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ML King Celebration Includes Recognition for Knob Noster High School Student, Warrensburg/WAFB Family for Community Service

By Jeff Murphy, January 12, 2023


Sydney Burden, a Knob Noster High School student, and the Brandon and Monica Mitcheltree family, Warrensburg, were honored on Jan. 11 with Community Service Awards presented by the Warrensburg Chamber of Commerce in cooperation with the University of Central Missouri. Participating in the awards ceremony were, from left, Suzanne Taylor, Chamber executive director; Sydney Burden; Grace Mitcheltree; Leam Mitcheltree; Brandon and Monica Mitcheltree; Dr. Lover Chancler, director of the UCM Center for Multiculturalism and Inclusivity; and Suzy Latare, Chamber board chair.

WARRENSBURG, MO – The 2023 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Networking Lunch and Community Service Awards program honored an area high school student and a local family who are making a difference in local schools and the communities they serve through exceptional volunteerism.

The annual awards ceremony took place Jan. 11 at the First United Methodist Church Family Life Center and was hosted by the Warrensburg Chamber of Commerce in cooperation with the University of Central Missouri. This event was part of the community-wide celebration, “Living the Dream and Still Marching,” an observance that includes a number of activities this month in Warrensburg and at UCM, as well as at the Missouri Innovation Campus in Lee’s Summit. Activities are being pressented as the nation observes the 60th anniversary of the freedom march Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led at the nation’s capital.

Since 1999, the Warrensburg Chamber of Commerce has made possible an awards program for individuals who exemplify humanitarianism, leadership and selfless service to be recognized during a luncheon jointly presented by the Chamber and the UCM’s Center for Multiculturalism and Inclusivity. With the exception of 2021, this program since 2016 has included recognition for a local high school student and an individual (or group) who has served the community. Selections are based on nominations.

The 2023 High School Community Service Award was presented to Sydney Burden, a junior at Knob Noster High School. Dr. Lover Chancler, director of the Center for Multiculturalism and Inclusivity at UCM, announced the award. She noted that one of Burden’s teachers who nominated her described her as an exemplary student and praised her humanitarianism, service and leadership through her involvement with the National Honor Society, where she is a committee leader. The nominator said, in classroom discussions Burden often advocates for others with regard to humanitarian causes. She is balanced in her views, and has an open mind, but is passionate about her beliefs. When discussing issues such as the death penalty, incarceration, and mental health services, for example, she always offers empathetic points of view about treating people with humanity. She puts her words into action as a member of NHS, where she volunteered to be the composting committee leader. In this capacity, she has earned the trust of NHS officers for her willingness to serve and accept responsibility. She has taken this role seriously, and has already revamped the committee, working to improve Knob Noster by donating her time to clean the city’s composting site in preparation for next spring.
Chancler  presented the Community Service Award to the Brandon and Monica Mitcheltree family. Although they live in Warrensburg, they are a military family and were also recognized for their service at Whiteman Air Force Base, where Brandon Mitcheltree serves. He and Monica sit on many boards and hold various positions on local committees, and their daughter, Grace, a high school junior, is following their lead. She is the first chair in band and active in the Warrensburg Junior ROTC program. Leam Mitcheltree, a fourth grader, volunteers with Warrensburg Main Street and helps out wherever he can. The nomination for the family noted that the Mitcheltrees welcome opportunities to volunteer, they care about the community and making it thrive. As parents, the couple has instilled the importance of volunteerism and showing up for others within their children. 

In addition to these award presentations, individuals attending the event heard guest remarks by Erica Collins, a longtime Warrensburg resident who is active in the local community and involved in social work. Her many accolades include receiving the Humanitarian Award presented by the Chamber in 2012 as part of the annual MLK celebration.

Other upcoming activities honoring King include the signature event, the MLK Freedom Scholarship Fundraiser planned for Tuesday, Jan. 17 at UCM. This event takes place in the Sandra Temple Elliott Ballroom of the Elliott Student Union. Doors open at 6 p,m. and the fundraiser begins at 6:30 p.m. Participants have an opportunity to support Freedom Scholarships for undergraduate students while enjoying vocal and dance performances and works of art created by members of the UCM and local communities. These artistic works are inspired by the freedom march on Washington, D.C., and are in addition to remarks from the 2022 Freedom Scholarship winners. Heavy hors d’oeuvres will be served, and casual attire is suggested. Learn more at

Earlier this semester, the Center for Multiculturalism and Inclusivity issued a Call for Artists that encouraged entries in various forms of artistic expression – spoken word, movement, visual arts, music and more – that connect to this year’s theme.  Artistic entries will also be available at the MLK Celebration at the Missouri Innovation Campus, 1101 Innovation Parkway, Lee’s Summit, at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 20. This event features faculty and student award presentations and the presentation of the MLK Art Contest Award to a student enrolled in the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District. Learn more by contacting Rick Smetana, director of UCM Lee-Summit Operations, at

From 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 15, all interested individuals are invited to enjoy an afternoon of music and the expression of faith during the Community Praise and Worship Service. The service will take place at Shiloh Baptist Church, 212 N. Main St., Warrensburg.  

Students who are interested in volunteering their assistance with a number of Warrensburg organizations are encouraged to meet with community partners during the Volunteer Fair, 11 a.m. to  1 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 17 at the Elliott Student Union atrium. Anyone who has questions should email
UCM’s Center for Multiculturalism and Inclusivity will present “March Your Talk: What Does Inclusivity Look Like Today?” on Tuesday, Jan. 17. This free presentation takes place from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. at Elliott Student Union Room 229. Contact Esosa Akele at for more information.

Day of Service events are planned for both the Warrensburg campus and at the Missouri Innovation Campus in Lee’s Summit. UCM students in Warrensburg will have the opportunity to participate in a variety of service projects to help local and surrounding communities from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19. A similar opportunity awaits students at the MIC from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, Jan. 20. Individuals who want to know more about Day of Service activities in Warrensburg should email For more information about MLK Day of Service in Lee’s Summit, email 

Individuals who have additional questions about the MLK Celebration are encouraged to call Dr. Lover Chancler at 660-543-8049 or email   


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