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UCM Alumna Cynthia Johnson Named Keynote Speaker for 2016 UCM Freedom Scholarship Dinner

By Mike Greife, January 13, 2016

Cynthia JohnsonWARRENSBURG, MO – Kansas City educator and nationally recognized speaker and consultant Cynthia “Mama J” Johnson will be the keynote speaker for the University of Central Missouri’s annual Freedom Scholarship Dinner, planned for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016, in the Elliott Student Union ballroom. The event is the highlight of the university’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration, “Equality and Education Still Matter.”

The event also will honor the spring 2015 recipients of UCM’s Dr. Martin Luther King Freedom Scholarships. The scholarships, which are supported through the UCM Alumni Foundation with proceeds from the Freedom Scholarship Dinner, are awarded each spring to students who will attend UCM in the fall. Student to be honored are Aimee Ekstrom, Elexus Edwards, Mathew Martinez, Lindsay King and Katherine Kim.

A UCM alumna, Johnson also is a Warrensburg native, the daughter of the late Albert Johnson and the late Dorothy Johnson, a longtime UCM employee. Cynthia Johnson received her Bachelor of Science in Education degree in speech, theatre and special education and Master of Science in Education degree in secondary education from UCM. She received her Doctor of Education degree in Education Leadership from Baker University.

Johnson will bring her “Message of Hope” to the event, sharing her experiences as a child who struggled with a speech impediment, learning disabilities and difficulty reading. She credits her faith, hope and determination with helping her succeed as an educator. She draws on her experiences as an educator, advocate, researcher, author, vocalist and entrepreneur to help other dispel myths about poor and minority youth by empowering students and adults to achieve their highest potential.

While a student at UCM, Johnson was the first inductee into the Podium of Honor as a member of the Talking Mules speech and debate squad for earning the Outstanding Collegiate Competitor Award. Upon graduation from UCM, she spent 10 years as a classroom teacher prior to her career in education administration as an assistant high school principal for two years and a middle school principal for 11 years. She then became a consultant for the National Middle School Association before joining the staff of the University of Missouri-Kansas City as director of alternative teacher certification.

In addition to teaching as adjunct faculty, Johnson also has served UCM as a member of the College of Education Advisory Council, Charter School Renewal Committee and DESE Leadership Revision Committee. She served on the board of directors of the Missouri Staff Development Council and the Graduate Program Advisory Committee for UMKC.

Tickets for the Freedom Scholarship Dinner are from the UCM Office of Mentoring, Advocacy and Peer Support, Dockery 212, or by calling 660-543-4156. Tickets also will be available through the Warrensburg Chamber of Commerce, 100 South Holden St. Individual tickets for the dinner may be purchased at the gold level for $100, the silver level for $75, or the bronze level for $50. Sponsored tables of eight also are available for purchase at the gold, silver and bronze levels.

The Freedom Scholarship Dinner has funded 185 scholarships totaling more than $169,000 since its inception in 1998.

Additional events for the 2016 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration include Greater Warrensburg Area Chamber of Commerce Community Service Award luncheon; the Community Worship and Praise Service; the Issues Forum; the MLK Day of Service; and the Student Volunteer Fair and Community Service Blood Drive and Bone Marrow registry.

For more information about the UCM 2016 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration, visit


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