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The Kansas City Chiefs announced today that the club has signed a partnership agreement with Park University that will make the local 143-year old institution the club’s first-ever Official Higher Education Partner. “We are very excited to announce this partnership with Park University,” Chiefs President Mark Donovan said.

CHIEFS AND PARK UNIVERSITY

ANNOUNCE HIGHER EDUCATION PARTNERSHIP

 KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Kansas City Chiefs announced today that the club has signed a partnership agreement with Park University that will make the local 143-year old institution the club’s first-ever Official Higher Education Partner.

“We are very excited to announce this partnership with Park University,” Chiefs President Mark Donovan said. “In addition to being able to offer a valuable benefit to our Chiefs employees, we are especially excited to support and enhance Park University’s commitment to our military.”

Through the partnership, Chiefs employees will be offered a Tuition Assistance Program. Any eligible Chiefs employee, coach, or player will be qualified to receive reimbursement per any 12-month period for tuition while enrolled at Park University. The new partnership will offer students of Park numerous professional development opportunities, as executive members of the Chiefs organization will visit the campus for speaking engagements each quarter.

As part of the partnership, Park will become the presenting partner of the Chiefs Seasonal Assistant Program. The club will work with Park to create new concepts to further the program at the organization while giving Park students the opportunity to interview for a position in the Seasonal Assistant Program.

Park University has a long-standing tradition of honoring military members and supporting veterans. The university has 33 campuses on military installations throughout the country. Park will be this year’s presenting partner at the Chiefs Draft Day III event. This will be the third-year that the event will be hosted at a military base, and the first at Fort Riley. In addition, the Chiefs will recognize a Park student or graduate that is a veteran during the club’s annual Salute to Service game this season.

“I believe that Park University’s partnership with the Kansas City Chiefs will help increase public awareness of the University’s academic programs,” Park University’s Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Shane Smeed said. “We also look forward to Park students having opportunities to be involved with one of the most successful professional sports franchises in the country.”

Founded in 1875 in Parkville, Mo., Park University is a nonprofit, private institution that is a national leader in higher education. In 2000, Park achieved university status and currently serves 16,500 students annually at 41 campuses in 22 states, including Parkville, Independence, and Kansas City, Mo., and Lenexa, Kan., as well as an extensive online program. The University also serves the nation’s armed forces with 33 campuses on military installations across the country. Park University’s degree programs are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. For more information about Park University, visit www.park.edu.

Casi Joy Lankford ’12

“I loved my degree program and everyone at Park, which helped me apply myself and earn my bachelor’s degree in early childhood education."

Music, sports, music — that was Lankford’s world growing up in Smithville, Mo. “College was never on my mind,” she said. Lankford, who comes from a family of teachers, said something came over her in high school. “Despite my music dreams, I wanted to go to college, and when Park offered me a track scholarship, I decided to go for it,” she said.

“I loved my degree program and everyone at Park, which helped me apply myself and earn my bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. I even graduated with honors!” she said. “It took a lot of sacrifice and determination — it does for everyone — but I knew if I just stuck with it, I’d never regret it.”

While at Park, Lankford used her teaching skills working at the School of Rock, a music school in Parkville, Mo., where she taught voice, piano and guitar for seven years. She also developed new curriculum for Little Wing, the school’s program for 3 to 5 year olds.

Watching her perform on stage, it’s hard to imagine Lankford was ever afraid of public speaking. “I’d sing one song after another and wouldn’t stop and talk to the audience because I was terrified. A public speaking class at Park helped me overcome my fears,” she said. “Now I can’t seem to shut up on stage. I love talking to the crowd and I owe that to Park.”

After graduation, Lankford decided to get serious about music. “If I was ever going to make my dream a reality, I had to bite the bullet and go to Nashville,” she said. On New Year’s Day in 2015, Lankford packed her bags for the Music City. Since then, the vibrant songbird has opened for Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, Chaka Khan and others.

In February, Lankford’s career took a giant leap when she auditioned for Season 12 of NBC’s “The Voice,” singing LeAnn Rimes’ “Blue.” Her yodel caught the attention of all four celebrity judges who quickly turned their chairs around, signaling a thumbs-up vote for Lankford on the reality TV singing competition franchise.

Lankford released her debut album, “Love on Repeat,” and found time to make another dream come true. She married her high school friend-turned-fiancé, Bryan Lankford, on Oct. 14, 2017.

When she returns to visit family, Lankford wows the hometown crowd singing the National Anthem for the Kansas City Royals, Kansas City Chiefs and Sporting Kansas City.

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    Park University’s degree programs are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

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