Hello! Meet Our Team.

Kim Riley

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Kim Riley is a social entrepreneur based in Kansas City, MO. She has worked extensively in higher education, health care and nonprofits. She founded a nonprofit, The Transition Academy (TTA), in 2019 as a solution to the confusing and poorly-designed postsecondary preparation process for students with disabilities – a problem affecting her family and others like hers. In 2021, she began developing North Star, a college and career planning tech product for these same youth. Kim earned a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri and an Executive MBA from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Shelley Coulter

Program/Community Engagement Manager
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Shelley Coulter is a seasoned advocate and a dedicated agent of transformation, with an unwavering commitment to positively impact individuals facing challenges from diverse backgrounds. With over twenty years of experience, she has ardently supported students and families in urban core communities both locally and globally.

Her roles have included serving as the Executive Director of the KCKPS Education Foundation, where she successfully secured scholarships from esteemed sources such as legacy Alumni, the Brandmeyer Family, Bill Self Assist Foundation, Hall Foundation, General Motors Foundation, and the Will Shields to Succeed Foundation. Additionally, she was the Community Engagement Director at Bishop Ward High School, overseeing The Academy of Finance. She was also a board member of the Global One Foundation in Nairobi, Kenya where she was instrumental in constructing schools, ensuring access to clean water, cultivating gardens to feed over 200 students, and providing access to education, food, and clothing for those in need.

Shelley has earned a master’s degree in organizational leadership and a bachelor’s degree in organizational management from the University of Arizona.

Jorge Holguin

IT & Operations Manager
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Jorge Holguin is a community organizer and nonprofit professional deeply committed to advancing education equity. Currently, he serves as the IT and Operations Manager at The Transition Academy, where he plays a crucial role in ensuring smooth operations and technological efficiency. His well-rounded experience and skills include expertise in No-Code Design and Development Platforms (such as Airtable, StackerHQ, Zapier, Miro, and Slack), Agile Project Management, and Purchasing Negotiation. 

As a first-generation college graduate from Rockhurst University and a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipient, Holguin brings a unique perspective to his work with diverse communities. He first earned an Associate of Arts degree from Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley before continuing his education at Rockhurst, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Nonprofit Leadership Studies. He was also a member of Phi Theta Kappa honor society. Holguin is also a Certified Nonprofit Professional (CNP), an honor he earned from the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. 

In addition to his professional pursuits, Jorge volunteers his time with WeCodeKC, offering operational and classroom support. He is also a committee member of the KC BizFest Committee, a part of The Greater Kansas City Hispanic Collaborative. Outside of work, Jorge enjoys exploring the outdoors with his family and friends.

James Farnen

Grant Writer
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James Farnen has worked in public service for 15 years, with a passion for supporting people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities to realize their own personal power and success. For the last five years, he has helped nonprofits propel their mission with his fundraising skills. His grant writing, grants management, and project/program development has secured nearly $1 million in grant funding from both public and private sources at the local, state, and federal levels, including the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the Hall Family Foundation, the Kansas Department of Commerce, and the National Endowment for the Arts. His passion for storytelling, the power of narrative, and the crucial importance of life’s milestones informs his role as Grant Writer at The Transition Academy.


James has a Bachelor in Creative Writing from the University of Kansas, and graduate credit in creative writing and composition/rhetoric from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where he began work toward his M.F.A. in Creative Writing before leaving to support his growing family. In 2008, James transitioned to a career in education, earning his Kansas teaching license through Emporia State University’s first Alternate Route to Teaching cohort in 2012. He spent 10 years in the secondary classroom teaching English Language Arts before transitioning into a career in nonprofit fundraising. 

Elva Medina

Social Services Manager
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Elva Medina is a seasoned school and mental health counselor with extensive experience in creating supportive, trauma-sensitive environments for students. Born in Mexico and raised in Arizona, Elva brings a diverse background and a rich cultural perspective to her work. She holds dual Master’s degrees in Rehabilitation Counseling and School Counseling from Emporia State University, where she honed her expertise in student support services.

Elva previously worked as the School Counselor at Guadalupe Centers Schools providing essential mental health and academic support, conducting crisis intervention and threat assessments, and developing systems for identifying and supporting students with mental health concerns. Her programming led to successful graduation rates and student retention. She was also a key resource for families, offering guidance on child development and behavioral issues, and serves as a consultant to administrators, new counselors, and school staff.

Elva also worked at SOS, an organization serving those who have experienced sexual or domestic violence. She initially worked as their criminal justice advocate before moving into prevention services, gaining valuable experience in crisis intervention and advocacy.

In addition to her professional roles, Elva is an active member of the KC BizFest committee and will chair the program in 2025, demonstrating her commitment to community involvement and leadership.

Outside work, Elva loves spending time with her family and keeping up with her energetic five-year-old daughter. Her dedication to both her professional and personal life underscores her commitment to fostering growth and well-being in all areas.

Lorena Montesinos

Seasonal Program Associate
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Lorena Montesino is an advocate for diverse education pathways and brings her passion for teaching students to The Transition Academy as a Seasonal Associate. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Art Education from the University of Kansas, specializing in painting and ceramics, and has showcased her artistic talents in numerous exhibitions across the Kansas City area, including notable displays at JCCC and KU student art shows. She hopes to combine her interests in education and art to pursue a career as a high school art teacher. Lorena grew up in Olathe, but she was born in Bolivia. Her unique perspective as someone who immigrated to the U.S. will help her connect with many of the youth she will serve in our community. Lorena also brings her passion and creativity to the classroom, helping our uniquely abled students focus on achieving their goals.