“A young professional doesn’t have to change a policy, run for city council, begin a new startup or social innovation to have an impact on our community. It’s happening every day, everywhere in small, but powerful ways.”
In their own words
This past spring, I led a group of twenty students from East High School in the Kansas City Public School District on a bike ride (10 total miles!) to KCMO City Hall. The students were participants of East’s Bicycle Club, an after-school program that I helped initiate at East HS in 2015. The City Hall bike ride was to attend a city council meeting and accept a proclamation designating May as Bike Month in Kansas City. These students, almost all New Americans, had never been in downtown KC, not to mention had never had the chance to go inside City Hall. They were mesmerized by the Council Chambers and asked me who the guy in the bow-tie was up front (Mayor Sly James). Let’s just say it was an effective advocacy outing when all twenty students joined the Mayor at his podium to accept the proclamation.
Bragging on yourself is hard. And weird. But I feel most proud of who I am and what I’ve done when I look at the lives of the youth and adults I have engaged through my work as a volunteer at the 816 Bicycle Collective and as the education manager at BikeWalkKC. I have helped build a team of 18 people at BikeWalkKC; developed and sustained funding for four different youth bicycle programs in schools; initiated adult education classes about bicycle safety, maintenance, and commuting; and planned several encouragement events to raise awareness about bicycling and walking in Kansas City.
I feel very fortunate for the opportunities that have come my way, but I am also very driven and motivated through my work to make Kansas City a better place to live.
Originally from a small town in central Missouri, I ventured up to Kansas City in 2008 for undergrad at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. While finishing up my Bachelor of Science in Biology and Anthropology, wondering what the heck I was going to do with my degree, I started volunteering at the 816 Bicycle Collective, a local community bike shop, on the weekends. In little ways like helping the regulars fix their flat tires or giving bikes to homeless folks who needed transportation, I started realizing the impact I was having on people in Kansas City and how fulfilling it was to genuinely help people who needed it. I was hooked.
BikeWalkKC started up as the regional bike/ped organization in 2011 and came looking for volunteers at the 816 Bicycle Collective. I was already a seasoned flat-tire-fixer at the bike shop and knew that I enjoyed working in active transportation. Little did I know, that the new one-day-a-week volunteer gig at BikeWalkKC would turn into a management and leadership role, allowing me to build a team of amazing people who teach bicycle and pedestrian education across the entire metro.
So, one thing led to another and a few years went by (well, nine). I quickly fell in love with this city and the people, bought a house in North Hyde Park, went back to UMKC for a master’s degree and realized that KC is home.
The chick who rides a bicycle in heels and a dress!
I own my own home in North Hyde Park and embed myself in my community and my work. A big part of that is practicing what I preach—commuting by bike or by foot to work and life related things.
Even though I might not look like some of the community members I engage through my work, I strive to understand their perspective and the barriers and opportunities they see in KC regarding transportation issues. Although we each have different perspectives and come from different backgrounds, we all share common values. Differences can get in the way, but common values can bring us together.
As if I don’t keep busy enough with grad school and work at BikeWalkKC, I’m currently rehabbing my 110-year-old house in North Hyde Park.
Have confidence in yourself—your skills, your abilities, what you know—and don’t let age define you! Lack of confidence held me back for a long time in recognizing that I am capable, talented, and can get shit done.
Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself or shake anyone’s hand, including the guy with the bow-tie.
Work hard and always be cultivating—relationships, resources, opportunities, etc.
Recognize that personal fulfillment and impact can come in small, but significant ways. A young professional doesn’t have to change a policy, run for city council, begin a new startup or social innovation to have an impact on our community. It’s happening every day, everywhere in small, but powerful ways.