Former Shawnee Mission Alternative Education Program head reflects on students’ successes

Charles Jackard
Charles Jackard
For north Leawood resident Charles Jackard, the idea that any student should be “cast aside” is blasphemous. In fact, he says, many Shawnee Mission-area students who didn’t fit into traditional comprehensive programs have gone on to make huge positive contributions to their communities.

Take Colby Garrelts, for example. A student at the Shawnee Mission Alternative Education Program during Jackard’s time as principal at the school, Garrelts has gone on to found two of the Kansas City-area’s most well-respected new restaurants, Bluestem and Rye. And then there’s Dave Dalton, a student that Jackard describes as “one of the smartest kids I’d ever seen,” who went on to found the much-loved Hammerspace community workshop just east of Brookside in Kansas City, Mo.

Jackard collected the stories of such students in a book he published a couple of years ago, “Triumph Over Adversity‚ĶReal Stories From Real People,” which highlights experiences from his 20 years leading the district’s AEP program. The book also recounts Jackard’s own triumph over adversity. In 1985, he was a competitive tennis player in excellent health. But he woke up one morning and collapsed. He was eventually diagnosed with Gullian-Barre Syndrome. He spent months in the hospital, much of it paralyzed from the neck down. But with a commitment to rehabilitation, Jackard was able to return to work.

Jackard estimates that he worked with more than 1,000 students during his time at AEP, and still marvels at the interesting lives many of his students have gone on to. Many are business owners. Some have been competitive athletes. But not all are success stories. Jackard notes that one of the students he worked with is currently serving a life sentence in Florida for making meth.

“It’s not all perfect and pretty,” he said. “But so many of these students who were discarded by society have gone on to great things.”

Jackard has lived in Leawood for 16 years, and teaches graduate level courses in education management at Lindenwood University in the St. Louis area.