Henry W. Wash is not only the originator and Chief Executive Officer of High Aspirations, Inc (HA) founded in 2003. He is also the founder of the first Mentoring Campus for African American Males in Kansas City. Henry served as a mentor and board member from 2003 to 2013. He walked away from a career he mastered in freight to pursue his calling, HA full-time in 2013.
Henry has over 26 years of expertise in designing, implementing, and evaluating programming for at-risk populations. Henry’s educational accomplishments include an Associate degree in Applied Science, Associate degree in Arts, Bachelor’s in Sociology, Minor in Black Studies, and Master of Public Administration in Urban Affairs. Henry is a National Member of Phi Theta Kappa, Alpha Kappa Delta, the International Sociology Honors Society, a Harvard Annie E. Casey Innovations in American Government award winner, has been featured as a guest lecturer at Yale University, 2023 Hall of Fame Kansas City Kansas Community College, and UMKC’s 2024 Alumni Defying the Odds Awardee.
Henry has been seen in company with renowned celebrities including Martin Luther King III, Stedman Graham, Robin Givens, Marshall Faulk, and the real Coach Carter. He is happily married to Trina M. Wash and the proud father to Laurianna Wash.
Gigi Wolf is the Lead Education Outreach Specialist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, where she directs educational programming and resource development across the Kansas City Fed’s seven-state region. She has extensive experience writing curricula and designing enrichment programs for pre-kindergarten through high school-level audiences and routinely conducts instruction-based training and professional development for primary through post-secondary educators, having presented to thousands of teachers and students across the country. She has passionate interest in advancing culturally responsive education and has created numerous award-winning resources addressing race/ethnicity, socioeconomics, environmental differences, and social/emotional disparities, among others. She has spearheaded local and regional initiatives focused on financial literacy and workforce development, as well as large-scale community-wide programs that promote economic mobility for all ages, emphasizing minority and low-to-moderate-income individuals.
Ms. Wolf has responsibility for building strategic partnerships with like-minded organizations to expand the reach and efficacy of the Bank’s education efforts and managing the national Federal Reserve Education website, comprised of curricula, online activities, games, and other classroom-ready resources from all twelve Federal Reserve districts and the Board of Governors in Washington D.C. Ms. Wolf is serving as chair of Federal Reserve System educators nationwide and on the executive committee for the National Association of Economic Educators. Prior to joining the Kansas City Fed, she earned a Masters from Sarah Lawrence College and a Bachelors in Communications and Theater from Hampton University.
Sara Swearingen is a Program Manager for Junior Achievement. She started volunteering with JA around 7 years ago. She loved the mission of the organization and pestered them until they hired her. She has been the Volunteer Manager for over 4 years. Before Junior Achievement, she graduated from Pittsburg State University and has worked in Accounting, Sales, and Pre-K Education for various companies in KC.
Shawn Brantley was born in Kansas City, Missouri and was raised in the Ivanhoe and Blue Hills neighborhoods. At an early age, she focused her mission towards improving the quality of life of families in underserved and underdeveloped communities.
Ms. Brantley graduated from Lincoln College Preparatory Academy and afterwards earned a B.S degree in Accounting from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She continued her education earning her Master’s degree in Business Administration from Baker University.
Ms. Brantley has devoted over a decade of her free time giving back to local nonprofits in the areas of mentorship, management, financial education, leadership, and service. In 2016, she joined Habitat for Humanity of Kansas City as a volunteer on the Homeowner Services committee. While serving in that role, she realized the strong correlation between the need for financial literacy, homeownership, generational wealth, and community revitalization.
In 2021, Ms. Brantley transitioned from corporate to the nonprofit business sector full-time. She now serves as the Homeownership Program Sr. Manager for Habitat KC and oversees housing counseling services, financial enrichment programs, and the family selection process for Habitat homes. She is also a HUD-certified Housing Counselor and a Certified Financial Education Instructor (CFEI®). Her personal upbringing, specialized training, professional experience, core values, and faith has empowered her to pay it forward and empower others.
Brian Johnson is a native of Alabama but has called Kansas City home for the past 20 plus years. Brian’s roots to Kansas City began during his college days where he attended UMKC summer school and ultimately graduated from the University of Alabama in 2002 with a degree in Psychology. After graduation, his home became the City of Fountains where he fell in love with being an advocate for the community.
He is currently a Program Director with High Aspirations Inc., which is the first mentoring center specifically designed to support African American males ages 8-18 by initiating innovative ways to improve the quality of their lives, socially, emotionally, academically, and spiritually. Brian’s current position is a continuation of his contributions to the strengthening of youth and families in the Greater Kansas City area. It is his desire to be a “change agent” and meet new community champions with a like-minded mission.
Brian enjoys being a newlywed to his wife Dana, and father to 3 sons. He is also a son, brother, mentor, and unofficial mayor amongst the many hats that he wears. Brian relies on his faith in God to strengthen his ability to collaborate with colleagues, mentors, volunteers, and families while providing mentees with opportunities and access to new pro-social experiences.
Shamika Hogan brings a wealth of experience from both the non-profit and for-profit sectors to i.c.stars. Remarkably, in less than a year, she has successfully built, led, and launched i.c.stars Kansas City. Shamika has played a pivotal role in introducing a highly valuable workforce development program and distributing its benefits to community partners and business leaders. Exciting developments are on the horizon, underscoring the ongoing impact and innovation under Shamika’s leadership at i.c.stars.