Bachelor of Arts: Political Science and Criminal Justice and Criminology, 2009; Master of Public Administration, 2011 | College of Arts & Sciences; Henry W. Bloch School of Management
Title: Director of community engagement, Goodwill of Western Missouri and Eastern Kansas
Hometown: Blue Springs, MO
Why did you choose UMKC?
During high school, I visited 10 colleges, both in-state and out-of-state. I was looking for a college with small class sizes and world-class professors. I wanted to have a full-circle experience in education, culture, diversity and internship opportunities.
Were you the first person in your family to attend college?
No, however, I am a second-generation Haitian-American, and I am so honored to be an Afro-Latina. UMKC welcomes diversity and provides a fantastic multicultural office to help students feel accepted and supported. UMKC is here to help you through your life journey. Whatever fear you have – know that you are good enough.
How did you choose your field of study?
When I came to UMKC, I wanted to be a criminal defense attorney. While interning for the city of Kansas City, MO, my supervisor told me, “Your personality is way too big to be an attorney. You need to work in politics.”
After my internship, I was managing and directing city, county, state, and national political campaigns. My job is figuring out what voters are passionate about and listening. It’s all about encouraging the heart and uplifting other people. Politics achieved that for me. I wanted to represent candidates who aligned with my values.
“Whatever fear you have – know that you are good enough. UMKC is here to help you through your life journey.”
Tell us about your time as UMKC Student Body president.
One of my favorite memories is passing the Student Bus Pass Initiative. It actually failed three times. Usually when that happens, people give up, but I knew it was so important that students get the whole-city experience. It was also a sustainable option that reduced carbon footprints. We did a whole campaign around it, including a live mural, and it finally passed with more than 60 percent of the student vote. Now, almost 5,000 students use that bus pass every single week. It was a perfect partnership between administration, students and an outside organization like the Kansas City Area Transit Authority.
What was your favorite thing about UMKC?
It’s the professors who make the culture of UMKC. Every professor I had was passionate about what they were teaching. They want you to think outside the box and question everything.
Who was the most influential faculty or staff member at UMKC?
Dr. Ken Novak (Criminal Justice & Criminology) and Dr. Brent Never (Henry W. Bloch School of Management) both challenged me to explore every side of an issue, employ solutions and always question everything. They were always open and helpful when I needed direction. The passion and knowledge they have for teaching inspires me every day.
Do you have any advice for students entering UMKC?
Students don’t trust themselves – they’re so scared of messing up. You have to fight that inner negativity and find a mentor who can walk with you. That’s why my experience at UMKC was amazing, because I had people to tell me “you can do this, because you’ve done it before.”
Also, take advantage of internships. Just start jumping in. The motivation to go to school shows you’re in a great place, but when you toss in internships and mentors, you’re setting yourself up to be constantly encouraged, which a lot of students need.
Tell us about your current position.
I manage fundraising, special events and community partnerships for Goodwill of Western Missouri and Eastern Kansas. I meet with individuals and organizations about our mission and educate them on what Goodwill does. People identify Goodwill as a retail store, but our mission is to empower people with disadvantages and different abilities to earn and keep employment through individualized programs and services.
How did UMKC help you reach your current position?
UMKC taught me how to learn and use all of the “tools in my toolbox.” Every class taught me know to understand complex issues, create partnerships, think critically and interact productively.
What are the challenges of your field?
The constant awareness of trauma and pain that people experience is the biggest challenge as a nonprofit professional. Nonprofit organizations are important to fulfill the public’s needs where the government cannot. But the most beautiful and bright part of my field is seeing people become resilient and overcome past trauma.
What are the benefits?
I love sharing our client success stories with community partners, donors and everyone I meet. At the end of the day, I know I am working for an organization that is helping people.
What is one word that best describes you?
Butterfly. I am constantly evolving and spreading my wings for the next journey in life. A butterfly is resilient, transformative and full of positive energy. That’s Klassie!
What are your goals for the future?
I will run for public office. My lifetime vision is to help youth, families and adults achieve their personal freedoms in life.
What is your greatest fear?
I don’t have fear. Every single day I leave the house repeating the words of Abraham Lincoln, “Let no feeling of discouragement prey upon you, and in the end, you are sure to succeed.” I show up in the world from a space of love and peace. I give myself permission to believe anything is possible. I believe it is a critical time in American history to build fearless female leaders. I challenge myself to give everything in my life and career because the only competition is with myself.
Do you have a motto?
I have two. The first is from Hillary Clinton: “Let our legacy be about planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.” That’s the goal in my life. I also love Nelson Mandela’s quote, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
What makes you unique?
My positive energy. I’m not scared to be a risk-taker. Even now, I’ll be in a crowd, and someone will yell “Klassie!” There’s something about me that people remember. It’s a testament to my parents, who raised me to be a woman of respect and love.
What’s your favorite place in Kansas City?
Union Station, because of the history, Pierpont’s, architectural details and exhibits. Union Station is a magical place.