Ruby Rios, 17

I’m determined to make Kansas City a place where everyone, no matter their background or experience level, feels more comfortable working with technology.

In their own words.

I am a senior student at Bishop Miege High School in Shawnee Mission, Kan. and a cybersecurity intern at Cerner Corporation.

I’ve been very active in the Kansas City area trying to improve STEM education for young people, particularly for girls. This advocacy basically started at age ten, when I began attending local summer camps in computer programing. I found it disappointing that I was frequently the only girl in the room.

As my technical skills grew, I began working to try and counteract the gender gap in STEM that I had already seen firsthand. I worked with KC STEM to start a local “Girls Who Code” club, providing computer science education to girls as an afterschool activity during the school year. I started a second Girls Who Code club at my high school, Bishop Miege. I co-founded a third group called KC STEMinists, which has received sponsorship and help from the United Nations Foundation’s “Girl Up” campaign, Johnson County Community College and Cerner Corporation.

I was selected to participate in a small-group discussion with Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai during her visit to Kansas City last year, in which I asked her about using technology to further her goal of educating girls. That experience caught the attention of Cerner’s Chief People Officer Julie Wilson, who encouraged me to begin a Cerner internship this year.

KC story

I was born in Kansas City, part of a large, close-knit Mexican-American family that has lived here for four generations. I have loved growing up in midtown. There is so much energy here focused on improving our community, and I’ve been able to participate in amazing experiences. Kansas City has given me opportunities to get involved in ways that many communities wouldn’t be able to.

Living in Kansas City has allowed me to develop my passions for both technology and for helping underserved people to have their voices heard. I live in a community that supports my aspirations and supports its young people.

A day in the life

I’m usually crisscrossing the city right after school and on the weekends. Last semester I was able to leave school early each day to work as a Cerner intern, for school credit. Then depending on the day, I’ll head to a Code for KC meeting, a Girls Who Code club meeting, a dance class, a Bishop Miege FIRST Robotics team meeting, or some other activity. Then, I’ll head home to complete homework.


I spend at least a few hours a week tap dancing! I’ve been taking tap classes for 15 years. It’s my favorite way to decompress.

Brooke Wilbur, 29

“Explore this city, and don’t stop exploring. This city has much more to offer than anyone can imagine, and there are so many different activities and opportunities to get involved within the community.”

In their own words

It is rare that an individual in their twenties can say they are working their dream job, with a dream team, at their dream organization. In high school, I was a Big Sister in the Salina chapter of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. The company’s vision is to create a positive change within our community through the power of one-on-one mentoring. I love the mission of the organization and knew I would want to work for them one day. Now I am!

I am the Special Events Manager at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City. I assist and help manage several of our outreach events, and I am the lead planner for two of our annual signature events (Match Appreciation Banquet, RISE – A Rooftop Crawl). Our team helps with each event we have throughout the year, including our biggest fundraiser, Summer Bowl for Kids’ Sake. This year, our goal is to raise $800,000 for the agency.

The Kansas City branch of Big Brothers Big Sisters was recently named 2016 Agency of the Year out of 350 affiliates. We also recently received the Excellence in Impact Award through Nonprofit Connect. The Events Team received third place in both the Top Five Multi-Day Events and the Top Five Golf Events of 2016 through The Independent.

In my free time, my fiancé and I are a Big Couple in the BBBS program, where we hang out with and mentor our Little, Savalis. Just spending a couple hours every week with our Little makes my heart grow two sizes. I love to serve on committees that I am passionate about and that I feel are making a change in the Kansas City area. I am on the Creative Planning Committee for Rightfully Sewn’s Golden Gala event. I formerly served as a Young Friends of Art Ambassador for the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, BARRE KC Membership Committee Member for the Kansas City Ballet, and volunteer at Heartland Therapeutic Riding.

In October, I am marrying the man of my dreams on a rooftop in Kansas City with a small list of family and close friends. My fiancé and I met during a production of Pirates of Penzance at Shawnee Mission Theatre in the Park. In one scene, he played a pirate who tried to steal me away, and he threw me over his shoulder. I guess you could say he swept me off my feet!


KC story

I moved to Kansas City in the Summer of 2011 just after graduating from Kansas State University. That same summer I got married and packed up everything and moved to the big city so my then husband could attend KU Medical Center for Medical School.

I currently live in the River Market/Columbus Park area and have claimed this as my home. It is so wonderful to have access to local shops and eateries, as well as the ability to hop on the KC streetcar and explore other great areas of the city. I can walk my dog at Berkley Riverfront Park. This area is also currently experiencing so much growth, and it’s amazing to witness it firsthand. My fiancé and I are excited to be a part of this growing part of the community.


A day in the life

The best mornings start out when my fiancé and I wake up to go for a run from the River Market to Union Station, following the KC Streetcar route. We typically hop on the Streetcar back to our home where he makes a hearty breakfast while I snuggle with our dog, Pig. I’m pretty spoiled in the mornings.

I try to make it to the office before anyone else so I can enjoy some down time with a large cup of coffee and limited distractions. This is the time where I can really plan my morning and make a checklist of things I want to accomplish for the day. I then hit the ground running with emails, phone calls, text messages, and meetings involving every single event the branch is involved in. A random dance party or champagne toast is known to happen if we reach our goals within the agency. Over the lunch hours, we seek out opportunities to meet and with businesses around the city to share our mission and seek out partnerships, as well as new “Bigs” to match with our “Littles”. I love meeting new people and networking with organizations throughout the city. The Special Events team is typically the first to arrive and the last to leave, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My typical nights aren’t anything glamorous. They often involve vegging out and watching the best junk television on Hulu and Netflix with a glass of wine while we try to keep our dog from hoarding all our blankets.



