Presenting at Kauffman Foundation’s rethinkEd Conference – 2019



Maria Dickson

Director of Community Engagement

BA, Lindenwood University

Maria has over 20 years’ experience running events, building relationships and generating new business in Kansas City’s private sector. She is an experienced community engagement specialist, achieving consistently exceptional outcomes providing business-to-business service. She is an avid supporter of public education in Kansas City where she has two young children in school. She has served non-profits and charitable causes in a variety of capacities, including the development of the All Hands for Hunger program as a service of the Culinary Center of Kansas City. Maria joined the UAF team (formerly known as Friends of UA) in 2014.

Tony Kline

Executive Director

BA, Indiana University Bloomington
MA, Webster University

Tony Kline is Executive Director of University Academy Foundation as well as the Superintendent/Executive Director of University Academy Charter School in Kansas City, MO. He began his tenure as ED of UA Foundation in 2019 but has been Superintendent of the school since 2013. The Upper School was recently named a 2017 National Blue Ribbon School. In addition, UA is the 2017 recipient of the Missouri Gold Star Award, the 2016 National Title I Distinguished School Award, and has been recognized as one of the nation’s best high schools by both U.S. News & World Report and Newsweek magazines. 100% of UA graduates have been accepted to institutes of higher education since 2004, and alumni boast a college graduation rate of nearly 60%.

Kristin Moats

Scholarship Programs Director

BA, University of Kansas
Peace Corps Volunteer 2006-2008

Kristin has served in the non-profit, education, and development sectors for 10 years. She has seven years of experience counseling adults with disabilities. During her 27-month tenure in the Peace Corps she worked in community development and education in a rural community in Swaziland. She continued that work in the form of an education non-profit providing educational support to students attending high school. She now directs programs to support UA Alumni success.

Sonja Shaffer

Director of Programs and Internal Operations

MPA, Bloch School of Business, University of Missouri Kansas City
BA, Kansas State University

Sonja is an arts-minded, community engagement professional with 15+ years’ program management experience in nonprofit, education, and art arenas. Her experience includes membership recruitment, program development and facilitation, event management and leading teams of volunteers and professionals. She has a background in communications, relationship-building and creative problem solving. She now serves with UA Foundation facilitating career opportunities for UA alumni.

Danisha Turner

Alumni Success Fellow

BS, Baker University

After graduating from University Academy in 2014, Danisha earned a B.S. from Baker University. She is currently working toward her Masters at UMKC. She started off her non-profit career working in the criminal justice field, then transitioned to elementary education working in Austin, TX as an AmeriCorps member. Danisha was excited to get back to her roots in Kansas City and to serve both students and alumni in her community through her work as an Alumni Success Fellow at University Academy Foundation. 


Board of Directors

Jeremy Goff

Jeremy oversees social infrastructure business, which focuses on investments in education, healthcare, housing and infrastructure at Tortoise. He is a member of the Investment Committee for the social infrastructure business. Previously, Jeremy worked for Blackstone in the firm’s private equity investor relations and business development group where he was responsible for developing and fundraising for their private funds including Blackstone Capital Partners VI and Blackstone Energy Partners’ funds.  Prior to his time with Blackstone, he served as a ranger infantry officer in the U.S. Army, where he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and Army Commendation for Valor. Jeremy earned a Bachelor of Science degree in economics from the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Laura Greenbaum

Laura Greenbaum is a Senior Wealth Strategist at Frontier Wealth Management, where she is in a unique position to focus on women and their financial goals.

Laura is a native of Kansas City and believes in giving back to the community and serves on various boards and volunteer positions including University Academy, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City Zoo and the Menorah Legacy Foundation.


Bush Helzberg

Mr. Helzberg is Managing Partner of Expedition Capital, Chairman of University Academy (a K-12 college preparatory charter public school) and President of Friends of University Academy (an organization that funds and manages special programs and opportunities for UA students and alumni). He is also the Vice Chair of the board of Aspen Country Day School and the Education Officer for the Aspen chapter of YPO.

Mr. Helzberg is the author of “Charter Schools Work”. To learn more please visit

Previously, Mr. Helzberg co-founded Helzberg Angrist Capital and was an investment banker in the Financial Sponsors Group (LBO firm coverage) at Lehman Brothers in NYC. Mr. Helzberg also served for two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali, West Africa.

Mr. Helzberg’s educational background includes a J.D. from Stanford University, an MBA from Columbia University (Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society), and a B.A. in Development Strategies for Africa from the University of Michigan.

Mr. Helzberg previously served as a board member for a number of organizations including World Learning and Saint Luke’s Hospital of KC. He also served as a member of the Advisory Council of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), the Committee on Collections for the Nelson-Atkins Museum, and the Board of Visitors of Stanford Law School.


Sonya Nutter
Sonya Nutter is a long-time advocate of a better Kansas City. After graduating from University of Kansas she has been engaged in the community in a variety of capacities, including volunteering and raising a family. Her dedication to University Academy Students and Alumni stems from a belief that all children should have the opportunity to achieve their dreams – an opportunity that she had to fight for herself. Sonya contributes her passion by sharing the vision of Friends of UA with community members to open academic and career opportunities for students and graduates of UA.

Kit Smith

Kit Smith received her Bachelors in Human Development and Family Life from the University of Kansas in 1982 and has been an Early Childhood Educator in Kansas City for 34 years. She began her career at The University of Kansas Medical Center where she was Program Director for Jay Care, an Early Childhood Center serving the children of the Medical Center’s employees.

For the past 31 years, Kit has taught Preschool and Prekindergarten at The Pembroke Hill School (PHS). Her first three years at PHS, she also directed the Extended Day Program. Kit has served on the Board of Directors for The New Reform Temple for six years and enjoyed teaching the Kindergarten and First Graders there every Sunday for 20 years.

Kit has devoted all of her adult life to nurturing young children and educating the community on the importance of early education.

Byron White

Byron White works on Strategic Partnerships at Google, and is based in the Bay Area of California. He has previously held Sales and Marketing positions at Google.

Byron is a graduate of UA’s 2004 founding class. While at UA, he participated in both NOLS and The Experiment in International Living. He is also a proud graduate of Ailey Camp and supporter of Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey.

Byron attended Carleton College, where he studied abroad in both London and Madrid. He holds an MBA from the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.

Byron also serves on the Board of Trustees at Carleton College, on committees for Enrollment and Admissions, as well as External Relations and Development.