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.
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.
MPA, Bloch School of Business, University of Missouri Kansas City
BA, Kansas State University
Sonja is an arts-minded, community engagement professional with 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.
Sonja first joined UAF in 2018 where she was charged with expanding the organization’s career programs which included the development of UAF’s Summer Internship Program for UA alumni in college. In 2019, Shaffer was promoted to Director of Programs and Operations. Sonja earned an MPA, with a focus on Nonprofit Management from UMKC, and a BA in humanities from KSU. She has over 20 years of experience working and volunteering with nonprofit organizations. In addition to her role at UAF, Sonja volunteers with the Missouri Career Development Association (board member and treasurer,) The Rabbit Hole (board member and secretary) and Condia+Ornalis Traveling Fellowship (board member.)
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.
Jeremy is Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Hiram Capital Management. Founded in May of 2021, Hiram is an alternative credit manager focused on commercial real estate and special situations. He is a member of the Investment Committee for the social infrastructure business. Previously, Jeremy held leadership positions at Tortoise, a leader in essential assets and income investing. Prior to his time at Tortoise, Jeremy worked for Blackstone in their 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. Jeremy earned a Bachelor of Science degree in economics from the United States Military Academy at West Point and served as a ranger infantry officer in the U.S. Army, where he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and Army Commendation for Valor.
Mr. Helzberg is Managing Partner of Expedition Capital, founder and CEO of Best & Co., University Academy Board Member and President of University Academy Foundation. 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 CharterSchoolsWork.org.
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.
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 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.