Tell us more about your background and how you came to the School of Economics?
I’ve been in the nonprofit space for more than 30 years and have an undergraduate degree in social work and a master’s degree in education. I’ve always been passionate about working with underserved children and families while also giving back to the community. Before joining SOE this spring, I worked for the federal government as a senior grant management specialist to help secure grants and while I enjoyed what I did there, I was eager to find a role that made an even bigger community impact. In my short time at SOE, we have launched a beautiful new website‡, implemented our first customer relationship management (CRM) platform and made timely improvements to our students’ curriculum.
What made you excited about the opportunity to serve as the new executive director?
For 27 years, the SOE has had a wonderful history of serving youth in our communities. The addition of the second location in downtown Kansas City, through our collaboration with UMB, gave us the opportunity to broaden SOE’s reach and impact in focusing recruitment of underserved schools and districts. I’m very excited about the positive impact we can have in our community and I believe SOE is playing a vital role in the important work of educating our youth to facilitate upward economic mobility and lifelong financial empowerment. It’s really an honor and privilege to be part of this work.
What makes the SOE program unique from other experiential learning opportunities in KC?
SOE is unique in that we are a grassroots foundation that serves the communities right in our own backyard. Our program is designed to foster and facilitate an entrepreneurial experience for our youth while empowering them to explore important decision-making opportunities and make adjustments to ensure the success of their fictional businesses. Our students are energized by the experience of team collaborations and working together in this unique environment. Our model is flexible and highly creative, where the kids are in control of their personal finances and are responsible for making the key decisions on how to operate their small business.
What lessons did you learn from the pandemic that have changed how and what you do at SOE?
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of equipping Kansas City youth with the tools and experiences they need to increase their financial capabilities. We provide students the opportunity to apply what they learned in their pre-work in the classroom to solve real-world challenges — and they benefit greatly from testing their understanding of the processes, principles and procedures in our economy. One of the most positive benefits of SOE is when youth experiment and adapt their strategies to achieve the best financial outcomes. As we prepare to open SOE back up to the public, we are committed to adhering to proper protocols and guidance from the city and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
What is your vision for the future of SOE?
There is so much need for financial capability education in our community, and SOE plays a unique and special role in that work. In the future, I envision us expanding our niche in meeting the Kansas City region’s unique needs and identifying how we can best serve our community. This fall, we are embarking on our first strategic plan development, which is an important next step in charting the course of our work with our board of directors. As we all know, the need for this education is only going to increase in the years ahead, and as the new executive director, I’m committed to building a firm foundation at SOE to ensure sustainability well into the future.
As the new school year approaches, what excites you most?
I’m so excited to get our amazing team back in the office this September and work with them to prepare for students’ arrival in October. The children absolutely love the experience they have at SOE and it brings me great joy to know we will be providing that to them soon—especially with all we’ve been through over the past year.
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