I want to be known as a leader who makes a positive impact in the lives of others and the community throughout Kansas City. I want to be a role model for others looking to make a difference and a positive change in our community.



My dream is to one day be a beekeeper! I am slowly learning the ropes so I can start my own hives. *buzz buzz*



Explore this city, and don’t stop exploring. This city has much more to offer than anyone can imagine, and there are so many different activities and opportunities to get involved within the community. Consider something may have never seen or done before and broaden your horizons. Find a poetry slam to attend. Laugh at an improv night at Kick Comedy Theatre. Book a brewery or winery tour with The Barley Bus. Join a leisure/sports league with KC Crew. Enjoy bottomless mimosas and a Sunday brunch drag show at Hamburger Mary’s. Load up the car and catch a double feature at the Boulevard Drive-In. Attend a show during the KC Fringe Festival. Volunteer and raise money for a charity you believe in.

Most importantly, support local and small independent businesses! I love this quote by Yu Ming Wu, “Authenticity and hustle – that’s why you should support independent businesses.” Local businesses invest in our community because they choose to live here, are less likely to leave, and are more invested in our community’s future. Local artists, sports, restaurants, shops, and charities have brought residents and visitors back into the heart of Kansas City. It’s our job to help support them and help give back to our growing community.



Leanna Cates, 22

“As scientists, we work hard on a daily basis to deliver hard evidence to the public, and if our research can inform policy, then that’s the best thing we can do.”

In their own words

I am a member of the Interdisciplinary Applied Mathematics Group at UMKC working with Drs. Naveen Vaidya and Munsur Raman. We are currently collaborating with Dr. H.T. Banks, a well-known mathematical modeler at the North Carolina State University.

Our research on the Zika Virus was recently recognized by policymakers and other stakeholders in the state of Missouri. In my project, my colleagues and I evaluated the efficacy of available prevention programs and treatment for the Zika Virus. The Zika Virus is a vector-borne pathogen spread mostly by the Aedes species mosquito and is correlated with grave neurological defects, such as microcephaly or Guillain-Barré syndrome. There is currently an epidemic in South America and due to effects of climate change, the Zika Virus has been located in the United States with the majority of cases in the state of Florida and Texas. Because the Aedes species has migrated north, there are cases of the Zika Virus in the state of Missouri and is presently a public health emergency for our community.

Representative Keith Frederick of the 121st district is a physician and Chairman of the Health and Mental Policy Committee who has expressed interest in creating policy that would reduce standing water in rural areas. I am currently working with the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services to design a small-scale study that would demonstrate the effects on transmission and prevalence if standing water was reduced.

Why is this a big deal? Mathematical models rarely get the attention of policymakers. People just don’t understand scientific jargon and often don’t care. But because the Zika Virus is a rising epidemic in the states, people are starting to pay attention. They often ask an important question — “What can we do in the community to prevent our families from getting these diseases or at least reduce the risk?” As scientists, we work hard on a daily basis to deliver hard evidence to the public, and if our research can inform policy, then that’s the best thing we can do. Especially right now, in the land of “alternate facts.”


KC story

I’ve lived in Kansas City, MO for 4 years now. I came here to attend the University of Missouri-Kansas City. At this moment, Kansas City is rapidly growing into a scientific and technological hub. I appreciate my team at the Interdisciplinary Applied Mathematics Group at UMKC. Without them, I wouldn’t have realized my interest for disease modeling. Also, my Honors College professors – they fostered my leadership abilities and made me grow into the resilient scientist I am today.

A day in the life
Typical day as a student researcher → Meet with my mentor, Dr. Vaidya. Skype with collaborators. Incorporate advice into writing. Do this 100x until something promising comes out.

Typical day as an actual human/cyborg student → Wake up. Check emails. Apply to Graduate Programs. Rock climb. Get mediocre sleep.


In the field, I want to be known as someone who improved the landscape of implementing disease prevention programs; I want to continue building robust, data-driven models to inform policymakers of our most urgent needs.  As a person, I want to be known as a female trailblazer – a resilient woman who pushes pass adversity and does so with kindness, dignity, and wit.


I am a singer! Before I came to college, I applied to be a music major. I thought I wanted to be a scientist who studied music therapy treatments. That obviously changed when I realized I was fascinated with preventing diseases at a systemic level. I started taking courses in bioinformatics instead and became a programmer.

Programming and writing music are very similar in a way – you have these basic components that you systematically and creatively craft together, ultimately forming something complex, functional, and beautiful!


This advice is for everyone: although it is important to remain humble, stop telling yourself that you’re “lucky.” Quiet that demeaning voice in your head.  You deserve to be where you are. You deserve the success that you’ve worked hard for. You deserve the future success that you are destined to have.
Also… wear bug spray. ☺

Christina Komonce, 29

“If you keep pushing hard and stay focused, the hard work will eventually pay off.”

