Chair, Kauffman Foundation (prev.) Board Chair KC Scholars
Senior Vice President, Community Engagement and Inclusion Division, and Director of the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City Board Treasurer and Vice Chair KC Scholars
Vice President and General Manager Enterprise Holdings
Chief Operating Officer Guadalupe Centers
Chief Executive Officer
Senior Vice President & Chief Human Resources Officer (ret.) JE Dunn Construction Company
Office Managing Partner Husch Blackwell
Executive Director Mid-America Regional Council Board Secretary KC Scholars
Alvarado arrived in the United States in 1993 with the sole purpose of learning a new language and experiencing a different culture. She is a native of Ecuador, South America but since 2013 has lived in Des Moines, IA. She has two sons, Blake, and Braden. Through academic scholarships, she obtained an associate degree in Broadcasting and Media from Iowa Lakes Community College, a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication from Briar Cliff University, and a master’s degree in Organizational Communication from the University of Arkansas.
Throughout her academic years, Alvarado became an advocate for human rights and integration. Through this advocacy, she entered the workforce as a Human Resources professional with Tyson Foods, Inc. in 1998. She became an emerging leader within the Tyson Foods organization allowing her to hold individual contributor roles and leadership roles within Human Resources and Marketing/Communications. She left Tyson Foods in 2005 and continued her Human Resources career in a variety of industries including manufacturing, research, technology, finance, and non-profit/education.
Alvarado has experience leading people and culture for organizations in transformation, growth and start-up mode. She has successfully led teams in all aspects of Human Resources and technologies. She has worked for global companies like ADP, Inc. and non-profits like College Possible, where she managed and developed budgets of up to 28 million. She has been certified as a Human Resources Professional by The Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) and is a Green-Belt Six Sigma.
In her spare time, Alvarado enjoys spending time with her boys, dancing, working out, playing music (guitar), and traveling. She previously lived within the Kansas City area (Blue Springs) and is excited to experience the community again. She finds in the KC Scholars’ mission an opportunity to give back and continue leaving a legacy of love, compassion, and empowerment.
As a member of the senior leadership team, Fox provides strategic communications and marketing direction to elevate KC Scholars’ vision. In this role, she leads strategic communications and brand strategy, implements and executes strategic campaigns across traditional, social and digital media, manages creative assets, local and nation media coverage, and oversees the web presence.
Fox previously served as the Senior Director of Marketing and Communications at Uplift Education, the second largest #2 IB district in the nation. In that role she directed efforts that strengthened the charter schools’ brand and increased public awareness and engagement. She supported gains in both enrollment applications and retention. During her time with Uplift, Fox guided a collaborative plan that brought together leaders from across the 45 schools and created a strategic framework that grew efficiency, effectiveness, and impact through the modernization of marketing and communications that capitalized on today’s evolving markets and audiences.
Fox is a dynamic and results-driven marketing executive with 20 plus years of proven experience developing integrated strategies for large and small companies, telling compelling brand stories, and creating multichannel marketing plans that drive revenue and awareness. She is an innovative leader with the ability to build effective teams, create strong partnerships, and bring diverse stakeholders together to solve a variety of complex business problems. She has the experience needed to bring KC Scholars into their next phase of community support through launching new programs that support non-college bound adults while continuing to grow the cornerstone scholarships that KC Scholars built their foundation around.
Fox was born and raised in Canada, moved to California 7 years ago, and now resides in Dallas and as of a few months ago is officially a dual citizen. She has two boys who keep her very busy, and in her spare time teaches yoga, loves cooking up a storm, and is a devout Peloton devotee.
Fox believes that success can be achieved regardless of socioeconomic background. She personally struggled to access equitable learning and is a first-generation college graduate. Her belief is regardless of a family’s wealth, each child deserves a high-quality education. Her passion for education and growth is her motivation at KC Scholars. She considers this an opportunity not to think outside the box, but instead to break the box and reimagine how we, as a community and a nation, invest in learning to ensure that everyone, regardless of their zip code deserves the same chance.
Fox began her career in telecommunications after earning her bachelor’s degree in Business Communication from The University of Lethbridge in Canada.
Natalie Lewis currently serves as KC Scholars’ Chief Operating Officer where she leads the Scholarship and Program team. Her team is responsible for overseeing Community Engagement, Research and Evaluation, and Scholarship Programs (9th Grade College Savings Match, 11th Grade Traditional Scholarships and Adult Learner Scholarships). Lewis was motivated to join KC Scholars for its opportunity to serve others.
Lewis is highly regarded for her unwavering “can-do” belief in the mission, her expertise in tackling complex, multifaceted, systemic challenges facing young scholars and moving cross-functional collaborative teams beyond disbelief, past any history of failures, and in the face of conflicting agendas. She brings over 35 years of diverse experience in both for-profit and non-profit roles. Lewis has a unique combination of career experiences that perfectly prepares her for the work that she is called to do, experiences including strategic planning, workforce and college readiness, small business consulting, sales and marketing, PreK-16 public education, community engagement, and political leadership.
