Making Kansas City Stronger with KSI Alumni

As of this summer, Kauffman Scholars, Inc. (KSI) alumni are 162 members strong. This includes more than 130 bachelor degrees from 64 universities and colleges across the country. We are proud to say that our Kauffman Scholars Alumni are game-changers. Their reach and impact in Kansas City and beyond is inspiring. They have overcome many of life’s obstacles to become trail blazers for the classes of scholars coming behind them. In so many ways our alumni proudly strive to live a life that honors Mr. Kauffman’s legacy and, in this spirit, give back to the Kansas City communities they grew up in.   

Brandi Smith: Kansas State Advising Corps, Turner High School and Kauffman Scholars Class 2 Alumna (2016) from Purdue University

KSI alumni Brandi Smith, Kameron Berkley and Keyana Branch have chosen to make a positive impact on the educational landscape in Kansas City. Although these may not be the career pathways they envisioned when first entering college, life experience has brought them back to their hometown and involved them in programs that are helping change the life of students—one teacher, advisor and mentor at a time.

What inspired you to return to KC and enter the field of education?

Brandi: It's interesting because I never intended on entering the field of education, yet I've always found myself drawn to volunteer and employment opportunities in the field. On a personal level, I enjoy serving low-income, first-generation and underrepresented students in my community. I feel like I am giving back and planting seeds for our future. 

Kameron: I decided to enter the field of education because I believe that if you see that there is a problem with something, you should do your best to try and fix it. So that’s what I’m doing by coming back to KC to teach. 

What do you enjoy the most about your current role in education?

Keyana: Setting the foundation for a student’s success in the classroom. I love greeting them with excitement each morning during our City Year routines. It embarrasses the students, but I love it. It’s important to let them know that we want them here each morning getting an education. 

Kameron Berkeley: Ewing Marion Kauffman School teacher/Kansas City Teacher Resident 2016 and Kauffman Scholars Class 2 Alumna (2015) from Grambling State University

Kameron: I’ve had a blast getting to know my students. I feel that the relationship between students and teachers goes both ways. Of course I’m teaching my students different skills for having a successful life but, on the other hand, they are teaching me compassion and showing me what it means to have perseverance.

What advice would you give to future KSI alumni who are thinking about coming back to KC and the education field?

Keyana: Give these opportunities a chance! Go for it! Opportunities like City Year KC can be great building blocks for your future even if you decide not to continue in education. It’s a good chance to explore and make a career decision later. 

Brandi: Education should always be evolving and as an educator, it's your job, and should be your desire, to contribute to educational advancement. Especially if you're fresh out of college, your new and creative ideas can be the difference a program needs. 

As a KSI alumnus, how has your participation in the program and your connection with Mr. K influenced your educational and professional journey?

Keyana Branch: City Year KC AmeriCorps member and Kauffman Scholars Class 2 Alumna (2016) from the University of Kansas

Keyana: Mr. K was a man that was open to change, so as a young professional I now understand the importance of rebranding and recreating yourself as you grow. As a younger scholar I didn’t understand that at first, but I get it now as an adult and alumnus. 

Brandi: I am very fortunate to be a scholar. My participation in the program has allowed me to attend one of the top universities in the Big 10, graduate and study abroad. The alumni network brought my attention to the Kansas State College Advising Corps. Overall, my connection with KSI and understanding of Mr. K's vision greatly influences how I present myself educationally and professionally. 

Kameron: As a KSI alumnus, I admire Mr. K’s passion for education. One thing he said was to give back to your society. Giving back doesn’t necessarily mean with a monetary donation, it means giving back with your time, sharing your wisdom and knowledge—not just being in the community but being a part of it.
The Kauffman Scholars, Inc., alumni base is expected to grow to more than 700 alumni by 2022. The change that can happen moving forward as these alumni return to Kanas City and enter the workforce is limitless. We are privileged to be a part of Mr. Kauffman’s education legacy as we embark on the celebration of the anniversary of Mr. K's 100th birthday. We look forward to seeing all the great things our alumni will accomplish personally and professionally as we continue to support and reengage them in the years to come.

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Solissa McKay

Solissa McKay serves as the Alumni Development Coordinator for Kauffman Scholars, managing the ever-growing Alumni Network and creating programming that encourages alumni to stay involved in Kauffman Scholars and Kansas City.