In their own words

I helped launch Google Fiber in Kansas City and have been on the team since May 2012. I am now working for Google on the core business operations team for Fiber, overseeing our sales training and programming for field sales, inside sales, door to door sales and retail across all of our Fiber markets. I’ve been able to see Kansas City transform to no longer be a “fly-over state” and become more of a tech hub. I have met some incredible people in Kansas City because of this, which has allowed me to not only have new connections but learn about additional ways to be involved in Kansas City outside of Google Fiber.

I am very involved in giving back/volunteering/fundraising in Kansas City. In the year 2014, I fostered 16 dogs throughout the year for Love for Paws—it was a crazy year and, luckily, most of my friends adopted them! Now that I travel more for work, it has made it difficult to foster, but you can always find me saving random stray dogs if I see them running around Kansas City!

I was on the Board of Directors for the Bacchus Foundation for two years, have been involved with the Alzheimer’s Association for 3 years and was selected to be a part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters Most Wanted Auction. Separately, I try to volunteer with the Down Syndrome Guild at their annual Prom event along with many other organizations in Kansas City both personally and through Google Serve, a program that encourages Googlers to leave their desks for a day to participate in service projects in their communities, ranging from cleaning up local gardens for non-profits to helping prepare resumes for veterans.

KC story

I came to Kansas City to go to college at Rockhurst University on a basketball scholarship. After being in Kansas City for 4 years, I decided I didn’t want to leave.


I LOVE living in the Waldo area because everyone is so laid back and there is so much to do. I can basically smell McGonigles BBQ from my driveway, which can sometimes be dangerous.


As many other Kansas Citians, I love the KC pride that our city has. Whenever I travel, I ALWAYS wear a Kansas City shirt and I LOVE running into other people wearing their shirts with pride too. You can guarantee I will start chanting the Chiefs theme song.


A day in the life

The one consistency (outside of recently breaking my finger in flag football practice) would be to start my day working out at a 6:30 a.m. at City Gym in Waldo.


Once the work day is over, I am either going to a board meeting, young professionals happy hour, kickball/basketball leagues or just going home and cuddling with my dog, Tripp. Tripp has over 15,300 followers on Instagram. You can find him at @Trippthebordercollie—it’s a fun hobby of mine.




I have always been the type of person who wants to always help—whether it’s financially or by volunteering my personal time. I love the feeling I get after doing something that makes an impact, big or small which is why I try to be super involved in my community.


Last year, I was one of 16 Googlers across the globe chosen to be a part of the Global Leadership Program in South Africa. I specifically worked with the Tshimologong Precinct with Wits University, who aims to grow skills, create jobs, encourage the establishment of new businesses and promote the regeneration of Johannesburg’s inner-city area. My team helped develop a high-level strategy and business plan roadmap for the Tshimologong for the next three to five years.


One of my long-term personal goals is to eventually own and operate a business at some point in my life. I haven’t quite figured out what that business will be, but I’d like to sell an item that in return would benefit someone or something in need. Stay tuned!




I can play the violin by ear! While I was taking lessons, I noticed that I had the talent of figuring out the music without actually needing to read the notes, just by listening to the song by ear. I recently decided to remove the dust from my violin stored under my bed and taught myself how to play the Mia + Sebastian Theme song by ear. It’s not perfect, but you can find it here.




Always be willing to take risks. Before working at Google, I had a steady full-time job at Reece & Nichols with benefits, but decided to take a leap of faith and go to a six month contracted position with no benefits. Little did I know that two years later, I’d be working for the company I had dreamed of working for.

Tin Ho, 22

“Kansas City has grown to be so much more than just a place that offered me a scholarship. It has become the place where I fuel my passion, build my ventures, and mature as an entrepreneur and as a person.”

In their own words

I’m a student by day, entrepreneur by night.

I have started three tech startups so far—a video game development agency, a food delivery app and Lean Start Lab, a technology development agency that works with early-stage entrepreneurs to build their concept prototypes and minimum viable products.

For my entrepreneurial activities, I was chosen the Student Entrepreneur of the Year in 2016 and spoke at the Entrepreneur of the Year Gala.

I founded and currently preside over an organization called the Student Entrepreneur Group Action (SEGA), a group of interdisciplinary student entrepreneurs who periodically meet to discuss entrepreneurship and help each other start, build and grow their ventures.

KC story

I first came to UMKC in 2013 as an international student from Vietnam. Being 8,477 miles away from home, I didn’t know the first thing about the U.S., let alone Kansas City.


Everywhere I go, I see inspiration. Every group I’m in, I feel and feed off the internal fire of my teammates.Everywhere I look, I find entrepreneurial initiatives, set in motion by the great entrepreneurial minds of Kansas City.


Living in Kansas City has majorly impacted my career. Kansas City, specifically its vibrant and nurturing entrepreneurial community, has given me the connection, the resources, and most importantly, the courage to pursue my ventures even though I am only 22 years and going to school. Now I embrace entrepreneurship as my lifestyle.

Thank you Kansas City, for being such a wonderful and welcoming community that inspired and enabled me to embark on my own entrepreneurial journey.  


I grew up observing my parents building their ventures from the ground up. While their hope for me is to one day come back to Vietnam and take over the companies they have built, I aspire to create my own empire and make an impact in my very own way. The joy and thrill of creating and bringing something new to the world has a special place in my heart.

While Lean Start Lab is doing quite well and we are fulfilling our mission of helping early stage entrepreneurs, I am always on the lookout for the next startup to create, the next set of problems to solve and the next population to help.


Kansas City has an extremely close-knit and supportive community so feel free to express yourself and don’t ever be afraid to reach out to ask for help or ask to meet someone. It is amazing how much you can learn and grow from a one-hour conversation over coffee with a new friend.

Spencer Hardwick, 27

“As a teacher, I always tried to instill in my students that they should shoot for the moon and try to be the best at whatever they do. And for many of us, it can start right here in Kansas City.”

In their own words

I’m a Kansas City native, educator, and community synergist. I recently left the classroom at the Ewing Marion Kauffman School to become a managing director and Chief of Staff at Teach for America – Kansas City, a nonprofit that recruits, trains and develops young and talented teachers from across the country. As someone who grew up in KC public schools, I see education as a driving tool to address some of our community’s largest problems.

Prior to teaching in Kansas City, I was an institutional sales analyst at Goldman Sachs in New York City. This Wall Street experience taught me a great deal, not only about how markets work but also the critical components that make a city attractive to young people. I learned that much of what we crave in Kansas City in terms of “greener pastures” can be found right here in our city limits.

To this end, I founded the Wire KC – an email network for young black professionals to stay connected and up to date on all things going on around the city. The network is designed to keep locals abreast of what’s new while allowing transplants to quickly assimilate in a new city through pointing out the best barbershops, brunch spots, and places to go on the weekends. As a millennial with the good fortune to have lived in multiple U.S cities, I recognize the value of harnessing technology to address issues for today’s increasingly mobile workforce. It is equally important to create spaces that highlight our city’s rich diversity along with avenues to connect across professional, racial, and neighborhood lines.

Before Goldman, I was a Teach For America corps member in Dallas where I served as a founding teacher at a charter school in Irving, TX. Teaching in a predominantly Hispanic school greatly shaped my views on education as a powerful lever for change and also the importance of learning about the myriad of diverse perspectives our country has to offer. My Dallas students remain some of the most treasured people in my life because of all that they taught me.

In my spare time I like to DJ, serve as a mentor for Hot 103 Jamz’ teen radio talk show Generation Rap, and participate in ministry at my lifelong church, St. James United Methodist. I am also a devout KC sports fan, social media maven, and political junkie.

This summer I am finishing up my masters in Educational Leadership at the University of Missouri – Columbia. I also graduated with honors from Harvard in 2011 with a bachelors in Government and a citation in French.

KC story

My Kansas City story is my life story. I was born in the heart of the city at the (old) Menorah Hospital and lived most of my childhood zigzagging between the city’s mosaic of neighborhoods: baseball games at 3 & 2 Ballpark in South KC, haircuts on Paseo Blvd, shopping at Bannister Mall, and grocery runs in Brookside. I learned at an early age how to navigate the city’s many pockets and more importantly, how we were all connected through a common set of values, love for our sports teams, and sense of family. My outlook is shaped by the fact that I grew up in the 90s. At the time, downtown left much to be desired. The Royals were struggling. The perception was there wasn’t a lot “to do” in KC. From middle school to high school, friends swore up and down they would leave this place the first chance they got. While I had dreams of living in and experiencing other cities, it always bothered me that locals seemed to collectively talk about our city as if it wasn’t good enough, even for its own folks. I would look on TV and go on trips where my out-of-town cousins and others would celebrate where they were from with pride. It was a badge of honor to be from Chicago, LA, or New York. But whatever reason, at times it felt like we didn’t measure up as Kansas Citians.

When I attended college on the east coast, I always made it a point to let people know where I was from and that it was a major source of pride for me. I rocked our city’s laid-back vibe, Midwestern values, and charming hospitality into a demeanor that was aimed to shift people’s perception from KC being “flyover country”. When I’d see fellow Kansas Citians, we’d always spend a bulk of the conversation talking about home and more importantly, despite the many wonderful things about larger cities, that there was just no place like it. In these conversations I’d always tried to persuade my contemporaries that we needed to move back home. It was part of our responsibility to come back and make a difference by helping to grow our city.

During this time, I tracked the KC Star, social media, and conversations with family to watch Kansas City’s transformation into what it is today: a lively scene for young people with great options on weekends, a career destination, a place where movers and shakers can be supported, energized, and most importantly have the ability to make an impact. So, given the choice between staying in New York or moving to KC, it was no brainer decision to come home and continue building my professional career on fertile ground.  


A day in the life

I just took on a new job so I’m still figuring out what that means in terms of a daily rhythm. But what I love is that it gives me a perfect platform to interact with different layers of KC’s educational landscape, meaning that my days will look differently based on the time of year. If I had to project what a composite day would look like however, I’d say that it would start in the morning with coffee or breakfast with a key stakeholder in the community on education, followed up by meetings in the Teach For America office in the Crossroads District. Mid-day, I’d break for lunch with co-workers with flavorful options on Southwest Boulevard or newer venues like the Jacobson, Rockhill Grille, or the P & L District. By the afternoon, I would be out in the community collaborating with different community partners, visiting classrooms, or giving presentations on urban education in Kansas City. The early evening could range from going to the gym to checking out a Royals or Sporting game to visiting my grandparents for dinner. The only exception is usually Friday nights, where I’ll DJ a wedding, house party or club depending on the time of the year.



Ultimately, I’d like to be one of many examples for our youth of what’s possible in Kansas City. As a teacher, I always tried to instill in my students that they should shoot for the moon and try to be the best at whatever they do. Too often, we tend to limit ourselves mentally in terms of what we think we can accomplish. Through my career I want to consistently demonstrate that success is more about mindset than anything else. It’s possible to be a teacher and be very successful in our community. It’s possible to be perceived as world class in a city like Kansas City. It’s possible for you to be the greatest at whatever it is you do. But it starts in your head. And for many of us, it can start right here in Kansas City.



I’m fluent in French as result of attending the first charter school in Missouri, Academie Lafayette, which has a full-immersion French language K-8 curriculum.    Also, I developed a DJ business in college and have performed for the past seven years as “DJ Esquire” at clubs and private venues in Boston, Dallas, New York, and KC.


Pro tip

I would tell them to always be mindful and proud of where they come from. The chip on our shoulder we collectively have about Kansas City starts at the lunch table, playground, and classroom – how we talk about it. Challenge people who say negative things about our home and realize that you are a part of what really makes this city special. That mindset goes not only for your city, but for your personal aspirations as well. Success starts with how you think about yourself, and where you come from. Protect and celebrate those parts of your identity and the world will open up to you in a way that it can’t for haters.

Sheldon Neal, 28

“Although we have a small city feel, move and operate like you’re in New York. You’ll rise to the top!”

In their own words

My daily goal is to live my best life. I’m an entrepreneur (own/operate two successful businesses), I’m a musician (classical piano) and I love to travel (especially if there’s a beach involved). Other hobbies include: cooking, reading, cards games, and learning. Most importantly, I’m a new parent! I recently adopted a young boy who I mentored for the last two years. Although I have many accomplishments, finalizing the adoption is by far my best work.

I love to laugh and spread positive energy. Okay, that’s enough bragging! 🙂

KC Story

Born and raised in KC. I love my city!

I’ve lived all over the metro: KC, Overland Park, Grandview, Lee’s Summit (current) and the best part of KC is the people. Although the midwest is sometimes forgotten, I wouldn’t raise my children anywhere else.
When my business began to expand, my team discussed moving to a larger city. I decided that KC is where I want to be, and ever since, it has been my goal to make KC a hub for multimedia. With all of our talents here, residents could have a new option rather than jumping on a flight to L.A. or New York for media work.

A day in the life

Everyday is very different for me. Meetings, consultations, and mentoring with teens are always the highlights. Shooting and editing video are sprinkled throughout the day. I try to squeeze in a good podcast on business or comedy. Now that I’m a dad, I tend to wrap up work around 5pm. The rest of the evening consists of dinner and quality time with my family.


I have the ability to push people towards greatness, in a very uplifting and encouraging way. I’d like to be remembered for that.


I didn’t go to college. This is hands down that biggest shock. There’s a misconception that you must go to college in order to reach success. This is simply untrue. However, I promote getting a college education and understand that my path isn’t ideal for everyone.


Although we have a small city feel, move and operate like you’re in New York. You’ll rise to the top!

Sara Li, 20

“I refuse to be labeled as simply an activist or writer—my career is extremely broad and I have a multitude of projects going on at all times.”


When I was 17 years old, I started a non-profit organization in the confines of my childhood bedroom with wifi and a cause. Project Consent began as a social movement to raise awareness about sexual assault and human trafficking. I fused art with activism and created an organization that now has a collective following of over 13 thousand followers on social media and a 400,000 average monthly view. In the past three years, we have worked with the White House’s It’s On Us campaign to reduce sexual assault on college campuses, created viral campaigns that won over thirty international advertising and service awards, received thousands of messages of support from survivors of sexual assault, developed comprehensive sex ed lessons explaining the importance of consent to children and have been in multiple publications (New York Magazine, Cosmo, VICE) for our work raising awareness and combating sexual assault.

Outside of Project Consent, I have also built a separate career as a storyteller. When I was 16, I ran a lifestyle blog. I contributed to Elite Daily + Thought Catalog and was one of the sixteen youth writers for MTV when they launched their Founders team. I was listed as Her Campus’ 22 under 22 in 2016 and SheRa Magazine’s December Covergirl for Empowerment and Positivity in 2015.

In 2015, I worked on a body positivity campaign with Buzzfeed comedian Gaby Dunn. I interned for Viva Bianca (actress, star of  STARZ’ “Spartacus”) for a month. I became a mentor for Miss Heard Magazine and answered questions and offered guidance for their readers. I was a relationship columnist for Unwritten, a women’s digital publication. In 2016, I interned for NBC’s Benjamin To and interviewed the cast of Gilmore Girls in an exclusive one on one feature. I developed a creative writing curriculum for middle schoolers and taught it to gifted students at South Middle School. Now, I am working on my podcast, OMFG Sara, with former fellow MTV writer Elizabeth Emerson, and writing my first fictional novel.

And I did all of this while balancing life as a college student at the University of Kansas.

KC story

I originated from Topeka, Kansas and found my way to Lawrence for college. I’m involved in all areas of the KC community. When I attend Royals games, I love the spirit of thousands of strangers coming together to support our team. I love the KC fashion community and have bonded with designers and models in our shared passion for design and art. Whether it’s Boulevardia or First Friday or Hot Country Nights, I’m always looking for an excuse to spend time in my favorite city with my favorite people.