After spending over 13 years working as an engineer for Mobil Chemical and business leader for Hallmark Cards and Sprint, Lewis left her corporate career to pursue her passion for fighting for quality education for all children. Her career journey in education began as a certified classroom teacher in the Kansas City Public Schools District and local charter schools. She then spent seven years serving as a College Prep Education Coach with Kauffman Scholars, Inc. In 2016, she expanded her impact and was elected Board of Directors for Kansas City Public Schools, where she served for three years.
Community service and leadership has always been a priority for Lewis. She has served in the roles of strategic advisor and board member for Green Works Kansas City, KC STEM Alliance, and a number of other community-based organizations. She is most proud of her achievements as a long-term foster parent for a former student that she taught in the third grade. At every stage of her life, Lewis has encountered those that were underserved by the existing system, it is those experiences that fuel her passion and commitment to fight for systemic change for ALL, where ALL means ALL.
Lewis has a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an MBA from the University of Texas in Austin, has studied at Manchester Business School in Manchester, England, and earned her Missouri Teaching Certification from Northwest Missouri State University.
Outside of work, Lewis loves traveling, wildlife animal adventures, live music, and spending time with friends and family.
As the Director of Finance, Monchusie is responsible and strives for the long-term financial health of KC Scholars. She began her journey at Kansas City Scholars in October 2019. She oversees budget and financial planning and reporting, audit services, tax filings, business insurance, payroll, accounts receivable and payable, business models for critical initiatives, finance training and communications and financial systems. Through data-driven approaches and collaboration across all functions, she helps guide Kansas City Scholars’ so that we can understand how decisions today can provide the greatest impact, while ensuring the long-term financial health of the institution.
Monchusie is a Certified Public Accountant in the State of Missouri. She received her Master of Science in Accounting from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and her Bachelor of Science in Business Accounting from the University of Kansas. As a first-generation college graduate Monchusie knows firsthand how education has made a difference in her career and family wellbeing. She has over 15 years’ experience in finance, corporate accounting, and business management. Prior to joining Kanas City Scholars, she worked in the finance industry at a local Kansas City financial advising and trust company, MTC Holding Corporation. While at MTC Holding Corporation she worked her way up from a Staff Accountant to Controller.
Making her transition to the non-profit sector at Kansas City Scholars was exactly what Monchusie heart desired. Helping others in need become financially independent and providing them tools to better their life is her passion. She not only applies this passion at work but enjoys helping family and friends reach their dreams to becoming more financially secure. In her free time, she loves staying active with her husband Algero, by running, playing volleyball, and partaking in various other games and sports.
As a result of his proven track record, Times Magazine has named Earl Martin Phalen as one of the country’s leading education reformers. Earl has devoted his life to advancing humanity and is now making an impact in the State of Missouri, Kansas City.
Earl is the CEO of KC Scholars, one of the nation’s most impactful programs in supporting young adults and adults who live in low-income communities on the pathway to good careers. KC Scholars has two core programs, one which awards 11th graders college scholarships and supports them to and through college. KC Scholars awards over four hundred (400) $50,000 college scholarships each year, and our scholars are on track for 75% graduation rates — 3 times the national average for low-income and first-generation students. KC Scholars, with an incredibly generous $50M grant from the Kauffman Foundation, also supports adults who want to secure a credential in a high demand career. Over the next 10 years, KC Scholars is going to help 50,000 adults secure careers that allow them to care for themselves and their loved ones. Most recently and under his leadership, a Great Jobs KC (GJKC) program has been established to assist Kansas City organizations and their workforce achieve higher levels of performance and income.
Phalen is also the Founder & CEO of K-12 the public-school network, and the George and Veronica Phalen Leadership Academies (PLA) named in honor of his parents. Under Earl’s leadership,
Phalen Leadership Academies have grown from one school to a national network of 23 schools serving nearly 10,000 scholars. Helping the most vulnerable communities achieve exceptional educational outcomes is a passion Earl discovered in himself while studying at Harvard. PLA’s oldest school is 10 years old, and scholars at that school have outperformed the state average on both the ELA and math portions of the state test consistently for years. As an entrepreneur, Phalen is a nationally recognized leader in education with a track record of successful leadership and innovation. Phalen brings over two decades of executive experience to KC Scholars.
Phalen began his career in education while a law student at Harvard, where he founded Building Educated Leaders for Life (BELL), which operates after-school and summer education programs in several major U.S. cities. Under his leadership, the organization grew from a local community service project to a national non-profit educating 15,000 children annually and from an annual budget of $12,000 to $27.5M annually. He then founded Summer Advantage USA, a summer reading program that has served 20,000 children in six states since its inception in 2009. As a result of the impact of Summer Advantage, Phalen and his team were encouraged to expand their 25-day summer program model to a year-round school model.
