Urban Ranger Corps

The Urban Ranger Corps was founded in July 2003 by the Rev. John Wandless while he was pastor of St. Louis Catholic Church, an inner Kansas City parish (2001 – 2006).

The corporation began operations in June 2005 launching the "Urban Ranger" program, a nine-weeks summer work experience and community service program for at-risk youths (14-18).

In summer 2009, the program was expanded by adding a career planning component which (a) helps each ranger develop an Individual Career Plan (ICP) for post-high school employment, technical training or admission to college and (b) provides an ICP Manager/Coach to help rangers implement their ICPs.

PeaceWorks, KC, has a history of supporting programs that empower young people to solve problems creatively. In 2010, the PeaceWorks Board decided to forge a relationship with the Urban Ranger Corps. PeaceWorks provided a lunch during the summer and sponsored small-groups sessions for Rangers with conflict resolution consultants. The Rangers enthusiastically participated in the discussions and came to PeaceWorks' annual UNplaza Art Fair, where they shared information about the Corps with fair-goers. PeaceWorks looks forward to expanding its collaboration with the Rangers.

The Urban Ranger Corps (URC) is an exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) and classified as a "public charity" under section 509(a)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Read more at the Urban Ranger Corps website.

PeaceWorks scholar meets Urban Ranger Corps youngsters

Each summer, PeaceWorks funds conflict resolution training for youth in the Urban Ranger Corps in KC, MO, and provides breakfast on the training days. Beth Rogers, an Avila University PeaceWorks scholar (receiving funds for peace studies), offers this reflection.

I had the opportunity of attending two Urban Ranger Corps meetings. The young men assisted in setting up the breakfast that was provided for them; they were kind and extremely appreciative. The directors of the Urban Ranger Corps made sure that the boys used good manners and were polite. This organization focuses on working with male youth ages 14-17. Middle-school young men ages 12-13 are allowed to participate in Urban Rangers, but only for two weeks. Team members of Urban Rangers stay in contact with the older youth during the school year and make sure they maintain a sufficient GPA and stay out of trouble. A college scholarship is awarded to two students each year.

Rangers listen to Ben Suber before beginning conflict resolution training. —Photo by Jane Stoever

These young men go out and work within the community Monday through Thursday, for which they receive payment, and on Fridays they have speakers and mentors that come in and speak with them; they also go through conflict resolution training. On my first day providing breakfast, the boys had a great speaker, a gentleman who ran a basketball organization. He spoke to the boys on how to avoid conflict and how to grow within their community. He offered his resources if they were interested in basketball.

My second day with the Rangers, they were getting ready to go canoeing down a river close to the Lake of the Ozarks. They were really excited because many of them had not been out of Kansas City. They were leaving on a Monday and coming back Thursday. The boys had to pack light, because whatever they took had to fit in the canoe. They would canoe down the river during the day and camp out next to the river at night. I had an opportunity later to catch up with Ben Suber, the Rangers’ summer program coordinator, and he said they had an amazing time and that the boys did great.

Urban Ranger Corps in KC—Peace right here!

PeaceWorks-KC supports the efforts of the Urban Ranger Corps of Kansas City to help prepare at-risk inner-city youth for responsible and productive futures. The program features a disciplined work experience and service in the community, leadership development, and individualized planning for the youngsters’ careers.

The corps currently serves 80 Senior Rangers of high-school age and 72 Junior Rangers in the 7th or 8th grade.  Ninety-eight percent of the Rangers are young African-American men living in the target zip codes of 64110, 64127, 64128, 64130, and 64132.

Senior Rangers spend seven weeks during the summer getting work experience while doing community service projects and receive a biweekly stipend.  They also participate in educational sessions on financial management, peer pressure, self-esteem, conflict resolution, and other areas.  PeaceWorks financially supports staffing and lunch for two sessions on conflict resolution.  During the school year, Rangers commit to 20 community service hours.  Historically, 89 percent of Senior Rangers in their final year of high school have graduated on schedule, compared with 57 percent of Kansas City, Mo., public school enrollees overall.

Junior Rangers spend two weeks during the summer in activities similar to those of the Senior Rangers, with added education on what it takes to get to high school and anti-bullying, and some interaction with the Senior Rangers.  During the school year they commit to 10 community service hours.

Check out the Urban Ranger Corps at www.urckc.org.  It is a worthy organization to support, either financially or as a tutor, mentor, serving on a committee, proposing community service projects, sharing a hobby, etc.  Be a positive force for peace right here in Kansas City!

Photos courtesy of Urban Ranger Corps.

Urban Rangers dip into conflict resolution

Posted August 14, 2014

Photos by Don Ivans.

Early morning at a midtown KC community center. Enter 45 guys, age 14-18. Wild hair. Laughter. Enter breakfast. The boys eat, sprawled on the floor, buddies. Enter a speaker, male, middle-aged, well-dressed.

“Draw a picture of conflict,” says the speaker. Pause.

“What’ve you got?” Somebody fighting. Two bald-headed girls fighting. Somebody stepping on somebody else’s shoe. Somebody shooting somebody else. A guy with a baseball bat.