Being in Kansas City has made me more open-minded and approachable. I love that I can be dressed down in shorts and t-shirt or dressed up to the nine’s and still feel absolutely comfortable anywhere in town.

A day in the life

I wake up around 7 a.m. and make myself breakfast (usually based on a Pinterest recipe, I admit it). I make my bed and do 10 minutes of journaling with goals for the day. During the week, I go to my part time job at the University of Kansas (I work as a student press coordinator). I work out at Body Boutique in Lawrence afterwards.

Depending on the day, I usually then either stay at home or go to Starbucks to work on my other projects. This ranges from Project Consent to recording for my podcast or writing my book. I occasionally do freelance editorial work for magazines. I retire home, make dinner and catch up on my Netflix guilty pleasures until I fall asleep.

On the weekends, I try to get work done throughout the day until it’s time to socialize with my friends. I balance my work life with my personal life so I’m always productive, but having fun.

People are always shocked to hear that I’m only a junior at KU. Professional life aside, I’m still very much a normal college student. I stress about finals and boys, I binge watch “Gossip Girl” and “Scandal,” and I spend too much money on pizza and wine. People tend to get caught up in my achievements and they forget that I’m still in my 20’s, trying to live my Carrie Bradshaw-inspired life.


Make your own luck and you’ll never have to depend on anyone or anything else for your success.


I’ve always been extremely personable and outspoken. I love conversing with people about their lives, so storytelling became my second nature. However, I refuse to be labeled as simply an activist or writer—my career is extremely broad and I have a multitude of projects going on at all times. I don’t necessarily have a dream job, but as long as I’m making a difference and making people laugh, that’s all that matters.

Samantha McCloud, 28

“As an architect, I am passionate about the built environment and its power to affect positive change. Small changes in a neighborhood can have a very big impact on the local culture and social dynamic of a place.”

In their own words
am a 28-year-old licensed architect and Associate at GastingerWalker&. Success is an evolving goal that is personally defined, and I most value the type of success that I can share with others. Architecture is a collaborative field, and through this lens, I choose to see personal achievement as a production of many moving parts. Being an architect isn’t just a vocation, it is a passion, and an ever-unfolding journey.   

In college, to my great surprise, I was offered a scholarship to be a coxswain on the K-State women’s rowing team. As a small, soft-spoken girl, I had never imagined I would be a collegiate student-athlete in highly competitive and aggressive company. To my fortune, rowing is a sport that recruits the very tall and very small. While my role as coxswain was not to row the boat, I had to quickly master how to control the boat. The nature of the sport revealed something I take to heart today: a racing victory goes to the team but a loss is charged to the coxswain. Through observation, communication and coordination, I could transform the boat into a torpedo of powerful unison. However, if I stumbled in any of these areas, I brought the whole boat down like dead weight. Learning how to lead, how to lose, and how to win are not easy lessons, but the challenges are well worth the rewards. In my senior year, I shared victory with my team, winning Bronze in the C-USA Conference and winning Gold in the SIRA Championship Regatta. Our strong season contributed to the approval of a new rowing facility on the K-State campus, where future generations of rowers can now train and further improve their athletic strength and technical skills.

Building on my lessons from rowing, my approach to success in architecture is to always strive to inspire others and to add my contribution to their own talents and successes. Whether it’s in service to project clients or through volunteerism in the community, I strive to contribute as much as I can to others’ success/improvement.

As an architect, I am passionate about the built environment and its power to affect positive change. Small changes in a neighborhood can have a very big impact on the local culture and social dynamic of a place. Whether it’s a coffee shop or an urban park in the city, people spend their lives in places to which they have access. Seeing and understanding how to improve that access or those places is exhilarating.

KC story
I was born in Prairie Village, KS, attended St. Ann’s Catholic Elementary School (K-8) and graduated from Shawnee Mission East High School. I lived in the same neighborhood throughout my childhood, experiencing the house evolve from a one bedroom, to a two- to a three-bedroom home. As a college student, I lived on the K-State campus in Manhattan, KS as well as abroad in the Philippines and in Italy before returning back to Kansas City after graduating with my Masters of Architecture. I currently live downtown in the Quality Hill District and have developed a great sense of pride in Kansas City as a whole. I enjoy walking to work and taking the streetcar to restaurants and attractions during the weekend. The rapidly-developing urban core has been an exciting adventure. I look forward to being a part of its continued progress.

My mother is an immigrant from the Philippines, moving to the US in 1988. I am a first generation citizen on her side. Growing up in a dual-culture home and living in both countries of my nationality as an adult has improved my capacity for understanding how people’s perspectives can be strongly influenced from their environment and local culture. I have experienced forms of racism on both sides of the spectrum. I have experienced growing up physically different from the majority as well as living in a country where I am physically similar to the majority. I have experienced living in a country as a citizen and not knowing how to speak the language (Philippines). I have experienced growing up in a safe and established neighborhood (Prairie Village) as well as living in poverty as a national standard (my “middle-class” residence in the Philippines was in a squatter neighborhood without sanitary plumbing or trash collection). I have experienced how socioeconomic differences can isolate people from one another as well as inspire people into action.

A day in the life
As an architect, my daily role can change dramatically within a single week. However, a few things I do every day include walking my dog, walking to work, and appreciating my city. I am also guilty of enjoying happy hour a couple days of the week.

In the office, day-to-day responsibilities vary from traveling to another city for a project survey, meeting with project stakeholders and developing project documents to leading project coordination meetings and defining project goals. It can be a very individual role as well as very team-based. There is the need to be adaptable, accountable, and approachable.

Outside of the office, two or three evenings a week are typically dedicated to community service in some way. Those nights may include board meetings for various nonprofit groups, discussion meetings for church groups, or smaller task force meetings with targeted goals in mind. I enjoy volunteering to catalyze others and to improve my capabilities to be a resource.

I shoot for win-win scenarios. There is great success to be found in helping others. I enjoy being seen as a resource and a friend.

I am proud of my efforts in helping others’ to be successful, spreading knowledge, and bringing people together in an impactful way. I am serving and have served on several boards of directors (American Institute of Architects, 20/20 Leadership, Children’s Feeding Program) whose missions are to foster leadership and success in others.

Recently, with the mission in mind to connect people of diverse experiences through the American Institute of Architects, I developed the PIERS mentorship program with the organization’s staff, bringing architects at different stages in their career together to create a dynamic team approach to mentoring, and founded the Equity in Architecture committee to promote diversity inclusion and advocacy for minorities and women in architecture. For both of these groups, providing the structure to connect and discuss industry and anthropological issues has proven very impactful for the architectural community.

I am only 4 feet and 8 inches tall. Many people are surprised when they meet me, and it is likely readers would be surprised too. Just imagine a 4’ 8” tall woman in her twenties leading a team of strong men in their forties around a construction site… quite funny! I am proud of my small stature and it has many advantages. I have the element of surprise. It also allowed me to compete in collegiate rowing. I am currently writing a book about lessons learned from rowing and how it has translated into professional leadership.

Pro tip
A person is never too old or too young to be impactful. Something as small as looking someone in the eyes and smiling is very powerful. Acknowledging another’s relevance/gifts in the world is really meaningful for that person.

For personal success, I would say always try. Many have come to me asking how to do something or if something be a good idea or if I think they can do something because someone else said they couldn’t. I always respond to these questions: “Try it and find out. Try really hard.” If you can do something well and love it that is great; if you don’t do something so well but love it, that’s still great. Keep trying and you’ll get better. If you’re great at something and you hate it, well then you have some evaluating to do. If you don’t do something well and you hate it, then you know you’ve tried it and it’s not for you. Trying something new will always surprise you. I constantly surprise myself, and all I do was go into something with the attitude that I will try.

nil volentibus arduum:  (nothing is arduous for the willing)
audere est facere (dare to do)

Robert Kinsman, 28

“Believe in yourself. Embrace the community around you. Take advice from people you trust. Love what you do.”

In their own words

My business partner and I started our law firm immediately after law school. We weighed our job offers, met with our mentors, and then ultimately decided opening our own law firm was our dream. We met in law school and were members of UMKC School of Law’s nationally recognized Mock Trial Team. We started our contingency-based law firm with virtually no money in the bank (thanks Sallie Mae?), but knew we wanted to dedicate our firm to representing people who were physically injured, emotionally harmed, or have been financially taken. We met with hundreds of people just to remind them we were out of law school and practicing, licensed attorneys. We started off sharing an office; not an entire office with multiple rooms. We literally shared a 10×10 room in some office space in North Kansas City owned by one of our mentors. We then moved into separate offices in a building downtown. Last year, we moved to the plaza where we hope to call home for the foreseeable future.

It has now been almost three years since we opened our doors. We have obtained millions of dollars in judgments and settlements. We have expanded our practice to a national level. We represent close to 1,000 corn farmers in In Re: Syngenta AG MIR162 Corn Litigation, which is a national litigation consolidated in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas and Minnesota state court. We represent hundreds of clients in In Re: Bard IVC Filter Products Liability Litigation and In Re: Cook Medical, Inc, IVC Filters Marketing, Sales Practices and Products Liability Litigation, which are product liability cases against the manufacturers of IVC (inferior vena cava) filters. We also represent over a thousand clients who have suffered severe hernia mesh complications, including nerve damage, infections, rejection requiring revision surgery, bowel obstruction, hernia recurrence and many others against manufacturing companies Ethicon/Johnson & Johnson, Covidien/Medtronic, Atrium/Maquet/Getinge Group, and Davol/C.R. Bard. Our firm will be announcing another national venture we are extremely excited about in the next few weeks… more to come.

I have been named an “Up and Coming” lawyer of 2016 by Missouri Lawyers Weekly. Every year, the legal publication honors lawyers under the age of 40 in their first ten years of practice who are making outstanding contributions to the practice of law in Missouri and who show the potential to make a positive difference. Most recently, I was honored to be recognized by Super Lawyers Magazine as a “Rising Star.”  This prestigious award is given to only 2.5 percent of lawyers practicing within the state.

