KCPS Pathfinder Earns International Honor

Dr. Luis Cordoba receives prestigious Ohtli Award from the Consulate of Mexico in Kansas City


Kansas City, Sept. 14, 2017: Kansas City Public Schools Chief Student Support and Intervention Officer Luis Cordoba has garnered one of the top honors given by the federal government of Mexico for his lifelong work to clear a path to success for all students, especially those from immigrant families.

Dr. Cordoba received the Ohtli Award during a ceremony hosted Tuesday evening, Sept. 12, by the Consulate of Mexico in Kansas City. The award, one of the most prestigious given by Mexico, recognizes those who have dedicated much of their lives and efforts to the welfare of the Mexican community abroad, opening roads and opportunities, according to Head Consul Alfonso Navarro-Bernachi.

“His is truly an awe-inspiring life story,” Mr. Navarro-Bernachi said while introducing Dr. Cordoba. “The results of his efforts are indisputable.”

The Consul went on to describe how Dr. Cordoba was born to a working-class family in Mexico who moved to a deeply segregated Los Angeles in the 1960s, where he became a naturalized American. With a focus on education and hard work, Dr. Cordoba overcame enormous obstacles to join the California Highway Patrol, where he excelled at drug interdiction and anti-gang efforts.

In 1988, Dr. Cordoba moved to Missouri and continued his work with high-risk youth and gang members. He has utilized his bilingual skills to help overcome social degradation in Latino communities. Cordoba is an international and Missouri-certified Substance Abuse Counselor II with a Bachelor’s degree in Addictions counseling from Ottawa University in Kansas. He is also licensed as a drug and alcohol counselor in the state of Kansas.

Cordoba completed his Doctoral degree in Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and holds a Master’s degree in Elementary and Secondary Education from Kansas State University with a multicultural emphasis in urban settings.

Cordoba is a former member of the Missouri Governor’s Commission on Hispanic Affairs. He taught multicultural studies as an adjunct professor at the University of Central Missouri, and served as a national consultant on the Safe Schools Healthy Student Initiative, managing 10 major public schools in a 10-state region area.

Dr. Cordoba has also served on many national organizations such as the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center, Boston, Mass.; State Justice Institute-Office of Juvenile Programs; Juvenile Drug Court Focus Group, American University, Washington, D.C.; and served in a consultant capacity for the Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention, Washington, D.C.

Since joining the leadership team at KCPS, he has spearheaded efforts to build a compassionate system of support and guidance for students who face difficulties getting to school and succeeding in class.

Over the last 18 months, Dr. Cordoba and his team have worked closely with Consulate staff to develop programs that serve Mexican nationals and other Latinos who have chosen to enroll their children in KCPS. That includes the Plaza Comunitaria, which provides English-language and other classes for Spanish-speaking immigrant parents in the school system.

After accepting the award, Dr. Cordoba talked about how his experiences as an immigrant child shaped his mission in life.

“Others who did not share the same skin pigmentation, language, traditions or culture as the Mexicanos would participate in relentless immigrant-bashing attacks. I was that immigrant child,” he said. “These life experiences and challenges during my earlier years have instilled the passion, advocacy, and dedication to provide that voice for those who believe that they do not have one.”

KCPS Superintendent Mark Bedell, Board of Directors Sub-District 3 member John Fierro, Chief Communications and Community Engagement Officer Natalie Allen and James Elementary School Secretary Nayeli Murillo were at the event to help celebrate Dr. Cordoba’s award. Family Support Specialist Eva Santiago translated his speech into Spanish.

The Ohtli Award, which was founded in 1996, takes its name from the indigenous Nahuatl word for, “the one who opens the gap.” In his remarks, Dr. Cordoba talked about the invaluable contributions of immigrants in the U.S. and stressed that the work of clearing a path to success for all students continues.

“We must continue to promote a welcoming environment in our schools, workforce, and community in everything that we do, which includes hiring highly skilled bilingual Latinos to form positive and caring relationships with our Spanish-speaking communities here in Kansas City, Missouri,” he said. “I will continue to create pathways and be the voice of mi familia.”

View the complete Ohtli Award ceremony below: