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The Impact of Extraordinary Women

Renny Arensberg

Having just celebrated her 20th anniversary at KVC Health Systems, Renny Arensberg has no intention of slowing down! Renny comes equipped with a bachelor’s degree from The University of Kansas and a master’s degree in human resources from Central Michigan University, and a lengthy career in human resources, consulting, leadership, and coaching. All of those skills are valuable everyday in her role as executive vice president of employee engagement at KVC, whose mission is to provide in-home family support, mental health treatment, foster care, adoption, and children’s psychiatric hospitals. 

Employee engagement can be a bit of a nebulous term, but with Renny’s partnership with the Gallup Company, a defined program of strategic recognition can be fulfilling, authentic, equitable, embedded in company culture, and personalized to the individual. Through this structure, real money can be saved and real retention can be found for companies and organizations. For KVC, Renny has branded a campaign “Share Your Voice and Be Heard”, conducted five agency-wide, high-yield surveys, and trained hundreds of employees in a “strength-based” system for the organization. Renny’s combination of energy, insight, agility, and authenticity motivates her teams and provides for meaningful results for tens of thousands of children and families each year. Her commitment to a multi-year initiative has resulted in a 19 percent increase in engaged employees. Renny creates change, one manager at a time. 

Prior to her employee engagement role, Renny grew KVC’s fundraising program to more than $550 million annually, completed a six million dollar capital campaign, and launched the Ball Conference Center – a revenue-producing entity to support KVC’s charitable mission. Ultimately, Renny shows, “Through leadership, energy, and creativity, you can have a great job and a great life at the same time.” 

In her limited free time, she serves on the board of Support Kansas City and is the board chairman for the Girl Scouts of Northeast Kansas and Northwest Missouri. She is also involved with the Junior League of Kansas City, Missouri; Rotary Club, and Community Health Charities. 

Rochelle Parker

Let this be a cautionary tale to boards of non-profit organizations everywhere: Rochelle Parker fell in love with the board at Child Abuse Prevention Association (CAPA) as they were trying to appeal to her to accept the position of president and CEO! She had not been looking for a new career, but she finally acquiesced to an interview and the board members won over her heart. That was in 2014, and Rochelle is happily moving CAPA forward in every aspect of its mission. 

With a background in business development and fundraising, a bachelor’s degree in financial economics, and a master of business administration degree in management, Rochelle is also pursuing a doctoral degree in business administration with a focus on leadership. This dynamo hit the ground running with her entrance to CAPA, and for five years did the work to align all the pieces of the mission and practice of helping families who have experienced abuse. CAPA’s focus is three-fold: Counseling – helping children and adults with broad services; Family Support – conducting family visits and partnering with other organizations such as HappyBottoms, United Way, and Children’s Mercy to meet the needs of parents; and Education – working with a hotline in the state of Missouri, providing “body safety” classes, and providing resources to families. 

Then COVID-19 hit. Fortunately, the hard work had provided a solid foundation on which to pivot services and still provide much-needed abuse prevention systems. Rochelle and her staff dug in, realigned again, and have come out on the other side of the pandemic stronger and smarter. Rochelle believes, “It will take 10 years or more to recover from the pandemic’s effects on children and families. One of our biggest challenges is the mental health aspect.” Towards that end, Rochelle has introduced new priorities for funding – an internship program, leadership development, and succession planning. (The internship program provides a partnership with local universities for 30 interns every semester, so far 250 overall.) With multiple awards and accolades, Rochelle Parker is just what CAPA needed, when they needed it.

Christine Kemper

She really could just take a break, and no one would bat an eyelash. Christine Kemper has earned a little peace and quiet – from work, from volunteering, from raising children, from being a tireless advocate. But, it’s not in her DNA to sit back and relax, especially when her passion for elevating girls and women hasn’t been completely satisfied. So, in 2017, a small group including Christine applied for a charter school and hired a head. By 2019, the pandemic hit just as Kansas City Girls Preparatory Academy was ready to launch. Five hundred days of remote operations and learning later, the fifth grade students returned to masked in-person learning. 

In their fourth year of operation, KC Girls Prep was setting records for academic growth for female students from the northeast section of the metro. These girls have the most unmet needs in local education, and they experience the most disparity in coed education metrics. The single-sex preparatory environment allows for the most high-quality, high-support instruction. KC Girls Prep provides services beyond the academic – such as a social worker, a counselor, and a nurse. The student who comes to KC Girls Prep is given opportunities for the whole person, including remediating years of academic loss. 

This businesswoman, community advocate, and energetic board member has big plans for KC Girls Prep. Christine excitedly anticipates, “The school will continue to grow one grade a year, until the student body is comprised of grades five through 12. We will have an enrollment of 200 next year, quite a jump in five years!” Of course, that expansion requires a new building and all of the accoutrements that go along with keeping high school girls productive, busy, and happy. When Christine could be curled up with a good book, she is part of the effort to provide two meals to every student every day, in addition to providing food for their siblings! This progressive, caring, talented woman isn’t stopping anytime soon, and Kansas City girls will be the better for it. 

