Seizing opportunities for change Tenacious, determined and unstoppable. Easily the best three words to describe Alissia Canady,’08, who, over the past two decades, shifted her hard-charging work ethic into overdrive to achieve big dreams. Canady was elected to serve a four-year term on the city council for the Kansas City, Mo., 5th District in June 2015. She’s also an accomplished attorney. But her route to law and public service wasn’t exactly part of a master plan. She just followed her uncanny ability to seize opportunities and deploy her incredible work ethic. “I didn’t always see the possibilities for myself,” Canady said. “I just knew I wanted something better and was willing to work hard for it.” Someone who “works hard” is an understated description of Canady who worked full-time and started two businesses while completing her bachelor’s degree in management/finance. Beginning her degree in 2000, Canady graduated eight years later — the first in her immediate family to graduate college — during which time she opened a hair salon, became a licensed realtor and worked full-time as a recovery specialist for Wells Fargo. Education is the key “People would often compliment my work ethic and offer suggestions of opportunities that I had never considered,” she said. “I’ve always looked for the next rung on the ladder and I’ve always done everything I could to reach it. But I knew that without education, my opportunities would be limited. I knew education was the key.” Canady enrolled at Park while balancing the challenges of a hectic life with grit, perseverance and little sleep. She said the University enabled her to complete her undergraduate degree because of its flexible schedule and a convenient campus center just around the corner from her job in downtown Kansas City, Mo. “I didn’t attend consistently during those eight years. I would start and stop; the recurring eight-week terms permitted breaks to address issues as life happened,” she said. “Park was perfect for someone like me who
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wanted an education, but also needed to work and manage a demanding lifestyle during the process.” While at Park, Canady said she benefited from personal relationships with her professors and advisers who instilled in her a belief that achieving even bigger dreams — including becoming a lawyer – was, in fact, realistic. Realizing a far-fetched dream Being a lawyer was something that interested Canady since high school. She considered it an honorable profession — one that came with the power to effectuate change, a mission she’s adopted over the years. But becoming a lawyer felt like a dream she’d defer — one ladder rung too high to reach. The high cost of law school seemed daunting. “The idea of law school was just so far-fetched to me,” she said. “I had no role model or road map on how to get there. However, the educational experience at Park helped shift my thinking. My professors urged me on and with their guidance, I began to realize law school was attainable.” Canady entered the University of South Dakota School of Law in the fall of 2008 where she graduated a semester early in fall 2010. While studying for the Missouri Bar Exam, Canady worked fulltime doing tax law research at H&R Block. After a stint in Jefferson City, Mo., as an administrative hearing officer, Canady became an assistant prosecuting attorney in Jackson County, representing the state of Missouri. Refusing the status quo With her driving mission to forge real change, Canady became increasingly interested in going beyond battling crime in the courts to directly addressing its root causes — subpar education, blighted housing and neighborhoods in desperate conditions. “If that’s all people see, that’s what they duplicate. These environments breed crime. With my experience and perspective, I realized the way I could make a more direct impact was by working at the neighborhood level. That’s when I decided to run for city council.”
Canady announced her candidacy for the Kansas City, Mo., City Council, campaigned effectively across her district and won, beginning her term on Aug. 1, 2015. Kansas City Mayor Sly James has appointed Canady to serve as chair of the Neighborhoods and Public Safety Committee, and vice chair of the Ethics and Legal Review Committee. “I’ve never been one to accept that ‘this is just the way it is.’ I refuse to accept the status quo and am always looking for new ways to address challenges,” she said. And now, Canady is extending her can-do attitude to benefit thousands of Kansas Citians. “At every level — from running businesses to earning a degree at Park to going to law school to serving as a prosecuting attorney to today, as a councilwoman, I’ve always wanted to do meaningful work. The ability to create opportunities — for myself and for others in Kansas City — would have been the ladder rung that proved too high to reach without my education.”
My educational experience at Park helped shift my thinking. My professors urged me on. With their guidance, I began to realize law school was attainable.” — Alissia Canady
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Published on May 9, 2016
With 140 years of outstanding history and more than 71,000 living alumni, Park University has many great stories to tell. As part of the Uni...