat" substance abuse and promote youth safety, has teamed up with the Lee's Summit Police Department to introduce the Striving to Reduce Youth Violence Everything (STRYVE) program. STRYVE, a national initiative developed by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, focuses on reducing the risk factors that can lead to violence in schools and in the home.

Lee's Summit CARES and Lee's Summit police use crime data to identify neighborhoods that most need STRYVE preventive services, which include connecting families with their local schools and social service agencies. 

Influential Youth Award
Brianna Jackson

Brianna, a student at Northeast High School in 2014-15, was missing a lot of her classes -- and her grades reflected her many absences. Family issues resulted in her being placed in foster care. Then she began to participate in the Success Court program.

Her commitment to the program resulted in a dynamic turnaround. Her school attendance jumped from 80 percent to 99; her GPA rose from 2.57 to second in her class.

Furthermore, Brianna urged other youths in the program to improve with her, offering them her full support.

Start Right Stay Right Award
Charles Waites & Gina Oles

Charles Waites, a Blue Springs Police officer since 1971, has given more than 10,000 classroom presentations, impacting more than 15,000 students since becoming a DARE officer in 1999. He shared this award with a Blue Springs elementary teacher he had nominated, Gina Oles. 

Waites pointed out that Oles makes his job easier through fully supporting the DARE program and urging her students to remain drug-free.  

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker congratulates Influential Youth Award winner Brianna Jackson.

County Executive Mike Sanders shares a laugh with New Beginnings Award winner Becky Cooley as he talks about the dramatic turnaround in her life.

Jolie Justus, a Kansas City Councilwoman, accepts the Albert Riederer Excellence In Public Service Award.

Albert Riederer Excellence In Public Service
Jolie Justus, Kansas City Councilwoman (4th District)

Jolie Justus said she was honored to receive the award bearing the name of the Jackson County Prosecutor who urged voters to first support an anti-drug tax -- the tax that led to the COMBAT program.

Al Riederer developed the innovative Jackson County Drug Court, putting an emphasis on treating drug addicts rather than imprisoning them, and he introduced many of the key initiatives that would set COMBAT on a path to success that now stretches back more than a quarter of a century.

"He dedicated his life to public service," County Executive Mike Sanders said. "He was a man of character and courage. he was one of our community's heroes."

In presenting the Albert Riederer Award to Justus, a former Missouri State Senator, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker noted, "She has worked tirelessly for nearly two decades as a champion for social and economic justice in Missouri.... She led the effort to reform Missouri's criminal justice system, spur neighborhood development and improve the lives of women, children and working families."

In addition to her duties as a Kansas City Councilwoman, Justus oversees one of the nation's best pro bono programs for the law firm of Shook, Hardy & Bacon. She volunteers for several community organizations, including Crittenton Children's Center, Truman Medical Center, the Women's Public Service Network, PROMO and Operation Breakthrough.