Published November 14th, 2022 at 3:06 PM
Life was not always rosy for Manuel Medina growing up on the West Side of Kansas City, Missouri, but he could always find refuge, mentors and friends at the Guadalupe Centers.
It was through some of those relationships that he and some buddies, including his older brothers, formed the TCB Crew, which was short for Taking Care of Business. They formed a tight bond, based upon trust, as an alternative to the gang culture that drew people together through drugs and violence.
The TCB Crew was like a family.
“And, you know, as young kids in a neighborhood of poverty, you just want to be a part of a family that has your back,” Medina said.
It is with that spirit in mind that Medina has now reincarnated the TCB Crew, through a partnership with Guadalupe Centers, as a scholarship program for first-generation Latino college students. This is one way Medina can repay Guadalupe Centers for the tremendous influence it had on his life as a youth.
He also wants today’s West Side youth to see — in him — someone who looks like them and who has become professionally successful.
“When I was in school,” Medina said, “people would come and talk about their success stories, (but) they didn’t walk and talk like me, so I couldn’t relate to them.
“So just telling my story and how much the Guadalupe Center helped me will hopefully be able to connect to these kids. They’ll see that I walk and talk like them. And I think that carries a lot more weight when it comes to changing the mindset of these kids and wanting more in terms of furthering their education.”
Guadalupe Centers has served the West Side’s Hispanic community for more than 100 years, offering a range of services for all ages, including K-12 education, substance-abuse counseling and youth recreation.
Medina’s scholarship program folds into that multi-faceted mission as one more resource for Guadalupe Centers youth to reach their fullest potential — like he was able to do.
Medina was blessed with the opportunity to attend Bishop Miege High School, a Catholic school in Roeland Park, Kansas. It was no small task for his parents to afford the tuition, and TCB Crew also serves as a way for Medina to honor the sacrifice his parents made for his education.
Medina saw the stark contrast between kids in his neighborhood, who sought prosperity through crime or ended up in low-paying blue-collar jobs, and his Bishop Miege peers, who were gearing up for college.
Fortunately for Medina, he excelled at basketball, which earned him a scholarship to Penn Valley Metropolitan Community College. He worked at Guadalupe Centers in its after-school and summer programs while taking classes and playing basketball.
After earning his associate’s degree at Penn Valley, Medina received another basketball scholarship to further his education at Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas, where he earned a marketing degree.
He returned to his roots for a time at the Guadalupe Centers as a staff accountant for its charter schools, before embarking on a career in medical sales. With TCB Crew, Medina wants to instill in this younger generation the lesson he learned as a kid — that the gang culture is not the only way to fit in.
“We want to change the mindset of cool,” he said. “That’s what TCB Crew is all about.”
Aubrey Hughes is a reporter for the Kansas City Call. John McGrath is a video producer for Kansas City PBS.