I have also been very active in the legal community.  I am active with the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys, Association for Women Lawyers, and the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association (“KCMBA”).  I participate in the Gerry Spence Trial Lawyers College regional meetings/focus groups to grow my trial skills.  I serve on the UMKC School of Law Young Alumni Board and am the Chair of the KCMBA Young Lawyer’s Section Public Service committee.  In April, I oversaw a week-long telethon where hundreds of members of our community called in seeking free legal advice.  I was also in charge of a Goldilocks Mock Trial for 4th and 5th graders at Crossroads Academy of Kansas City.  Part of my role on the UMKC School of Law Young Alumni Board includes helping UMKC raise funds to provide lunches to the BAR examiners in July. My firm also hosts an event at Boulevard in August called “En Banc.” En Banc is a yearly social event to welcome the newly graduated class, and to bid farewell to the graduating class that is aging-out of the Young Alumni group. This event is also meant to help re-connect all our young alumni with their legal colleagues and former classmates.  My firm also does at least one community service event each month.  We have formed a group to walk in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s and Making Strides breast cancer walks, cooked meals at the Ronald McDonald House, sponsored UMKC alumni events, participated as judges for mock trials at the federal and county courthouses and have spoken to law school students about their experiences.
The biggest privilege I have is working for people who need me to be a voice when they are not heard. Clients rarely come into our office because something good has happened to them. I tell each of them that I want their burden on my shoulders.

KC story

The Kansas City community is everything to me. It is a place I have succeeded, a place I have failed, a place I have met life-long friends and a place I will always cherish. I have lived in the Kansas City metropolitan area all my life, except for college. I am the son of two nurses, Jim and Lynn Kinsman. My parents divorced when I was 11 months old. I lived with my mother and brother in Brookside until I was 5 years old. I am a product of Brookside Day School, which used to sit in the lot now occupied by 51 Main Apartments. My mother moved us to Mission, Kansas when my brother and I reached elementary school. She weighed her options of sending us to private school in Missouri, but ultimately decided the public schools in Johnson County were the best fit for us, and for her financially.
I graduated from Shawnee Mission North High School in 2007. In college, I knew I wanted to practice law in Kansas City, so I attended UMKC School of Law where I received an emphasis in trial practice and litigation.  Kansas City means the world to me because of the people I grew up with. I am fortunate enough to have grown up with people from diverse backgrounds. I grew up in an environment where differences, whether they be cultural, socioeconomic, or ideological, were embraced. The people I grew up with mean a lot to me because they shaped me to be tolerant and openly accept others. This was, and is, the norm for us. I carry those experiences every day in my practice. I also see those same characteristics in most of the people who live in our community, which is what makes Kansas City such a wonderful place to live and work. I feel like every person I represent is someone I could have grown up with and that they are special in their own unique way.

Although my family members have been dedicated to careers that concentrate on enriching the lives of everyday people in this community, I am a first-generation attorney. Throughout my life, I have not only enjoyed interacting with the people of this community, but I have been devoted to being a voice for others when they need it most. The heart of my practice consists of advocating for people when they have been wronged. My experiences with the people in our community led me to this profession.

A day in the life

We typically start by meeting about the day’s tasks at hand, and look 7-14 days ahead to make sure we are using our time efficiently. The legal world usually runs in 30-day increments in terms of written work (e.g. motion practice, discovery requests, answers and responses). We always look ahead to determine the importance of the day. After a morning meeting, I usually respond to any outstanding emails and phone calls that I could not respond to the day before. The rest of my day is filled with written work mentioned above and corralling and reviewing client’s files for our mass tort cases. Some days are spent networking during breakfast or lunch, or making calls to our national co-counsel. No matter how busy I am, I always make room to read Ink Magazine and the Kansas City Star


I would like to be known as someone who not only did well, but did good. Sure, I want to have a successful career and keep Krause & Kinsman’s doors open until my business partner and I retire. We are building our business in hopes it will become a household name for decades to come. We truly believe we can achieve this. But we also truly believe we can have a positive impact on the Kansas City community. Whether it is cooking a meal for the families at Ronald McDonald House, raising money for and walking in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk or The Walk to End Alzheimer’s, or even starting our own foundation, we have made it a priority to better the community at large.
I have learned that all successful people are privileged with one thing in common: great mentors. People who struggle tend to not have a positive influence early on that they can look up to. They lack the opportunity to observe what it takes to rebound after failure, how to persevere, make an educated decision after careful evaluation, or simply receive positive encouragement. Many young people do not even have access to positive leadership. I’d like to be remembered for always having an open door to the younger generation. I would not be in the position I am today if it weren’t for the people I looked up to. Strong role models have played a pivotal role in my growth and development. If I can be a personal advocate in someone’s life, then I know I will leave this earth with a smile on my face.


In college, I came close to transferring to culinary school. I may have watched too many Anthony Bourdain No Reservations episodes. I have always had a passion for traveling, cooking, and eating.  Cooking is my favorite hobby outside of work. I viewed the culinary world as a way to learn about new cultures and ideals. I continue to follow Kansas City’s food scene. There are so many great chefs and restaurants in our community. My favorite spots include Rieger, Happy Gillis, Osteria Il Centro, Eddie V’s, Joe’s Kansas City, and The Peanut. There are plenty of restaurants out there on my list to try.


Believe in yourself. Embrace the community around you. Take advice from people you trust. Love what you do.
You will fail or become discouraged a time or two early in your career. That is part of life. You will need guidance. Our community offers numerous networking opportunities that can be taken advantage of. Look to those who have the life or job you want. Reach out to them. Every bit of knowledge you obtain will guide your life’s goals. Never pass up a chance to learn even if it costs you in the short-term. There are plenty of people I have come across that have not found a career they are passionate about because they have not taken risks. Do not be afraid to look outside of your comfort zone to discover new opportunities.