Meet Leslie Smith – Advocacy Fellow and Plant Expert!

I’ve lived in Kansas City since 2014 and I had no idea this city would capture my heart the way that it has. KC is such a hidden gem that has the mission/common goal to advance the quality of life for all families in the area. Serving in education and advocacy for almost ten years has taught me a lesson, fighting for justice and equal opportunity is a constant struggle but worth the battle. 

As an emerging professional in early childhood policy, my background is primarily in community outreach and higher education. I graduated from the University of Missouri – Columbia with a Bachelors of Science in Wildlife Sciences with an emphasis in Biological Sciences. I worked closely with elementary schools in the area to guide children through applied sciences. Children had the opportunity to start gardens, make scientific discoveries and explore aquatic systems in their area.

After graduation in 2013, I was offered a college advisor position in Kansas City with the Missouri College Advising Corps (MCAC). I had the honor to assist with implementing the program with a new partner school district. I was housed at Center High School while also working closely with core partners and fellow advisors for monthly training. Our advocacy focused on underserved schools that primarily supported low income students of color. I worked with school leaders, teachers, and families daily to maximize the college going process. Hosting workshops and community events like FAFSA Nights, helped me engage and build relationships with families. During my two year term, I helped increase the number of seniors accepted into college, college going rate and increased the amount of scholarship dollars available. I also worked closely with MDHE to understand policies that support DACA students and discovered various postsecondary resources for students with an IEP.

In 2016, I started my journey with Kauffman Scholars Inc. which was a 501(c)(3) funded by the Kauffman Foundation. I served high school students and their families in Kansas City, KS while building relationships with school leaders and higher ed professionals. Our program offered extensive support such as tutoring services, standardized testing prep, parent workshops, and counseling services. I later transitioned into my new role as a Postsecondary Retention Specialist (coach). Coaches assisted more than 100 scholars across the US, guiding and nurturing their academic, social and emotional growth. We traveled for in person meetings as direct service providers and hosted workshops for the students to build relationships on campus. During my advising, I started my Masters of Arts in Higher Education with the University of Missouri – Kansas City. I focused on DEI initiatives to increase advocacy in education and public policies in Missouri which aligns with Kids Win Missouri’s vision. 

Outside of my professional experience, I am a Saint Louis native from the Ferguson Florissant area. I’ve played the violin since adolescence and I swam competitively in high school. My interest outside of advocacy is nature and content creation. If you need help keeping your plants alive or would like to know how to start a garden, I can help! I have over 30 plants and host beginner workshops to assist individuals with plant knowledge. I’m also a small business owner that serves passionate digital content creators in the US; I collaborate with sponsors and brands to elevate voices for underserved communities.We focus on digital storytelling, technical support, and live stream guidance. 

With my position as an Advocacy Fellow, I will work closely with  KWM and the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) to find ways we can further advocate for families in Missouri. I will be the point of contact for the Greater Kansas City and Mid-Missouri area while also taking the lead for Child Advocacy Day. I look forward to being involved with the amazing work that Kids Win Missouri and CDF is cultivating. I am open to meeting with parents, providers and stakeholders anytime. Please feel free to message me at to schedule a meeting.

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