“Conflict can be as simple as someone stepping on your shoe, or it can escalate to a gun fight,” says the speaker. The guys agree.

“How many of you know somebody in prison?” Many hands up. The boys talk with each other even though the speaker’s talking.

“How many of you know somebody who’s been in prison a year?” Many hands up.

“Five years?” Many hands.

“Ten years?” Not so many hands.

“Twenty years? I was in for 20 years.” No hands, but sudden silence. 

“I was in a situation with conflict,” says the speaker. “The choices I made in running with certain people—my ‘friends’—got me locked up for 20 years. I got out three years ago. I made bad choices. Now I make better choices. In small groups, we’ll talk about choices, what we can do in conflict, options we have. We’ll talk about finding out: Who are you? What is your core? What are your values?”

Speaker Greg Winship, of the Center for Conflict Resolution, based in Independence, thus set the stage for 45 almost-young-men to ponder their futures, share their hopes. The PeaceWorks connection: PeaceWorks brings in the breakfast and covers the cost of the center’s two summer sessions with the boys. The youngsters wrestled with conflict resolution in small groups, each led by a trained facilitator.

How much do the boys need these sessions? Out of 45, in a short survey, only six said they’d never experienced violence. Only one said he’d never seen violence.

The youngsters, all in the Urban Ranger Corps, may return to the Corps summer program from year to year as long as they keep their grades up in the school year, take Corps-provided tutoring if needed, and do 20 hours of community service. The summer activities include values training and services for midtown residents.

Greg said to the 45 Rangers, “You’re in a program about building your character. How does it do that?” Answers: “Persistence” and “showing us how to be a leader.” Greg asked, “How does it show you that?” Answers: “It helps you take control” and “it helps you have discipline.”

Judy Heath, of the Center for Conflict Resolution, talked with this reporter about the reticence of some Rangers in the small groups. “When you’ve been traumatized over and over,” she said, “it’s hard to be vulnerable and share” about conflict and options for resolving it.

The youngsters in the program now number about 70, with some engaged in activities other than the conflict resolution sessions. Larry Lillis, the Corps director of operations, says, “The conflict resolution sessions are part and parcel of our work with the Rangers. These young people are in high-risk homes, schools, neighborhoods. Certain young men with issues they’re working on—the Urban Ranger Corps turns the corner for them.”

Some 200-300 youth apply for the Corps each year. PeaceWorks recently expanded its support from one to two conflict resolution sessions each summer, with funding from membership contributions.

Peace begins at home.

—By Jane Stoever of PeaceWorks

Dear Friends,

I am sometimes asked, "What happens to those who don't make it?" "What happens to the 150 or so applicants each year who are not enrolled as Urban Rangers due to limited funds, and to those who don't complete their first 8-weeks Summer Session?"

Urban Ranger applicants every June are rising sophomores, living in high risk-factor Kansas City neighborhoods with thousands of vacant houses; 20 drive-by shooting per month (on average); tragically high unemployment; and a school district with an estimated 48 percent dropout rate. All of them happen to be African Americans males.

For every 100 "who don't make it," 50 will drop out of high school and of those:

  • 35 will be unemployed,
  • 15 will be employed but probably will never have an income sufficient to support a family, and
  • 12 of the 50 will be incarcerated or otherwise institutionalized on an average day.

The estimated cost to the taxpayer over the working life of a dropout is $292,000; for 50 the cost is $14,600,000.

For every 100 applicants "who do make it" as Urban Rangers:

  • 95 avoid involvement with the juvenile and criminal justice systems.
  • 90 graduate from high school.
  • 85 graduate go on to college, skill training, apprenticeships, military service or a decent job.

Friends, your volunteer, financial, and prayerful support help make this happen.


Fr. John, President
Urban Ranger Corps

Save the Date for Trivia Night!

Think you and your friends know more than anyone else?

Can you answer the following questions:

  • The Mississippi River Delta is in which state?
  • Which movie won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1993?
Come learn the answers and compete at the Urban Ranger Corp's first Trivia Night.

Join us on Saturday, April 28th, at St. Peter's Church, 815 E. Meyer Boulevard, Kansas City, MO (McKay Center). Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the first trivia question will be asked at 7 p.m. The cost is $25 per person or $100 for a table of 8. We'll provide the snacks, soda and water. You are invited to bring your own food and alcohol.

Call your family and friends and get your team ready to become the FIRST URC Trivia Champs. Come have fun, impress others with your trivia knowledge, and help support the Urban Ranger Corps.

To learn the answers to our questions, and to print out the Registration Form, click here.

Urban Ranger Corps holds first 'Urban Rendezvous'

By Scarlett Swall

PeaceWorks began supporting the Urban Ranger Corps, a community service program for at-risk teens, during the last year. To thank us, the Corps invited several PeaceWorks Board members as special guests to its first annual "Urban Rendezvous" dinner Oct. 29, held at the Intercontinental Hotel.

