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Fostering Success in Post-Secondary Journeys

Every year, hundreds of thousands of students face unique challenges while weighing their options for life after high school. Low-income students, first-generation students and students of color are disproportionally affected by barriers, challenges and the lack of guidance and support needed to prepare when choosing a post-secondary education and journey.

How can we support students navigating the college admissions and financial aid process, and then foster their success in and after college?

Join us and the Hispanic Development Fund to hear how strategic partnerships, educational programming and philanthropy are all helping to break down college barriers for first-generation and underrepresented students in the Kansas City region. 

Date: Thursday, June 24

Time: 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Central

Please RSVP to confirm your attendance. We will email Zoom information at least one hour prior to registered attendees. 

Questions? Contact Sidney Peterson at or 816.627.3414. 



Who We'll Hear From:


John Kearney, Senior Director of Educational Programs, Hispanic Development Fund John Kearney is the Senior Director of Educational Programs for the Hispanic Development Fund. Before joining HDF in 2018, John spent ten years as a high school social studies teacher and college advisor, and he also founded the Pell Project. John sees the unique barriers many first-generation students face while making college decisions and strives to help these students reach their college goals.  
Jade Valdez, Hispanic Development Fund Scholarship Recipient, East High School Class of 2021 Jade Valdez is a member of the Class of 2021 at East High School in Kansas City, Missouri. After graduation, Jade plans to attend Avila University majoring in business administration. Her post-secondary plans became a reality after receiving support and encouragement from her friends, family, HDF, East High School and Avila University. Jade is excited to serve as a role model for her siblings and other Latina women who may follow her footsteps in the future.
Ben Richardson, Vice Principal, East High School Ben Richardson is Vice Principal at East High School. For 10 years, Ben has inspired students in the Kansas City Public Schools system to have meaningful experiences to help students visualize their dreams for the future. Ben was awarded the East High School Teacher of the Year in 2017 and the Kansas City Public Schools Assistant Principal of the Year in 2019. 
Josh Parisse, Associate Vice President of Admissions, Avila University Josh Parisse is Associate Vice President of Admissions at Avila University. Better known as the "Bow Tie Admission Guy," Josh has been working in university enrollment and admission for over 12 years. He strongly believes in the good of Avila University, loves doing right by students and families, and continually strives to use his position as a platform to make a difference in people’s lives.
Aritt Velazquez, Admissions Representative, Avila University

Aritt Velazquez is an Admissions Representative at Avila University. After graduating from Alta Vista High School in Kansas City, Missouri in 2015, Aritt completed her post-secondary journey at Avila University, earning a Bachelor of Science in business administration in 2019. Using her personal experience, Aritt walks alongside students and their families as they navigate the college process, helping students see their dreams as a reality.