In the ensuing years, a significant number of notable accolades have been bestowed and positions held, which surface in his eBook Giving My All, releasing mid-February 2023. In 1997, President Clinton awarded Phalen the President’s Service Award for his impact on the lives of children. Other honors and awards include: The Silver Anniversary Award from NCAA; Black Law Student Association Community Service Chair; Co-founder of the Charles Ogletree Scholarship Fund; Board Member of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation; Boston Uncornered Advisory Board Member; and Advisor for Coaching for Change. Phalen is also a Mind Trust and Ashoka Fellow. He was awarded the Black Entertainment Television (BET) National Hero Award and is a three-time recipient of Fast Company’s Social Capitalist Award. He has received recognition in numerous national media outlets, including TIME Magazine, FORBES
Magazine, MSNBC’s Education Nation, Parent Magazine, New York Times, Education Week, IndyStar, Black Entertainment Television and Education Week.
Phalen holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Yale and a law degree from Harvard.
Jessica Rhodes is a first-generation college graduate who earned her Master of Science in College Student Personnel Administration from the University of Central Missouri. With over 15 years of diverse experience in non-profit development and administration, mostly spent at the director level, she has a demonstrated a history of relationship-building and fundraising across multiple industries. She is skilled in non-profit organizations, event and team management, philanthropy, and fundraising. In her current role, she develops and executes successful strategies to identify, cultivate, solicit, and steward major gift donors in support of KC Scholars. Rhodes has proven track record of success including the closure of numerous major gifts at the 1-million-dollar level and above.
Rhodes’ diverse professional and academic experience has allowed her to work with individuals, organizations, and entire communities. Her tenure as Executive Director of Warrensburg Main Street, a non-profit organization that relies almost solely on the solicitation of donations, gave her an early understanding of the importance of fostering and maintaining relationships. Creating a compelling case for potential donors to contribute to the revitalization of historic structures was sometimes challenging, but cultivating relationships was one of her most rewarding aspects of the position.
Working on the University of Central Missouri campus for 10 years, first as Case Manager of the THRIVE program, followed by roles as Director of Development and Director of Annual Giving at the UCM Alumni Foundation, Rhodes understands the unique demands and challenges of obtaining a post-secondary degree. She has been awarded the Martin Luther King Community Service Award by the Warrensburg Chamber of Commerce and UCM Center for Multiculturism and Inclusivity twice, an award that recognizes humanitarianism, leadership, and service.
Inspired by her husband Josh, and their twin daughters, Rhodes is dedicated to fostering lasting relationships with partners in their community. She is incredibly honored to be part of the KC Scholars Team – a place that truly embraces collaboration, team spirit, and recognizes each individual’s unique contribution. In her free time, you will find her boarding a plane with friends and family off to a new destination around the world or exuberantly supporting her three favorite sports teams – the UCM Mules, the Kansas City Royals, and the Kansas City Chiefs.
Dr. Angie Besendorfer is known as an innovative educator who paves new ways to impact the future opportunities of individuals and families. Her career journey includes designing and piloting new endeavors which align with her new role at KC Scholars. Besendorfer currently serves as Executive Vice President and is responsible for leading the development of the newest KC Scholars’ programs including Great Jobs KC, the employer network, wrap around services network, and alumni network. She also leads the IT department.
Besendorfer previously served as Chancellor and Regional Vice President for Western Governors University, during her 8-year tenure and leadership the university grew from a combined 60,000 students and graduates to over 400,000. She also served Pre-K-12 students for over twenty years as teacher, principal, director of special services, and superintendent in Missouri schools. Notably, Besendorfer served as Assistant Superintendent for Joplin Schools when an EF-5 tornado hit 10 schools destroying 5. She was instrumental in creating a road to recovery that included innovating instructional strategies and facility design in the newly built schools.
Besendorfer has been honored with many awards including the National Milken Educator Award, John C. Maxwell Leadership Top 100 Award, and was named as one of the 50 Missourians You Should Know. She has been recognized as Teacher of the Year Nevada School District and finalist for Missouri Teacher of the Year. Most influential woman was for the Tri-State Business Journal. Her board service has included the Joplin Museum board, the Kansas City Social Innovation Center, and the Jasper County Workforce Investment Board. She has published numerous articles and book chapters as well as being featured in a documentary on the Joplin tornado. She has keynoted and presented at numerous convenings including national conferences. Besendorfer holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Missouri Southern State College, a master’s degree from University of Central Missouri, and an Educational Doctorate from University of Missouri Columbia.
Besendorfer has spent her entire career focusing on breaking poverty cycles through education. She began as Title 1 teacher hoping to close the achievement gap for her students. As a public-school administrator, she worked to ensure that 12 years of education would lead students out of poverty. She chose to serve at WGU because the innovative education model allowed individuals to earn a bachelor’s degree in 2.5 years on average. Joining KC Scholars at this point in her career allows her to focus in on empowering individuals to take charge of their learning to ensure they have economic prosperity either through earning a degree or respected credential. She is excited about the positive change KC Scholars will have on Kansas City.