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Alumni Profile

A fresh face

jermain reed

Jermaine Reed, BGS ’06, fills the 3rd District city council seat in Kansas City, Mo. He is the city's second-youngest city council member and the first to unseat an incumbent in more than 10 years. Photo by Rob Hill

His supporters called it an upset. The media called it unexpected. But when Jermaine Reed, a candidate for the 3rd District city council seat in Kansas City, Mo., realized he had won on election night, he called it “unbelievable.”

On March 22, 2011, the 26-year-old became the second-youngest candidate elected to a city council seat in the city of fountains. And for the first time in more than a decade of city council elections, Reed’s victory unseated an incumbent candidate.

“There were a lot of people who told me to wait my turn,” Reed says. “And I was determined not to listen to them.”

Even though he’s in the first term of his first elected position, Reed, BGS ’06, has experience listening to the people of Kansas City.

In high school, he hosted Generation Rap on Hot 103 Jamz (KPRS-FM). It’s a leadership program that aims to increase the number of high school students who go on to college.

“Radio has given me a platform for my voice and lessons in listening,” he says.

Reed is especially interested in helping young people get a voice.

His focus on youth drew the attention of President Barack Obama, who invited Reed and other young elected officials to meet with members of his administration at the White House in June 2011.

Being in the nation’s most recognizable residence was a far cry from Reed’s Kansas City childhood. Raised along with four siblings by a single mom, he was homeless at one point. Reed is the first in his family to graduate from college.

Reed now sees his success story as an example of overcoming challenging odds, and he wants to be a positive figure for the Kansas City youth who don’t have a strong male role model.

“I want them to think, ‘Yeah, I can do that. I can do anything,’ ” he says. “If that’s what they’re thinking, then I’m doing my job.” — David Earl