Stephanie Boyer

“Put me out of a job!” That’s the sentiment of Stephanie Boyer, CEO of ReStart, the organization dedicated to empowering people, ending homelessness, and inspiring hope. According to Stephanie, there is a need in our metro area for 26,000 housing units right now. Yes, 26,000 units. Currently, ReStart offers assistance for single adults; youth – including an emergency shelter, street outreach, and youth transitional housing and maternity group home; families – interim housing for up to 90 days; and services for veterans and veteran families. ReStart’s menu of assistance items includes: case management, three meals a day, employment services, mental health resources, substance abuse recovery resources, and group therapy. 

Stephanie’s journey to ReStart began with a master of social work degree from UMKC and then a position as the deputy court administrator for Kansas City, Missouri. She then moved on to ReDiscover, an organization dedicated to helping individuals with their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It was in that role that she acquired her first taste of matching up public and private partnerships to help the citizens of Kansas City. From there, Stephanie launched her career at ReStart in 2019. Of course, there was a pandemic looming, and ReStart had some challenges already – no chief financial officer, no human resources department, no development department. So, Stephanie had her work cut out for her. 

During the last five years, ReStart’s fight against homelessness has seen them add staff, growing from about 25 case managers to 75 now and filling management positions. Stephanie relayed that, “Since our biggest challenge is securing housing, we finally decided that we needed to get in the business of creating housing.” To that end, ReStart has created an LLC, UpStart. This summer, UpStart hopes to break ground on a five-unit project. The goal is to create housing in all corners of the metro area. It requires a great deal of collaboration and partnerships, but Stephanie is equipped for that. Ultimately, the strategic goal is to move towards the prevention of homelessness, rather than always responding to the crisis. It’s one step toward putting Stephanie out of a job!

Angie Long

Build it and the crowd will go wild! First, Angie and her husband, Chris Long, built a financial giant in Palmer Square Capital, with assets under management totaling more than $20 billion and a global presence. There are fancy financial acronyms galore tied to Palmer Square Capital that will mean more to some than others (AUM, HYDI, CLOs, etc. – Assets Under Management, High Yield Debt Index, and Collateralized Loan Obligations). But, what we understand clearly is that Angie is the architect of the firm’s strategy. That’s what comes with an economics degree from Princeton University. 

Another takeaway from Princeton was her love of rugby, playing for two national championship teams, earning recognition as co-captain and co-coach her senior year, and being selected as an All-American in 1997. Sports are clearly as much of a passion as economics, so in 2020 she and Chris co-founded the Kansas City Current women’s professional soccer team. Angie, Chris, and co-owners Brittany and Patrick Mahomes have launched the NWSL franchise in Our Town with a brand new stadium, to boot. Let it not be lost in history that this is the first stadium in the world purpose-built for a women’s professional sports team! 

Angie’s list of accolades and community involvement is as long as a great soccer kick. She served on the Women in Leadership Committee of Princeton, founded the Greater Kansas City Princeton Women’s Network (PWN), and is currently serving as co-chairman for the Princeton Greater Kansas City Region’s Alumni Schools Committee. She currently serves on the board of directors for Union Station Kansas City and the KC 2026 World Cup board. She has been named University of Missouri-Kansas City’s 2023 Entrepreneur of the Year and was also inducted into the Junior Achievement of Greater Kansas City Business Hall of Fame. 

The enthusiasm Angie brings to the table is palpable. She and Chris are so excited to be making international headlines with their concept – “Women’s sports deserve their own facilities.” Angie is a consensus builder and a visionary, and Kansas City will forever be in her debt for creating this dynamic space for women’s sports. 

Colleen Cassidy

Colleen Cassidy has always been drawn to the concept of recognizing the whole person. She led a well-rounded life in her high school years in Colorado Springs, and she was drawn to The University of Kansas because they accepted her into their architecture program by looking at all of her strengths, not just her test scores. And, now in her life as an architect with the Populous firm here in Kansas City, she is creating ideas and designs that work with and benefit the whole person. 

Leaving Colorado Springs, Colleen ended up getting her master’s degree in architecture in 2013 from KU, with AIA and NCARB certifications. After a stint working in Kansas City, she got a call from friends in a firm back home asking if she was interested in doing a project redesigning her old high school. She couldn’t say no – she and her parents went to Cheyenne Mountain High School, and her parents were also teachers there. It was a great gig, but Kansas City would be calling again. This time, Populous was interested in what she brought to the table. 

In 2018, Colleen came back to Our Town and was only getting started when the pandemic hit. Working from home became her norm, but she had a fantastic project and team working on the BMO Centre Expansion in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Now back in the office, she is currently working on the Tampa Bay baseball facility. 

What she likes best about being with Populous is its flexibility in rethinking how to run a project. “Now we are exploring teams based on skill sets and strengths and working across projects. They are interested in, and I am passionate about, creating spaces for the whole person. We want to figure out how to design with empathy and psychology; how the spaces will be used and remembered.” 

Colleen is also passionate about relating to her clients and being able to explain “architecture speak” in a way that will benefit them. She stated, “Our job is to provide something the client hasn’t imagined yet, but we can turn it into a reality. We put ourselves into the clients’ shoes, and we provide intent in every aspect of every project.”


Featured in the March 23, 2024 issue of The Independent.
By: Anne Potter Russ

Anne Potter Russ

Anne is thrilled to be working with The Independent again, and even happier to be with some great people. Having served as editor from 2005 to 2009, it is a pleasure to be able to connect with the readers of this timeless magazine. Anne and her husband, Norbert, live in south Leawood, and have two grown kids, Diana and Nick, as well as two rambunctious dogs.



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