Throughout her time as a school counselor at Raytown Middle School, Cynthia Gerdes has been an advocate for her students. She contacts parents on a regular basis, keeping the communication lines open between home and school. She informs parents of issues involving their children. She celebrates their successes. She motivates kids to see the value in attending school. She recognizes them when they make efforts to get there. And when a student doesn’t show up for school, Gerdes gets to the bottom of it, even making home visits. In essence, she fights for her students.
But now, Gerdes is fighting a different battle.
Diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in 2018, Gerdes is still thinking about her students as she continues the fight for her life.
“Life knocks you down at times, but you have to keep getting up,” said Gerdes, whose four children are pictured above. It’s the same message of perseverance she’s conveyed to her students from the start. It’s also the same message she shares with her athletes through her role as a cross country coach.
“Keep trying,” she says. “You may not succeed the first time, but don’t give up.”
Originally from St. Louis, Gerdes recalled always loving school but struggling through the middle school years. With a desire to help students through the emotions and challenges that come with the pivotal age, Gerdes pursued an education specialist degree from UMKC with an emphasis in school counseling. Already having earned her master’s degree in marriage and family therapy/counseling from the University of Missouri, Saint Louis, Gerdes put her skills to work, accepting the position of school counselor at Raytown Middle School in 2010.
With a passion for bringing out the best in her students and helping them learn to overcome obstacles, Gerdes quickly built a reputation of excellence, was named Middle School Counselor of the Year for the Raytown School District by the Greater Kansas City School Counselors Association in 2017. Despite not being a teacher, she also was recognized as the 2017-18 Exemplary Teacher of the Year at Raytown Middle, simply because she displayed all of the characteristics of the award.
“Cynthia is an incredibly inspiring woman,” said Christina Lively, Department Vice Presidents of Marketing and Communications for Blue KC. “She’s helped countless students overcome the challenges of school and life during her time at Raytown Middle School, and she’s helping them now in a much different way, serving as an inspiration and example of perseverance. We wish her all the best and are proud to honor her as a Blue KC Sporting Samaritan.”
For her excellence as a counselor and as a coach, Gerdes was recognized on the pitch prior to the Sporting KC game against Montreal on March 30, 2019. Remaining at home to continue her fight against cancer, Gerdes was represented by Kyle and Gerdes’ other son, Aaron, who accepted the Blue KC Sporting Samaritan honor on her behalf.
“She is optimistic yet forward individual,” said Gerdes’ son Kyle. “Her no-nonsense attitude helps her coach her students to excel and pass each grade, and helps them get over emotional issues they face in day-to-day life.”
With Blue KC Sporting Samaritans being honored monthly at Children’s Mercy Park during Sporting home games throughout the season, fans are encouraged to nominate students and teachers like Cynthia who are making a positive impact on their schools and in their communities. To nominate, visit SportingKC.com/BlueKC.