Action Fund launched in 2022 with the belief that our community, given the opportunity, would come together to improve the quality of education for students in Kansas City. Inspired by the work we have seen from other organizations and the ways in which families, schools and community leaders have made real effort to meet challenges, we envisioned an organization that could galvanize this work and provide additional avenues for Kansas City to come together for kids. With the goal of providing structured pathways for action – alongside championing hope for our children’s future into our city – Kansas City Action Fund is here to ensure that every person can create change and unite for our children.
A Message from our Executive Director
“To acknowledge our ancestors means we are aware that we did not make ourselves, that the line stretches all the way back. We remember them because it is an easy thing to forget: that we are not the first to suffer, rebel, fight, love and die.”
I have thought a lot about this Alice Walker quote over the years. Today, the quote resonates from the reality that I am my maternal grandmother’s wildest dream and that in our “line,” I am not the first (nor likely the last) to believe in the power of transformative public education or to demand that its quality be extended to the marginalized, the unlikely, the overlooked and the undervalued.
It is my belief that public education is the catalyst for real change. Our shared hope for all children allows us to build connections across self-interest, irrelevant social distinctions, and beyond the systemic boundaries that many defend. The only way forward for Kansas City is through the positive effects of a high-quality education. We cannot care about wanting the best for children – the best neighborhoods, the best healthcare, the best jobs, unless we also care about wanting the best opportunities for their learning experiences. That is the work that Kansas City Action Fund is here to do: to support the process of increasing the school and community capacity to empower our most marginalized students to achieve far greater success than history has afforded them.
The African proverb teaches us “if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” Our collective work and responsibility demand we partner together for student success, and so I am overwhelmingly grateful that your commitment to Kansas City students brings you here so that we can share in this work together. I hope that you will become a supporter of Kansas City Action Fund and an unyielding voice for all students – and I hope that our work together will continue in tribute to the many great change makers that have stood before us. Welcome.
Samara Crawford Herrera
Kansas City Action Fund Values
We believe in the future of Kansas City students.
Students Over Systems
We will advocate for every public-school student, whether they are in traditional or charter systems to ensure that student outcomes are always the priority.
We will challenge ourselves and education systems to actively pursue family and community engagement with multiple opportunities for participation.
It is important that families can choose a school that best meets their child’s needs.
Action Fund will rely on data and research to provide objective guidance for our work.
Big Tent Collaboration
Coordinated action will always take us further than any one entity working alone.
Samara Crawford Herrera
Samara Crawford Herrera, a Navy veteran, has a tattoo on her upper arm that reads “If you wish for peace, work for justice and prepare for war.”
As Executive Director and CEO of Kansas City Action Fund, Samara is a fierce defender of children and works everyday to ensure they have every opportunity possible to them through a quality public education. A social worker and early education specialist by training, Samara now guides this new C4 advocacy organization to help liberate the most marginalized students in both traditional district and charter schools in Kansas City.
Since moving to Kansas City in 2017, Samara previously worked for KCPS and School Smart Kansas City. She has her Master of Social Work from the University of Oklahoma, a Master of Education from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts from Spelman College. She is mother to one spirited teenage daughter who attends Lincoln College Preparatory Academy. Her husband Tino is a Pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church.
Andrea Ellis serves as Director, Strategic Collaboration and Civic Impact. Prior to joining KCAF Andrea served as the Director of Strategic Learning at the Kansas City Public Library. In her 10 years at KCPL, Andrea founded the Kansas City Digital Media Lab (KCDML), which merges project-based and interest driven learning with supportive adults to help youth level up both personally and professionally; co-created the inaugural racial equity team; served on the leadership team that developed Kansas City’s youth focused STEM ecosystem; collaborated with community members to design a technology that connects youth to out-of-school opportunities and as a Co-Principal Investigator, secured a National Science Foundation award to support the development of the tech.
Andrea spent a decade on the east coast doing media production, including producing nationally broadcast television and radio spots for BET, serving as founding Executive Director of the DC Film Alliance, directing the MHz Shortz Student Film Festival, and serving as a media production trainer, outreach specialist, and content producer at Arlington Independent Media. Andrea is a Kansas City native with a bachelor’s in Marketing from Rockhurst University and a Master’s in Media Ecology from New York University. She serves on the Keystone Innovation District Governing Board.
Noah Devine’s superpower is taking complex data and making it understandable to anyone. Noah serves as the Director of Educational Analytics and Systems Change for the Kansas City Action Fund, where he works to search, evaluate, and explain critical research and data that supports actionable solutions to drive continuous educational improvement for students in Kansas City.
Noah has worn several different hats in his career working toward better education outcomes for students including serving as a classroom special education teacher, a college teaching assistant, a school district staff member, and stints with two different state education agencies. Noah served as a key staff member with SchoolSmartKC until 2022, leading the school grantmaking and data analytics work since the organization’s inception in 2017. Noah holds masters degrees from the Harvard Graduation School of Education and the University of Missouri, a bachelors degree from Truman State University, and an education finance specialist certificate from Georgetown University. Noah’s other superpower is being an amazing, proud father of two young children.
Rashane Hamby is Director of Communications and Strategic Engagement at Kansas City Action Fund. Some might call her a “Jane of all trades,” but her specialty is developing effective communication strategies that catalyze action. Rashane brings a fresh new voice, eyes, and perspective to KCAF and will help build engagement with key audiences who share the organization’s desire to demand a quality education for all public school students in Kansas City.
Rashane has held several positions with organizations such as the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and 20/20 Leadership and in each role has expanded her knowledge and responsibility in creating partnerships and developing key communications.
Rashane was an original Kaufman Scholar following high school and has a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies and a Master of Public Administration, both from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She is a native of Kansas City and a very proud “sports Mom” to her tween son who plays football and baseball.