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Kauffman Education Fellowship
Who we are

Class of 2018 Fellows

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Amy Gale

Senior Program Officer, Education, Kauffman Foundation

Class of 2018

Sophia Garcia

Postsecondary Retention Specialist, Kauffman Scholars, Inc.

Class of 2018

Jessica Hembree

Principal, Platform Civic Strategies

Class of 2018

Laura Palacios

Education Marketing Project Specialist, Kauffman Foundation

Class of 2018


Gene Willis

Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, GEHA Health

Class of 2018


Amy Gale

Senior Program Officer, Education, Kauffman Foundation 

Class of 2018, Year 2 Fellow

Amy Gale is a senior program officer in Education for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, where she manages strategic initiatives and grants that foster equitable and real-world relevant education and learning opportunities for Kansas City students.

Prior to joining the Kauffman Foundation, Amy worked for nine years in the Chicago Public Schools as an educator, district lead arts liaison and as a Local School Council member. She also worked as a program coordinator for the Chicago New Teacher Center, where she supported policy and programming efforts. Her career began as a Teach For America Chicago corps member.

Amy is a National Board Certified Teacher and holds a master’s degree from Dominican University and a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University. On Saturday mornings, you can usually find Amy doing something active outside with her family – her husband Derek, and their two children, Mira (2.5) and Eli (5), and their dog, Wallace.


Sophia Garcia

Postsecondary Retention Specialist, Kauffman Scholars, Inc.

Class of 2018, Year 2 Fellow

Sophia Garcia is a devoted wife and mother. She is a proud Kansas City native, who is passionate about youth and leadership development, education, social justice, fine arts, and serving the community. In her current role, Sophia is a postsecondary retention specialist for Kauffman Scholars, Inc. She assists scholars who attend local universities and colleges, guiding and nurturing their academic, social, and emotional growth. Since joining KSI in 2014, Sophia has worked in various roles, promoting secondary scholar success and postsecondary advising.

Sophia earned a Master of Arts in Management with a concentration in Organizational Leadership and Development from Rockhurst University. She holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in Mass Communications and Spanish from Benedictine College. Sophia is a Kauffman Ed Fellow, Avanzando mentor, CX AHEAD Scholar alumna, and former Girls on the Run Coach.

On Saturday mornings, you can usually find Sophia enjoying a hearty breakfast with her family.


Jessica Hembree

Principal, Platform Civic Strategies

Class of 2018, Year 2 Fellow

Jessica Hembree is the principal of Platform Civic Strategies, a consulting firm that provides nonprofits with strategic planning and policy advocacy. In this role, Jessica has helped to incubate ballot initiatives, facilitate federal planning processes, and create strategic plans.

With twenty years of experience in policy change, including ten years as policy director at a regional health foundation, Jessica has experience across multiple issues. From starting new advocacy organizations to researching complex issues to developing model policies, Jessica is an insightful leader in nonprofit policy and civic change.

Jessica received her master’s in Public Affairs from Princeton University. She serves on the Shawnee Mission School District Board of Education. She is married to her high school sweetheart and is the mother of three sons.

On Saturday mornings, you can usually find Jessica taking an excessively long walk to her favorite coffee shop.


Laura Palacios

Education Marketing Project Specialist, Kauffman Foundation

Class of 2018, Year 2 Fellow

Laura Palacios is known for her spirited energy and compelling ideas. Laura is a known community activist and political champion. On Saturday mornings, you can usually find Laura watching funny videos on Youtube.


Gene Willis

Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, GEHA Health

Class of 2018, Year 2 Fellow

Gene Willis is corporate social responsibility manager for GEHA Health. A leader in the marketing/communications field with more than 20 years of experience in digital marketing, brand management, strategic planning, social media engagement, large-scale event planning, and public relations, Gene has worked as a citizen, volunteer, community leader, and advocate for urban youth mentoring/development and the arts, with both of these passions coming together in his work at UICS.

Gene’s life was forever changed by a Kauffman Foundation/Project Choice college scholarship and Ewing Kauffman’s simple advice to “choose well” and “give back.” On Saturday mornings, you can usually find Gene sleeping in but being awakened by his two dogs, then getting takeout breakfast for himself and his wife before reading the news, scrolling through Twitter, and watching college football.