Urban Ranger DeVonte

The purpose of the dinner was to recognize and raise money for the Urban Ranger Corps, founded in 2003 in central Kansas City by the Rev. John Wandless. The event certainly fulfilled its mission. About 400 people attended the gala, with Chris Hernandez, a reporter for NBC Action News, serving as master of ceremonies. The evening began with a reception and a silent auction (a live auction was held later in the evening). Following dinner, Wandless reported on the state of the Urban Ranger Corps.

He began by saying there was a difference between charity and justice. "Charity money intervenes after the problem. Justice money goes to prevention." The work of the Urban Ranger Corps is about prevention. The mission of the Corps is to help prepare at-risk inner-city youth (ages 14-18) for wholesome, responsible and productive futures. This past summer, 124 youngsters applied, but funding was available for only 36 positions. With some additional help, Wandless hopes to enroll 100 Rangers in next summer's program. And, with a lot more help, he said, "Imagine the impact that 1,000 Rangers would have on our youth, our schools and our community's quality of life."

Urban Ranger Jackie

The highlight of the evening was when Rangers Jackie Johnson, Kalib Gilmore, Raymond Banks and Devonte Peoples, interviewed by Chris Hernandez, shared their personal stories and their Corps experiences. Jackie, a first-year Ranger, said the summer program taught him "to respect myself and others. And that I can complete anything that I want." Kalib, 18 years old and a second-year Ranger, received at the August graduation ceremonies the highest recognition of Ranger achievement—the Leadership Award. He said this program has taught him to grow up and become his own man. Raymond graduated from Westport High School in May 2009 and attends Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Mo. He was elected president of Missouri Valley's Student Government Association for 2010-11. Raymond said, "I am proud to be called an Urban Ranger. I hope I can be an example for future Rangers to let them know there is a 'place' for them in their community." Devonte, a second-year Ranger, said the leadership skills he learned within the Urban Rangers have been an asset in his growth. Devonte added, "I was always respectful, but I learned how to be a leader. Now, I'm teaching the new Rangers."

Urban Ranger Raymond

A 2009 Gallup Poll/America's Promise Index reported that 50 percent of Kansas City's students had no "hope," and 37 percent reported they were not "thriving." This hopeless vision of the future is leading teenagers to engage in at-risk behaviors destroying their lives and the life of their community, said a presenter at the dinner, suggesting that as members of this community, we have an opportunity to make a difference.

A plea went out asking those in attendance to help sponsor a Ranger for $2,400. A donation of $300 would provide an opportunity for a young man to have a travel experience.

I was honored to be at this dinner with PeaceWorks Board member Mary Bean, representing PeaceWorks and our involvement with this fine program for at-risk youth.

Urban Ranger Kalib

Last summer, I heard excerpts from a speech given by a young lady graduating from Andre Agassi's Las Vegas school for at-risk youth. She stated that she was able to attend this school because of her "at-risk" status. Having been given the opportunity to attend this school, she still was labeled "at-risk." Her response: "At-risk to become the first member of my family to graduate from college, at-risk to become an outstanding leader, at-risk to be a productive member of society, at-risk to become someone able to give back to her community."

The Urban Ranger Corps provides "at-risk" youth from our community the opportunity to...


Scarlett Swall is the secretary of the PeaceWorks, Kansas City, Board of Directors.



Saving lives takes community support

By Patti Nelson

PeaceWorks has been acting locally to promote peace among the youth of Kansas City for many years. We are excited to announce our support of the Urban Ranger Corps (URC), a non- profit 501(c)3 organization.

The URC serves at-risk inner-city youth who might otherwise be recruited by gangs or spend their summer on the street. This nine week summer work experience helps young men, ages 14 to 18, manifest leadership skills, teamwork, self-empowerment, and reliability through rigorous exercise and strict discipline. The teens paint houses, complete yard work and provide light carpentry for the elderly and single mothers to earn a small stipend. They also work on the trails and cabins at a local park and end the summer with a three day canoe adventure. Unfortunately, only 36 out of 125 applicants can be ac-cepted because of funding limits. Of those, 29 young men made it through this summer’s program. With the support of the community, the program hopes to expand to reach a wider section of KC's youth.

Urban Rangers prepare a home for painting

PeaceWorks organized and paid for the URC to work with the Community Mediation Center of Independence, Mo., this summer. The teens were introduced to non-violent communication, based on the work of Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D. The youth had discussions about the effects of violence and through role-playing they learned to act mindfully with coherence and empathy rather than to react with the “fight or flight” response. Father John Wandless, the founder of URC, was so impressed with the youths’ enthusiasm as they interacted with the mediators, Rev. Lori Woodley and Diane Kyser, that he said he hopes to have extended sessions in the future. “This could save lives,” he said. We at PeaceWorks agree.

Another way PeaceWorks helped this summer was to purchase and make a healthy lunch for 45 young men and staff. Carol Johnson, one of the coordinators at URC, told me, “They loved that lunch!”

The Urban Ranger Corps, along with the new Compassionate Communication training provided by PeaceWorks, is planting a seed of hope and broadening the horizons of these deserving young men. The help of the entire community is needed to expand this wonderful program.


Patti Nelson is vice chair of the PeaceWorks Board.

URC graduates gather at J.C. Nichols Fountain